What are you afraid of?

Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
Pastor Shawn Hannon Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

What are you afraid of? I used to be afraid of what lurked under my bed. Full disclosure: I still won’t let any of my limbs protrude from surface of the bed top at night. I’m petrified of snakes. And for about the last two and half years I’ve had an intense fear that something will harm my little Quinn. You should see how tightly I hold her approaching even a one-foot ledge. Fear is real.

And it also isn’t new. As I read the scriptures I encounter again and again three simple words: Do. Not. Fear. An angel appeared to Mary, and his first words were, “Do not fear.” Just moments later in the story a multitude of the heavenly host appear to shepherds with the greeting, “Do not fear.” And it happens many more times including an instance where Jesus is walking to his disciples on the water (yes, I said on), and he greets them saying, “It is I. Do not fear.” The scriptural message is clear. We do not need to be afraid. But, if I’m honest, I’m still a little freaked out by what might be wandering around in the dark. What’s up with that?

A few days ago my daughter Quinn and I were sitting on our porch taking in a soft rain when in the distance we heard the gentle rumbling of thunder. She looked at me without missing a beat and said, “Daddy, Ooo! Thunder!” As the words escaped her mouth she jumped into my lap and curled into a little ball. After savoring every piece of her little hug I said, “Quinn, it’s just thunder. You don’t have to be afraid.” To which she responded with the last thing I expected to hear. She said, “I know, Daddy. I want to be afraid.”

It made me wonder, absent the things that everyone should be afraid of (like snakes), sometimes do we simply choose fear? I know I have, and why not. Fear I know what to do with. Scream and jump into my daddy’s lap (figuratively, of course). But let’s face it: We don’t have to fear, we want to. And so we do. We are afraid to make ourselves vulnerable. Afraid to open ourselves up to others. We are afraid to take risks. Afraid to take meaningful steps towards a seemingly distant future because we are sure we will fail or because we are sure the destination is too far away. We are afraid, not of the monsters under our bed, but the monster we convince ourselves we are. We are afraid of getting hurt, of hurting others, and afraid of death.

And all of that is probably why our God keeps coming to us with those three simple words: Do. Not. Fear. Because God knows we are a people who want to be afraid—who know what to do with that. But God longs for something altogether different for us. God offers us another path. Not ‘wanting’ fear, but not ‘wanting’ at all.

When you feel fear, when you choose it, remember his words: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me. Amen.


For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.