Thursday, December 15, 2022


Recently, I stumbled onto a new series on the National Geographic Channel on cable TV called INSIDE COMBAT RESCUE. I was both engaged and repulsed at the same time. It was so realistic. I am not one to cry easily but it brought tears to my eyes when I realized even more what some of our young men and women go through in the military during our wars overseas!

The elite Combat Rescue members of the U.S. Air Force, Pararescuemen, or PJs, have one mission: rescue American or Allied forces in extreme danger. Whether their targets are shot down or isolated behind enemy lines, surrounded, engaged, wounded, or captured by the enemy, PJs will do whatever necessary to bring those in peril home. For the first time in their history, the PJs allow camera crews to cover their missions in Afghanistan. Inside Combat Rescue is the story of the lives of these elite airmen.

I was so happy to see that "for the first time in their history, the PJs allowed camera crews to cover their missions in Afghanistan" because it shows an alternative to the usual spoiled, self-indulgent and self-focused worlds of so many young adults in our country on TV. These young men and women are disciplined, focused, competent and determined to risk their lives in service of others in some terribly harsh conditions. There they were dealing with amputations, lost limbs and major blood losses, not "gaming," sports, drugs and music! 

I was moved to tears by their courage and capabilities on one hand and repulsed by the terrible waste of lives they were trying to save on the other! I was made aware that I too have given my life in service of others, but they made me realize how ridiculous my whining about how busy I am seem so silly and trivial! 

What is so powerful about this show is that it is not filmed in some Hollywood Studio. This is not some Rambo glorification of macho violence! It was filmed in a real war and in real battle situations! It shows real heroism by real young American adults in the tragic world of war! It glorifies self-sacrifice and heroism, not violence and war! It shows the tragedy of war and the terrible waste of young lives that wars consume! 

It's hard to watch, but I wish there were more shows like it! I think it would inspire more of our youth than the constant wasteful self-indulgent diet they get on TV of music, sports, drugs, waste and romantic silliness! 

This series is not something you watch for entertainment! It forces you to wake up and look at the tragedy of war and the tragedy of the losses of young lives that wars cause! It is so shocking in spots that you may not be able to watch a whole episode!  On the other hand, it is so inspiring that you may come away proud of what some of our young adults are doing with their lives these days! It goes to show you that they're not all "gaming" addicts living in mama's basement into their thirties! 

Sunday, December 11, 2022



I never liked him all that much anyway, but today we have John the Baptist as the central character in our gospel reading for the second week in a row! I know his message is important, but given the chance I turned my focus this week toward our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah because he seems to be more optimistic, even at a time when things were going badly.

Isaiah is believed to have lived about 700 years before Jesus was born. As a pious and principled man, he was disturbed by the inequalities in society and the evils perpetrated by humankind. He sympathized with the poor and the downtrodden. He served as the mouthpiece of God to the common people and tried to warn them of dire consequences if they indulged in sinful activities.

Isaiah was best known as the Hebrew prophet who predicted the coming of Jesus Christ to salvage mankind from sin. In spite of the evils that were rampant during his time, Isaiah inspired people to look to the future with optimism. In spite of the evils that were rampant during his time, he could say to the people:

Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, 
he comes to save you!
Isaiah 35:1-6a,10

The phrase “fear not” appears more than one hundred times in the Bible, and various forms of the word “fear” more than six hundred times. Surely, there is a reason for this high number.

When asked about the number one issue in her 100,000 letters a year, Ann Landers replied “fear.” Doctors report that 90 percent of their chronic patients have one common symptom — fear. In other words, it seems that fear can actually make you sick!

We are all ruled, to some degree, by fear: fear of poverty, fear of criticism, fear of illness, fear of being robbed, far of being attacked, fear of rejection, fear of growing old, fear of being separated from loved ones, fear of death, fear of failure, fear of losing one’s job, fear of death and fear of feeling inadequate which is one of the most common fears of all! In general, people seem to be most afraid of two things — pain or death and social rejection or isolation.

No wonder the Scriptures tell us “not to be afraid” so often! It has been reported that 90 percent of the things we fear never happen, while another nine percent we often make happen. For instance, a person who has a deep fear of failure may get himself so anxious about failing, he will cause himself to fail. Even when it comes to the stock market, people have told us that “fear” rather than “facts” has played a major role in pushing the stock market down. That leaves about one percent of the things that happen that actually deserve our fear! Jesus was right, “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.”

After 52 years of ordained ministry, I can say one thing with some degree of certainty — we all grow to resemble the God we believe in. Preachers who are not convinced of the “good news,” the news that we are loved without condition, tend to project their fears into their preaching. Because they have not yet believed in the love God has for themselves, they keep cranking out messages of fear and punishment.

I grew up listening to these people, and it took me more than 30 years to get their twisted message out of my psyche. Thankfully, I am no longer locked into a religion dominated by fear of punishment.

The response of one who has discovered the good news of God’s love is the reaction one would have to stumbling onto a buried treasure, a perfect pearl or even a long-lost Rembrandt painting at a garage sale. People who live in fear, dread and trembling have not yet been perfected in love because love drives out fear.

Sadly, the typical Christian’s eyes are equally downcast and his heart is just as gloomy, fear-filled and anxious as our non-Christian neighbors. Only a lucky few live with the serene confidence that the triumph of goodness is as certain as the fermentation yeast in dough. 

When I was a kid, we called each other "scardy cats" when we gave into our irrational fears. We need not be afraid. The oldest and strongest emotion of humankind is fear and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown. We need not be afraid because we know how this story ends. Good will triumph over evil. It's not up for grabs. It has already been decided. It was Jesus who said so! In spite of the evils that are rampant during our time, all of us should be able to say to each other what Isaiah said to his people during his time when evils were rampant:

Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, 
he comes to save you!

The monster is not under the bed! Fear is in our heads when there is no faith in our hearts! Let your life reflect the faith you have in God! Fear nothing! Be strong! Trust God's word! Even death is not to be feared by one who really believes in what Jesus came to tell us!

Isaiah was an 8th-century BC Israelite prophet who predicted the coming of Jesus Christ. He TT

he phrase “fear not” appears more than one hundred times in the Bible, and various forms of the word “fear” mo