Fear is quite a risky business. Sightseeing in Italy drove this point home. My friends and I were in Umbria, walking through ancient towns and churches. One bright, chilly afternoon in March we walked into a fortification on top of a hill. Built after Roman rule dissolved and every town depended on itself, this high, rectangular stone wall bore arrow-slits around its top and a turret on each corner. We strolled through a wide passageway where the city gate had stood onto a grassy interior courtyard. These days, I imagined, picnics, weddings, local celebrations happened here.

Curious, I climbed up a turret’s stone steps. Unobscured by trees or tall buildings, the panorama seemed to curve with the earth, a quiet retreat above the fray. And then I realized the turreted wall was a military installation. It allowed guards to see attackers far off, to gather residents home from the fields and inside a locked gate. Then, from the turrets, the guards could handily ward off the threat.

But imagine if the marauders were able to encamp for a while, allowing no one out to work the farms; no one to bring in water, firewood, or food; no possibilities for sanitation or burial. Then this walled city would be a death trap.

Fortifications—whether built of stone or emotion or rationale—wall the enemy out, yes. But they also wall us in. A rush to self-protection can destroy us, as we trip on the very snare we’ve set. Thanks be to the Holy One for a different stronghold: a Presence who promises to move us past walls that separate and destroy, who remembers our need, who frees us in ways we couldn’t have imagined. After all, says the psalmist, we are only human, captive to our fear and the destruction it spawns. God’s grace and mercy are our real refuge, open to all.

Slow our racing hearts, Lord. Relax our defenses. Gather us in your peace. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 4:35-41

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Lectionary Week
June 14–20, 2021
Scripture Overview

As children of God, we will face opposition; but God will ultimately give us victory. The psalmist cries out to God asking for deliverance from oppression at the hands of his enemies and concludes the psalm with the assurance that God will do so. Tradition credits this psalm to David, who as a boy had risked his life against Goliath based on that same assurance. Goliath mocked the Israelites and their God, but God gave the victory. Paul recounts his sufferings for the gospel, yet he is not overcome or in despair, for he trusts in God. Jesus calms a storm and is disappointed that the disciples show so little faith. Why do they not believe in God’s deliverance? And what about us? Do we still believe in God’s deliverance?

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read 1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49. What “armor” do you use to protect yourself? When have you found the courage to put aside your armor because it was holding you back?
Read Psalm 9:9-20. When have you been provoked to cry out, “Rise up, O Lord?” On whose behalf did you cry?
Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13. How have you commended yourself as a servant of God?
Read Mark 4:35-41. How do you find the quiet center when the storms of life rage around you?

Respond by posting a prayer.

This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”

Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.