I am trying to serve tea to my dragons.
It's a bit of Asian wisdom I once read. Serve your dragons tea. And it's about our fears.
There are things we will be afraid of all our lives. Those dragons will be with us always, unfortunately. To serve them tea means to respect them without giving in to them.
True courage is not being unafraid. True courage is being afraid but acting as if I am not. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is carrying on in spite of fear. Strong people can laugh about their fears. Serve your dragons tea.
This is a fearful time, of course. World news, national news, local crime news -- it all makes me want to get into bed and pull the covers over my head. And then there is my own personal collection of fears. The health and safety of people I love. The health of the church I serve. Some text-distracted driver plowing into me or my wife. And my own mortality. All of these -- and some I won't speak aloud -- are my dragons. I wonder if I can learn to serve my dragons tea.
Okay, here's a trivia question for you. What command is repeated most often in the Bible? Most of us would guess something like worship God or pray or give more money. But it's none of those. The command repeated most often in the Bible is the one Jesus gives three times in today's gospel text: Don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid? How can he say that? That's crazy!
Jesus says that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father. But I notice that he does NOT say sparrows never fall to the ground. Sparrows do fall. Bad things do happen. Jesus himself ends up nailed to a cross.
But Jesus says the fall of the sparrow is not unnoticed. The world may ignore it, but God does not. What is unimportant to the world is important to God. The world counts money, but God counts the hairs on our heads. Even when we fall...and we will...God is with us.
So fear will not go away. But if we can speak about our fears, if only to ourselves, then we become a little more free. We serve tea to our dragons.
Last week I said something about the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and Seuss. There is a Dr. Seuss story that fits here. It's called "What Was I Afraid Of?"
The main character of this story is very, very afraid. Why? Because one night out walking, the storyteller meets a pair of pants. A pair of pale green pants. A pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them.
And then those pants -- they kind of started jumping, and the storyteller's heart kind of started thumping. For a long time after that, the storyteller lived in fear of those pale green pants with nobody inside them. The pants kept showing up, and the storyteller kept running away. And eventually staying home all the time!
But one night, the storyteller had to go out, no matter what. Sure enough, the scary pants showed up. The storyteller was trapped in a corner and could not escape. But suddenly, the pale green pants started to tremble and cry. The storyteller said something interesting. "They were just as scared of me as I was of them!"
I love the picture that comes next, when the storyteller puts an arm around those pale green pants and comforts them. Poor pale green pants with nobody inside them! That's what the wise call "embracing your fear." Or serving your dragon tea.
So bad things happen. There really are scary things out there. We just have to deal with them.
A Jesus follower is one who trusts God. Bad things happen, and they might happen to me or someone I love. But God will notice, God will care, and God will be with me.
The command "Fear not" is the most often-repeated command in the Bible. Jesus says "Don't be afraid," and he says it often. But I am still afraid, and I bet most of you are, too. We still have fears.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is carrying on in spite of fear. We can befriend the pale green pants with nobody inside them. We can serve tea to our dragons. We can keep going in spite of our fears.
And it helps to do it in companionship.
It helps to do it in relationship.
It helps to do it while holding someone else's hand.
We serve tea to our dragons, and we do it with someone we love.
We serve tea to our dragons, and we do it with our community.
We serve tea to our dragons, and we do it with our God.