In worship this Sunday at North Lake I want to share a four minute video, an excerpt of a longer interview done by a television station with a WWII veteran. Russ Schuster was the commander of a PT boat in the English Channel in the summer of 1944, including D-Day and the Normandy Invasion. Russ died three years ago at the age of ninety-two. He was a beloved member of the congregation I served in Cincinnati. Russ was incredibly handy and resourceful. He had built his own home in wooded lot on the cul de sac at the end of our street. For many decades he was the “first string” church craftsman, tackling countless improvements.
Russ was also a dear friend who helped me with numerous projects in our home, big jobs like a complete kitchen renovation and a bathroom makeover. I loved working alongside him. I learned so much from him. Sometimes, when he was in the right frame of mind, he would talk about his service and friends in the Navy, including sixteen in his squadron who were killed in one incident with a German minesweeper in 1944.
People like Russ Schuster help us appreciate the significance and the depth of emotions attached to Memorial Day. The survivors (battle comrades and family members) help us all to remember and give thanks for those who stepped into the fray or onto the boat to protect our freedom. How important it is to remember!
Our Christian faith remembers and celebrates the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus Christ for our freedom. Indeed, many places in scripture emphasize the importance of remembering and passing along the memories. Let’s consider some of the implications in Sunday worship as we read Joshua 4:20-24. These five verses pertain not to a battle but to the crossing of the Jordan River, an historic event to be remembered and celebrated from generation to generation.
If you are in Central Florida this weekend, I would love to see you at North Lake on Sunday. Wherever you are, may it be a time for reflection and gratitude.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Hosmer
North Lake Presbyterian Church
Lady Lake, FL
Neuroscientists tell us that deep inside our brains are two almond-shaped structures called amygdala (from the Greek word for “almond”). They are centrally and symmetrically located in a circuit system that processes memories, decisions, and emotional reactions. While researchers are still investigating and debating the precise wiring and functions in this part of our brain, for decades they have recognized that the amygdala are essential to our experience of fear. They help us to remember, identify, and avoid fear-inducing stimuli. The amygdala are in high-alert mode when someone is watching a horror movie, or is surprised by a snake, or gets too close to an alligator!
Fear is one of our most natural and primal emotions. We share fear with all of God’s creatures. In fact, a person who has no fear whatsoever is considered to have a brain malfunction, probably in the “fear center,” the amygdala. This is analogous to those who feel no pain. The lack of ability to feel pain (such as in leprosy) is a dangerous dysfunction in the human body. Similarly, the complete absence of fear indicates that something is broken in our human wiring and self-defense system.
But wait a minute. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid!” In fact, he said it repeatedly. And I have read that some form of the imperative “Fear not” occurs 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. I’ve never personally counted them, but I’m sure it’s in the hundreds. So … is Jesus telling us to turn off our amygdala? Do the scriptures direct us toward a malfunction in our natural “fear center”? I don’t believe so, but that’s a question we will examine together this Sunday at North Lake.
If you want to get a head start, you can read Psalm 118:4,6 and Luke 12:4-7. Let’s consider the difference between healthy fear and unhealthy fear. Can we have a healthy fear with our be-not-afraid faith?
I hope to see you on Sunday morning. Bring your fears with you. If you say you have no fears at all, I’ll be skeptical and God knows better. God created us with the tiny almond-shaped amygdala that go haywire when we are in a “fight or flight” moment of distress. So bring your fears with you, and I’ll have mine, and we’ll set them before the Lord as an act of worship.
Jeffrey A. Hosmer
North Lake Presbyterian Church
Lady Lake, FL