Readings included Isaiah 43:2-3 and John 14:1-6. John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet 6” was also read.
Years ago, when I was growing up, I had a lot of fears. I was afraid of loud noises. I feared I might lose family members and the people I loved. I was afraid I might not ever figure out what I wanted to do in life. I feared calamities natural calamities and unnatural.
Over time, those fears were either confronted head-on or began to fade away. An inner confidence helped to dissolve them. Prayer was a big part of my development. But more often than not, those prayers were answered by God’s putting various people in my life: people who, one way or another, had overcome and defeated fear. Or, they had figured out how to harness fear and make it work for them. I learned from such people, people who in the tradition of the church, might be called “saints.”
Saints are not perfect people, but they are people who serve as icons, as windows, in which we can see something of God. Saints are like mirrored windows in that they can also reflect to us our best qualities, magnified, and enlarged. Such people (such saints) help us say to ourselves, “If she can do it, then I can to. If he can make it through that, then so can I.”
Bob Alfandre was (ok, get ready for it in case lightning strikes) a saint. I know he wasn’t perfect. I know he didn’t do everything, say everything, or manage everything perfectly. He didn’t always get relationships exactly right. Like the rest of us, he had his shortcomings and the things he might have liked to have changed. But especially in terms of facing fear and moving through, he taught us all, and his spirit will continue to teach us.
Some of the readings and music this morning echo this theme of overcoming fear. The reading from Isaiah includes God’s own encouragement, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name.” This is reinforced in the Gospel as Jesus says, “Don’t fear. Don’t worry. Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Belief will get your through. Friendship will get you through. Love will get you through.
The John Donne sonnet we heard describes a part of this movement through fear. Approaching death, the poet’s “ever-waking part” fears—that is, holds God in awe, and wonder, and distance— and yet (in spite of the fear, because of the fear, with the fear) takes flight, sure as the sun, and approaches God purified, ready, having lived a good and full life.
Bob faced down fear. He used it, and grew through it—in his work, in the prospects of new relationships that might have been judged or misunderstood by others, and during the AIDS pandemic as friend after friend died. He faced fears of the body, with cancer and its effects. But through it all, Bob maintained an exuberance and a fun that simply would not be defeated.
Scripture says, “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Bob may not have always loved perfectly, but he sure knew about loving his way forward, through fear, and it’s that quality, in particular, for which I’m grateful especially grateful. Inspired by Bob Alfandre and all the saints, may we, each of us, grow through our fears so that we might fill the world with a fearsome love, the kind of love that never dies.