Asbury United Methodist Church
Love - Share - Tell - Serve

February 9, 2018

Today is a good day to talk about courage.  And, for me, courage is not the absence of fear but it is the facing of fear and identifying it as a paper tiger by seeking truth.

          One of the most courageous characters in the New Testament, in my opinion was Joseph of Arimathea.  I will get to him in a moment.  Right now, I want to talk about me!

          For a big chunk of my life, I was terrified of needles.  I’d go to the doctor to get a shot and I would conk out.

          It was so embarrassing! 

          When it was time for me to get married, I was mortified, not because of the pending marriage but because back in those days a blood test was required before a marriage certificate would be issued in North Carolina.

          What to do?  What to do? 

          Well, I spent months wringing my hands.  Finally, time ran out on me and it was either get the blood test or have my fiancé (Cheryl) kill me for not being legal for this giant wedding that she and her mother had planned.

          So, I went to the health department in Robeson County, NC to have this little matter taken care of.  I steeled myself for what was to come, situated myself in a chair with armrests and told the nurse to be prepared because I would most likely conk out.

          And, I did!  I conked right out.

          This was crazy!  I could not imagine how many more shots and blood-drawings I would have to endure throughout my lifetime; and, I decided that I would beat this fear or die!

          I didn’t really want to die of course, but such was the weight of my conviction and determination.  So, guess what I did!  I thought about the biggest, scariest, most horrifying needle on the planet and I knew they kept them at the Red Cross.

          Yes, I made up my mind that I would give blood, reasoning that if I could conquer those gigantic needles, the smaller ones would be a piece of cake!

          It took all the courage I could muster to show up at the Red Cross.  I was literally shaking.

          I told the phlebotomist to get ready because I would probably conk out.  She laid the chair flat out for me, I laid down and began to pray.

          The next thing I knew, a bee had stung the inside crease of my elbow and I made a life-changing decision.  I would just not think about this right now!

          I emptied my mind, and focused on sitting in the sand on some deserted beach with my toes in the water.  I felt the ocean lap at my toes.  I felt the warm breeze on my face and could smell the salt air as I watched the brown pelicans fly over.

          Before I knew it, I was down.  I don’t mean down because I conked out but the Red Cross workers call out that you are down when the bag of blood they’ve drawn from you lifts a counterbalanced weight where the bag is hanging, signaling you are finished.

          I did it!  I was done!  And, I didn’t conk out!  Even so, I felt myself to make sure I was still all in one piece.

          After all these years, I still cannot believe I actually gave that first pint of blood…and did not conk out. 

And, just for giggles, I passed the ten-gallon donation mark about a decade ago!  Also, I haven’t conked out again…so far.

I still hate needles.  But, I claim a victory over them because I can!

Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is just ripping off the band-aid and having at it!

Now, this brings me back to Joseph of Arimathea.  You may recall that it was Joseph who when to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. 

I cannot imagine the courage this must have taken.  We remember that Jesus’ core group of disciples had run like scalded dogs away from this horrible scene.

But…not Joseph.  He stood right on up in there and ripped off the band-aid:

“There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50-52 MSG).”

Can you imagine what Joseph was putting on the line?  We know for a fact that he was now out of a job.  It was the council that sanctioned Jesus’ murder and Joseph’s action has just told them they could go and fly a kite.

Furthermore, Joseph’s very life was on the line because at a whim Pilate could have thrown him up on the next cross.  But, what Joseph had going for him was that he’d had a Popeye moment, “I’ve have all I can stands and I canst stands no more!”

Joseph then takes the council to the woodshed:

“And likewise, Joseph also stepped out and said to them: Why are you angry against me because I begged the body of Jesus? Behold, I have put him in my new tomb, wrapping in clean linen; and I have rolled a stone to the door of the tomb. And you have acted not well against the just man, because you have not repented of crucifying him, but also have pierced him with a spear (The Gospel of Nicodemus).”  

In modern vernacular, “Ya’ll can go fly a kite!”

(Please note that the Gospel of Nicodemus is not part of the Bible but belongs to a group of works called the Pseudepigrapha.)

It takes tremendous courage not to give up and give into despair.  I say one more time, courage is not the absence of fear.  It is facing what needs to be done and prayerfully focusing upon that next step.

It is also understanding that the status quo, that devil we know, can hurt us!  It is having the realization that our current situation is not healthy or enhancing life; and, it is taking that next baby step out of the forest.

At the end of the day, if we trip and fall down, right there is the Holy Spirit who will dust us off and help us to get moving again. 

Rust is not good!  And, if we are rusting in place, we are serving no one!  Not self!  Not others!  Not Christ!

True courage is looking seriously and prayerfully at our lives, our relationships, our marriages, even our place of work and then making the decision to move on from unhealthy and destructive patterns of living.

And, if you want to go with me to give blood sometime, we’ll get up a load for the bus.

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