By Andrew Boyd
When I graduated college, I took a job in Greece and lived in a working-class neighborhood where nobody ever spoke even a little English. Coming home late from work, I was the relaxing and reading with relish my People magazine (the only English language publication I could find, please don’t judge). Suddenly, a note was pushed underneath my front door! This was both frightening and confusing, since the only people who knew who I was and where I lived were co-workers who had my phone number (and would therefore not need to communicate through cryptic door messages).
Now, my Greek then and now is not great, but I can kind of make my way through provided the letters aren’t in upper-case. The entire note, was, of course, in upper-case. Never fear, I was on the case! With my handy Greek dictionary, I spent the better part of the night trying to decipher the note. Hours later, frustrated and stressed, I was able to discern two words “Small” and “Dead”.
That freaked me out! No one knows I live here or who I am, and I get a note with the word “dead” in it. Was it a threat? Did they want me dead? Did someone out there not like a random American living in the building? Did my neighbors realize that I knew all about their illegal import/export business?
I couldn’t sleep. I was consumed by irrational fear. I locked all the doors in my house. I barricaded myself in my bedroom with my cellphone in my hand. I fell asleep at some point, and woke up early and stumbled about confused. Why was my cell phone in my bed? Was I going to call the police? I don’t even know how to do that in Greece (Hint: it’s not 911)? Irrational fear and crippling anxiety had taken complete control of me as my rational mind went on a quick vacation. I was left paralyzed by my own thoughts.
The Guards at Christ’s tomb in Matthew’s Gospel become “like dead men”, paralyzed in fear, at the appearance of the angel proclaiming the risen Lord. That same angel commands the women seeking Jesus to “not be afraid”. Those women depart from the empty tomb with an anxious mixture of fear and joy, where the risen Christ meets them to assure them one more time to announce his resurrection without fear.
Imagine for a moment how different the world would be if those women let their fear turn their joy, wonder, and amazement into my Greek irrational behavior, or worse the petrified fear of the guards, who were unable to move and ultimately unable to speak the truth of what Christ accomplished in front of them. Imagine if those women refused to share what they saw, if fear kept them from proclaiming to the world the joy of Christ’s resurrection, if the apostles never got the message about their messiah rising from the dead.
But what fears paralyze me? What keeps me from preaching the Gospel in its fullness to the weary world? Certainly my fear of spiders is on a different level than my fear of personal poverty? I know it’s fear when I keep Christ to myself. I know it’s fear when I wear my cross under my shirt. I know it’s fear when I tell my friends “I’m busy” instead of saying “I’m in Church proclaiming the Risen Lord.” It’s fear paralyzing me when I conceal from a needful world God’s gracious acts in my life.
Christ commands the women not to be afraid (I haven’t done the math, but I strongly suspect that “do not be afraid” is the most common commandment in the New Testament). He commands them to let the presence of his perfect love drive out their fears in order that they can more perfectly proclaim the joyous news of His resurrection. Being present in that healing love, they become the apostles to the Apostles, sharing the good news with those who would spread it to the ends of the Earth. The very foundation of Christianity is built in the commandment to not be afraid. Resting in Christ’s love, instead of our own fears, allows us to proclaim his Gospel.
So what did that note say in Greek? I brought the offending note to the office for translation by a co-worker. After I explained how upset and afraid I was (and asking him how to contact local police), he read the note aloud in Greek and every one of my colleagues stopped what they were doing to laugh at me. Here’s the note verbatim:
There is a small, dead bird on your outside balcony. Please remove it.
As we let go of our fears, we open the door for Christ’s resurrection to be proclaimed through us. Irritating anxiety gives way to the simple message that Christ has saved us from sin and death through his own death and resurrection. Join the women, cast aside fear, and share the news that Christ is risen.
Mr Andrew Boyd is the Director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministry for the Orthodox Church in America. He is a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s School of Business and the Master’s of Divinity program at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. He works in corporate communications in New York City.