From Fear to Hope: From Grief to Wholeness

light shines through
Photo of original artwork by Rachael Keefe ©2024 depicting an oil on canvas painting of ocean waves at night, with light coming from a lighthouse.

Fear-bound people don't act in the world. Without our actions the world does not change.

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We have nearly reached the end of Lent for 2024. Palm Sunday begins Holy Week which has a different feel than the rest of the season. Lent is meant for us to intentionally focus on our spiritual lives and invite God to fill the barren places, meet us in the wild, untamed places.

Lent is a journey intended to prepare us for the new life Easter brings. Holy Week is almost the season in miniature. We are invited to accompany Jesus on his last week of life – to remember and to feel. The ultimate goal is healing, wholeness, new life on Easter morning.

I don’t know about you, but for me Lent has been a harder journey this year. Fear is tough to shake. The more afraid we are, the more distant we are from one another, God, and Creation. The current situation in the world is meant to keep most of us hunkered down and afraid.

Fear-bound people don’t act in the world. Without our actions the world does not change. This is why Jesus preached love, agape. Love of neighbor. Love of self. Love of God. 1 John 4:18 states that “perfect love casts out all fear.” Love completely, with the whole self, and fear recedes.

The more our elected officials and those around the world provide messages contrary to our experiences, the more fearful we remain. And for many, the more fear-filled we are the less we are able to act in the world. Unrecognized, unacknowledged grief (and more) will hold us captive and keep us fractured and distant from our neighbors.

The political situation nationally and globally. Climate change. COVID (and the possibility of another pandemic). Personal and communal losses. Wars and the probability of more. Drought and famine. Diminishing drinking water supplies. Xenophobia. Anti-Trans sentiment and laws. Anti-queer sentiment and laws.

The list of fears goes on and on and leaves no one out. Holy Week gives us another chance to confront those fears, grieve for all that we have lost (and all that we could lose), come together as a community, and, ultimately, be reminded that perfect love (love that affirms our whole, authentic selves) holds the promise of new life.

All hope is not actually lost. God is in the world, holding our pain, our grief, our brokenness, and inviting us to seek wholeness, authenticity, and the fullness of love. Together, we can do this.

On Sunday we will celebrate Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and his clear message that there is an alternative to Empire – then and now. On Tuesday, we will acknowledge our deep need for God in our Service of Reconciliation and Release.

On Thursday, we will remember Jesus’ humble servant nature in the washing of feet and the Last Supper. On Friday we share the story and make room for the fear and loss and pain of Jesus’ death.

We do this so that we are spiritually and emotionally more likely able to accept the promise of Resurrection, new life. This is a journey best made in community, best made with those who can hold hope when you struggle.

May the end of Lent and the beginnings of Holy Week guide us all to a place of healing and courage.


About Rachael Keefe

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ. She was called to Living Table in 2015 after serving in many varied ministry settings since her ordination in 1992. She holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Seminary at Yale (formerly Andover Newton Theological School). Her ministry and leadership often center around advocacy and accessibility. Her writing has been published by Chalice Press, The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians, Working Preacher, RevGalBlogPals, and others. She is grateful to be in ministry with Living Table today.

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