31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
May 30, 2021
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Last week, I did something a little bold. I wrote a poem. Monday morning, I heard an invitation on NPR to write a poem about how the pandemic has changed you, a poem based on a line from Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I rise”.
I write all of the time, but not poetry. I felt inspired to write this poem though. I felt called by God to write this poem, and not surprisingly for me, the poem turned into a prayer. And despite not being a poet, despite it being a prayer, I sent it to NPR.
Those whose lives we are honoring today on this Memorial Day weekend have done much bolder things than write a poem. One of them flew planes and another fixed up contest winning tractors. Another boldly joined with others to create the Main Street foundation. The six young men whose names are on the Nathan Hale statue gave their lives in WWII.
Many of the saints we are remembering today were adventurers, traveling these 50 United States as well as around the world. Quite a few of them were women and men ahead of their times, accomplishing things that are noteworthy, generous, and inspirational.
And each one of them did the most daring thing of all. They dared to love. A few of them dared to love again after divorce or tragically losing their spouses. All of them dared to love partners and friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
When we think of boldness, we don’t usually think of love. The definition of boldness is to lack hesitation or fear in the face of risk or danger or to refuse to be held back by the opinion or judgment of others.
Bold is daring. Bold is confident. Bold is strong.
Bold is not fearless though. General George S. Patton, that revered military man, is quoted as saying, “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.”
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown, writes that courage and boldness are not really about being uber-confident, brashly independent, and completely unafraid. Instead, to dare greatly, to take risks and be bold, you need to be willing to be vulnerable and open, vulnerable and open to another, vulnerable and open to God.
Boldness isn’t about fearlessness. It’s about faithfulness.
Peter and John were not all that confident or competent before Jesus’ death, however following the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, they have become bold and confident. So bold and confident that they have healed a man who for 40 years has been unable to walk, healed him in sight of all in the temple.
And this is a little troubling for those in religious authority, troubling because those in authority do not know Peter and John; Peter and John are not part of their circle; Peter and John are not authorized by those in power to do miracles.
So the authorities arrest Peter and John to question them. The authorities realize they cannot pretend away this miracle of the man’s healing – too many people have seen it. Instead, the authorities will simply intimidate Peter and John. They tell Peter and John to stop talking about Jesus, to stop healing in Jesus’ name, to “speak no more to anyone in this name” as Acts 4:17 says. The authorities are hoping that the power of who they are and the weight of their words will intimidate Peter and John into compliance.
Here’s the thing though – the word we hear translated as boldness, the Greek word “parrhesia”, doesn’t just mean to speak frankly or bluntly. The Greek word “parrhesia”, means to speak boldly, to speak freely, to speak everything because you are obligated to speak the truth for the common good, even at great personal risk.
Peter and John spoke out about Jesus, healed in Jesus’ name, shared about the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and the power of God’s unconditional love, because they had to, because their lives had been forever changed, forever made better and when you know that, when you have experienced that, how can you keep it to yourself?!
So it wasn’t fearlessness that made Peter and John bold. It was faithfulness. It was their relationship with God; it was witnessing the miracle of Christ’s resurrection; it was being filled with the Holy Spirit. It was faithfulness that enabled the apostles to speak boldly, to act boldly.
Which is why, after being arrested, after being threatened, Peter and John come back to their community of faith – and they pray. They pray because that is what faithfulness does. In the face of fear, in the face of persecution and threats, faithfulness turns to God.
And so Peter and John joined with their community of faith, and they prayed. They did not pray to be delivered from hardship though. Instead, they acknowledged that hardship and persecution are part of the life of faith. They acknowledged that even King David, faithful, talented, and beloved, even King David faced hardship and persecution. Even Jesus, God in human form, had faced hardship and persecution. So they did not pray to be kept from all difficulty and challenge. Instead, they prayed for faithfulness, asking God to “grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness”. (Acts 4:31)
Grant to your servants, to your people, to us, to speak your word boldly, freely, fully, so that others will know Your power, Sovereign God, so that others will have their eyes opened to the miracles, signs, and wonders that You, Holy God, are performing through Jesus Christ.
After standing up to the religious authorities, to those in power, Peter and John did not pat themselves on the back for being so brave. They turned to God. They gave glory to God. They asked God to continue to “melt them, mold them, use them, fill them” as the hymn says, all so that they could continue speaking God’s word and doing good.
This prayer for boldness wasn’t just words though. In a display of true courage and boldness, Peter and John and their fellow Christians opened themselves up to be changed by prayer and the Spirit. Scripture tells us that when they finished praying “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken” (Acts 4:31). They were stirred, agitated, moved by the Spirit. They let prayer change them. They let prayer form them.
Boldness isn’t fearlessness. Boldness isn’t confidently taking on all risks and facing all dangers. Boldness is faithfulness. Boldness is opening ourselves up to God, being willing to be changed by prayer and the Spirit. Boldness is fear holding out one moment longer, one moment more so we can take a deep breath of the Holy Spirit and choose love, choose to live in love.
Today, we remember the saints who came before us. We remember King David. We remember Peter and John. We remember all of the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country. We remember those who boldly made sacrifices and took risks to show us love and make our lives better.
Today, we remember all of the saints who came before us, and we ask God, we pray, that we, too, might be made bold so we can share the light and love of Jesus Christ with all the world.