I have been thinking about the Boston Marathon a lot this week. The more stories I hear, the worse it gets. The story of the 8 year old who died has captured my attention the most – mostly because I cannot imagine losing a child, having a daughter lose a limb, and having a seriously injured spouse all at once. For many of us, the tendency might be to shut down: if it is not safe for us at even the Boston Marathon, an occasion of great joy and triumph, then maybe it isn’t safe anywhere. Why risk the danger? We tend to close ourselves off, moving into protection mode, even if only emotionally – and in so doing, cut off others as well.
Archbishop Alphege, who we celebrate today, could have done the same. In the late 900s, he was a monk and abbot. He could have stayed in that life, protected and cut off from others. That would have been a respectable life. And later, when he became bishop, he could have hidden from the Scandinavian invaders, hoping to save his own life or the lives of his parishioners and priests.
But instead burrowing into a hole, Alphege went out into the world. He brought the Norse King to King Aethelred to make peace. And when he was captured by the Danes in 1011, he refused to allow a ransom to be paid for him, knowing the financial burden it would put on his people. He was brutally murdered seven months later.
Our gospel lesson today encourages this kind of boldness. “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.” Jesus knows our tendency to fear the wrong things. We get so attached to what we know and the life we experience that we can become paralyzed with fear or even fight vigilantly to protect that life. But Jesus knows there is much more to life than this earthly life.
This is our invitation today: a life of boldness. Such a life will cost us. But Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit will be with us at the very moment we need the Holy Spirit. Our rewards for such boldness will be better than we can imagine! Amen.