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August 29, 2022 – Sermon Transcript

The Fear Factor: Anxiety and Relationships - Aug. 28, 2022

Elizabeth Alfieri (00:00):

What I have learned is that we need to give people space for their hearts and their emotions for their struggles and their joys. There is a gift of listening in times of stress. The best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts.

Hannah Hunter (00:17):

Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with the gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of digital reach here at the gathering place in Palm beach gardens. This week, as we’re continuing our series on the art of neighboring, we’re blessed to have our sister Elizabeth Alfieri bring us the message on the fear factor, understanding and overcoming the anxieties and fears that hold us back from being authentic and present with those who we have been called to love.

Elizabeth Alfieri (00:42):

So we’re gonna talk a little bit today about fear, the fear factor, and what, what do we think the fear factor’s about when we’re talking about being a neighbor? What’s our fear with our neighbors. They don’t like us. It’s like the worst thing in the world that somebody wouldn’t like us. I got news for you. There are some people in the world that don’t like, you it’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. I know it’s gonna be right. There are some people in the world that don’t like me and I’ve come to reconcile. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay. I’m somebody’s cup of tea somewhere. I just gotta find that person. Right. But one of the things that, uh, Kevin talked about last week was he was like, I don’t, maybe I don’t like my neighbor, cuz they’re not Jamaican, not Jamaican. Right.

Elizabeth Alfieri (01:28):

But, but maybe there’s something you have in common with your neighbor. Amen. Galatians five 14 says for the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one. Commandment, what is it? Love your neighbors yourself. It’s right there. Amen. I’m gonna tell you about a guy who changed the world because he wasn’t afraid his name was Jim Strau. Have I heard of him? I guarantee everybody in this room has been affected by Jim Strau. You just don’t know it. You’re gonna meet him in heaven. You’re gonna give him a high five. You’re gonna say thank you for being nice to that kid. There was a, a sh a shy, awkward kind of slow kid that Jim went to school with up north. And this kid that he went to school with was essentially dismissed, rendered, irrelevant, uh, cast aside because he was, he was awkward. He was a little different than everybody else.

Elizabeth Alfieri (02:30):

Jim was, uh, like an all star popular jock football player. Every, he was the most popular kid in school. Everybody loved Jim. Everybody knew who he was. Everybody loved him. And nobody paid any attention to this little quiet meek kid that got bullied a lot in school. And Jim got hurt and was laid up in the hospital. And this kid who didn’t really have any friends, had nothing to do with his life offered, take Jim’s schoolwork to him every day after school. So he’d walk through the neighborhood, visited him in the hospital and then continued to give him his, his schoolwork, uh, in the neighborhood that they lived in. As he was recovering at the school’s 50th year class reunion, this former awkward, shy bullied kid recalled in a speech how their friendship had liberated him because Jim was not afraid. He says, quote, there. He was probably the best known, smartest, most active person in our class. And he welcomed me day after day. He wasn’t afraid. And what’s more is he seemed to want to get to know me. I learned to trust him. And I told him some of my deepest feelings, things I’d not ever shared with anyone. By the time he got out of the hospital, recovered at home and was back at school, he was telling all of the kids at school, Hey, that guy’s okay. Take it easy on him. Be nice.

Elizabeth Alfieri (04:07):

In fact, he quietly included me in everything. He thought I’d like, I went on to become student council, president and editor of the yearbook, largely because I had someone who believed in me and wasn’t afraid to say so. So here’s a kid who had nothing going for him, but because one person and listen, teenagers are brutal. You think by the time we become adults, like we get over this stuff, you know, high school’s tough, but I sorry, kids. It D people are tough in the work world too. But in high school, things can be really fierce. And this was a kid, you know, popularity is everything. It seems to be when you’re in high school. And this kid was unafraid to encourage others, to stop bullying and, and validate this kid. This boy went on to be an ordained minister Presbyterian minister. After he received his music degree, he worked in TV. He saw people, demeaning other people. He was working as a janitor and he saw, you know, the whole, this was the early days of television pies in the face and slapstick comedy and people demeaning each other for a laugh. And it struck a chord in him cuz it was familiar to him. He knew what it felt like to be demeaned .

Elizabeth Alfieri (05:26):

He grieved him and he hated television. Couldn’t wait to get out of that. It was a, it was like a college gig for him. And he wanted to go on and do something relevant with his life. And the Lord spoke to him and he said, I’m gonna use this medium to value people.

Elizabeth Alfieri (05:46):

He was inspired to do that because he knew what it felt like to be bullied, ignored and rendered irrelevant. And he knew what it meant to be valued because someone was unafraid to be his friend. When he went to college, there was a service plaque and it read life is for service. He took that picture of that plaque in the late sixties he had, and this was this wasn’t the days of cell phones. He had to take the picture. He had to take it to the drugstore. He had to have it developed, wait for it to come back, take the picture, put it in his wallet. He carried that picture with him in his wallet for 60 plus years until he passed away, life is for service and there are practical ways to be of service. How can we be of service? There’s a website. Has anybody seen this? Raising men and women long? It’s a lawn care service. This is brilliant. Oh Peter, just wait until next summer. It says on the website. So this says we are raising We challenge you to cut 50 lawns free for the elderly, the disabled single parents, veterans, anyone of need of help in your town. The challenges for boys and girls ages eight to 17. And it says on their web website in over eight countries, we have thousands of kids signing up to make a difference in their community. By completing our 50 yard challenge, their slogan is putting the care back in lawn care. How cool is that? John? That’s pretty cool.

Elizabeth Alfieri (07:31):

Says they’re raising men and women to be leaders in their community, through service to others. That’s a way that we can practically be of service to our neighbors. And I, I, I wouldn’t be too afraid to say, Hey, can I mow your lawn for free? Cuz most people would take me up on that. Right? Little more fearful to reach out for a friendship with the grumpy neighbor or the guy that looks at you funny, but we can be of service in other ways as well, being kind to someone that others might find forgettable or easy to bully can be a ministry that might make the world a better place by starting in your neighborhood. Just like Jim Strau did service. Doesn’t have to be a drag. And what I find is the Lord delight in us being delighted. And often our gifts are very easily translated into service. That means the most because we’re doing it with a fun heart. This is a sour dough bread man right here. Yeah. And it’s something he enjoys. Yes. Something comes easy to him. Something he delights in doing

Elizabeth Alfieri (08:41):

And it blesses others. So thank you for that. I did a tea the other day for, uh, the theater that the kids are involved in and people were fussing and I was like, please don’t fuss. This is, I love this stuff. I love their own tea parties. It’s my gift. And I, it’s a gift that’s giving back to me cause I enjoy it so much. That’s my pocket. Your pocket might be different. Your pocket might be mowing lawns. Are you good with a crockpot? A crockpots have always kind of baffled me. I’m always a little nervous to just walk away from them, but maybe you’re good with the croc pot. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just walking your dog around the block and acknowledging somebody, seeing someone saying hello. I see you right now. I see you. I recognize you. And you’re worthy of a hello. You’d be surprised. I’m gonna tell you a real quick story. I, I was in Chrysalis. It was my first weekend. It was the end of the weekend. I was high as a kite. It was a life changing experience for me. And there was a young man.

Elizabeth Alfieri (09:48):

He was the, the older brother of, uh, a girl that I was on the weekend with. And he was at FSU and he’d come back for the weekend cuz he’d completed his weekend. And he was playing this really crazy instrument and being a musician. I was like so delighted by it. And at the end of the weekend, as we were all leaving him, putting our sleeping bags in the car, I ran into him and I said, oh my gosh, I have to tell you that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. That was so neat to turn that corner and see you play in that thing. I can’t wait to get to know you and learn more about that crazy instrument you were playing. And I thought nothing more about it. And back in the day, we got these little directories with everybody’s names and addresses in them right at the end of the weekend. So we could keep in touch with our friends, our new friends still do. Okay, good. And I got a letter about two weeks later, it was after school had just started. He was back at FSU and he wrote me a letter

Elizabeth Alfieri (10:49):

And he said to me, I was gonna go home that day and I was gonna take my life and you stopped me because you saw me. And I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t deserve any glory for that. I was just impressed by his musical ability. But God saw that in that moment. And I was fortunate enough to walk in that, whatever obedience, I didn’t even know I was walking in. You understand what I’m saying? Sometimes you do things and you walk away and you’re like, oh, to work. Why did I even, but the Lord uses those things. Amen. The time I took the time and I never forgot that moment. That was 30. What? 32 years ago. Yeah, I was 1990.

Elizabeth Alfieri (11:43):

How old am I? Let’s move on. Let’s start math. <laugh> no need for math. This is Sunday morning. But that was a very pivotal moment in my life when I realized, you know what? Some people think I’m over the top and some people think I’m too much, but sometimes it’s just enough and it’s okay. And it’s okay for all of us to be ourselves. And sometimes it’s the quiet person that someone needs standing beside him. Right? It’s a matter of using who we are in the Lord and not being afraid of walking in our own authentic self to be used of the Lord service does not have to be a drag. Um, I will announce that Phil and Sue Holden have the cleanest house I’ve ever been in <laugh> so you’re welcome to, and you make good key lime pie. So you’re welcome to host game night or Bible study or whatever it is.

Elizabeth Alfieri (12:35):

You’re not be coming to my house for Bible study. <laugh> my house is not that clean. That’s not my gifting. Oh, but we’ve all got gifts. Jim Straba entertained a bullied kid because he wasn’t afraid of what other kids at school might think of him being seen with this awkward kid. How do, how did that neighborly act of kindness? Change the world. Does anybody know who this bullied kid was? Mister Rogers, my man, Mister Rogers. Now, if I were a grandparent and my kids were watching Mr. And Mr. Rogers is the man. Any of you, younger ones who don’t know who Mr. Rogers is, your parents have done you a disservice. You need to get on YouTube, but can you imagine being a, a grandparent and going to your grandkid’s house, went to school with Mr. Rogers. He was OG. Your kids would go to your grandkids would go to school and they’d be bragging to all their friends that their grandparents knew.

Elizabeth Alfieri (13:39):

Mr. Rogers. And can you imagine the shame you’d walk in that deep dark shame, knowing you were one of the kids that bullied him. Can you imagine that would stink, man, that takes, that takes some hardcore prayer. We, that that’d be something you’d wanna bury, be buried with you. Amen. One of my favorite quotes, well, mark, mark, 10 42 says whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first among you must be a servant to others. I remember an old Trinity skit. It was like Kathy put glee and Tara Thompson, all the old, like 1990 graduates. And they, all the girls were walking saying, I wanna be first. I wanna be first. And they were pushing each other aside. I wanna be first. And girl was lagging back. So I said, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you wanna be first?

Elizabeth Alfieri (14:29):

And the girl said, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And then all these girls said, I wanna be last. I wanna be last, right? The word of God says, put others before you. And I will remember you before my father in heaven. So whatever it is that your gifts are, whether it’s cookies or crockpots or walking and waving, let us use those gifts. Be unafraid, knowing those gifts in us so that we can supplement each other. Someone might be there to help you with your math homework. It won’t be me, but I’ll be there with a cookie. After you cry over your trigonometry, Mr. Rogers, a quote from Mr. Rogers says in times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts. And to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers. What I have learned is that we need to give people space for their hearts and their emotions for their struggles and their joys. There is a gift of listening. Some of us walk more confidently and comfortably in that gift than others.

Elizabeth Alfieri (15:46):

Another quote says in the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as a twinkling of an eye yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of moments where we human beings can say, I love you. I’m proud of you. You matter to me. I see you. I’m grateful for you. That’s what eternity’s made of this is I love this invisible imperishable, good stuff, invisible imperishable, good stuff. If your gift is listening, then just be still be present. Be aware, be unafraid to accept somebody where they’re at. We need more listeners in the world. I’m convinced they are the smartest people in the room and they are also the most well liked. There is quote for Mr. Rogers about success. Three ways to ultimate success. All the Tony Robbins conferences we spend money on and Mr. Rogers had it the whole time. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. And the third way is to be kind. The world needs a sense of worth, and it will be achieved by people feeling that they are worthwhile. And Jim strach helped Fred Rogers feel worthwhile and a simple friendship with someone in his neighborhood made me a better person growing up with Mr. Rogers, Mr. Rogers spoke at 120 words a minute. I do not speak at 120 words a minute. Adults typically speak at 150 words a minute. I speak at about 180 words a minute. I’m sorry, Hannah. 120 words a minute are the, the is, is the pace that’s good for like a three to five year old. And that’s why three to five year olds

Elizabeth Alfieri (17:59):

Really could tune into Mr. Rogers. And that’s why it was scientifically proven that adults who listened to Mr. Rogers slowed down and sometimes in our fight with time, we think it’s kind of inconvenient to slow down. Or we simply can’t cuz we don’t have those margins of time in our life. But slowing down will allow us to be that person that our neighborhoods need. I don’t know people in my neighborhood. I did that test John. I failed miserably. Everyone’s a stranger. I’ve got three acquaintances, two of which I don’t like very much, but that’s another sermon, but we gotta slow down enough

Elizabeth Alfieri (18:48):

To allow the Lord to work through us and our giftings. As I was reflecting on what John was talking about, I realized that I, every encounter that I’ve had with my neighbors that allowed me to connect with them was me walking my dog and somebody being out in their front yard. Somebody had their dog out in their front yard. Somebody had an Ohio state Buckeye t-shirt on in their front yard. And my daughter would always say to me, mom, you talk to everybody. How do you like, Ugh, what are you doing? That’s just who I am. It’s fine. You do, you I’ll do me. But every, every interaction. And I say like, literally my, my neighbors are mostly strangers and, and brief acquaintances. Um, everyone has been that someone’s been outside and that might be something that we can consider doing. Right? When do neighbors get together most after hurricane when everyone’s power is out and everyone’s grilling in their front yard, is that true? Yes. It’s true. Nothing brings south Florida together like a good hurricane and power outage. Amen. In 1990, this is a true story. In 1990, Mr. Rogers old mobile sedan was stolen while he was babysitting his grandson. After looking over papers and props that he’d left in the car, the thieves apparently realized what they’d done and they realized the car they’d stolen was Mr. Rogers,

Elizabeth Alfieri (20:18):

Mr. Rogers reported it stolen and then found his car parked in his front yard. The next day with an apology note attached, all that was all that was missing were from the car was a director’s chair with Mr. Roger’s name on it. And I have to be honest. I’d probably kept that too.

Speaker 3 (20:42):


Elizabeth Alfieri (20:43):

If the THS are out there listening, I’ll buy it on eBay. Let me know. And just posted now, Mr. Rogers said, I believe that appreciation is a holy thing. That when we look for what’s best in a person who we happen to have in front of us at that moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. Can we just sit there for a second? When I go before the Lord and I’m in his presence, he’s not judging me. He’s appreciating me. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re, we’re participating in something sacred, the mindset, the love, the purity of God, Robert Frost said good fences, make good neighbors. And I agree

Elizabeth Alfieri (21:44):

With some of my neighbors. I agree he wasn’t wrong. But Jesus did say in Matthew 1820 for two or three are gathered in my name. There I am in their midst. And we wanna take a moment and take a deep breath and acknowledge that the spirit of the Lord is with us. Whether we are, whether we’re barbecuing in the front yard, cuz electricity’s out. When we’re simply waving at a neighbor, who’s getting in his car and running off to work. Maybe that neighbors us, but it doesn’t take any more time to wave at our friend. Let’s remember. There’s a reason that Mr. Rogers was embraced by the world, the way that he was embraced by the world. And that is because we need more Mr. Rogers in the world, we need more people who are willing to slow down, acknowledge, appreciate value and do it. Unafraid.

Hannah Hunter (22:42):

Hey, beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of digital reach here at the gathering place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday worship service at 11:15, for more information about our community and faith, check out our website at Thanks for listening.