Fear, Faith, Hope, Community and Freedom
A week ago, our government closed 20 foreign embassies because of threats from the avowed enemy
that calls itself Al Qaeda.
Throughout the week, floods have devastated southern and southeastern states and yesterday Colorado.
In California, the latest forest fire to claim lives and property was added to the more than 90 fires which have ravished the West.
And in our own city, children have to learn new ways just to travel to school in designated “safe zones.”
And Jesus tells us today, “Have no fear, little flock.”
“Have no fear;” “Do not be afraid” is one of the hallmark phrases spoken by God and God’s messengers
throughout the entire Bible.
In today’s First Reading, Abram’s vision begins with God telling him,
“Do not be afraid; I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
Believing God’s promises and believing especially the promise that God made
that he would have an heir, Abram seems to challenge God by reminding God that he still did
not have a son, only a slave he had adopted as heir.
So God takes him in his vision out under the stars.
Now, looking into the night sky in the desert, Abram was used to seeing the entire Milky Way.
“Count the stars if you are able,” God said to him.
“So shall your descendants be!”
And two chapters of Genesis and 14 years later, God finally blessed
Abraham and Sarah (so old that Hebrews accounts them “as good as dead”) with a son.
Throughout the history of the chosen nation, God supports
promise after promise often with the words, “Have no fear; do not be afraid.”
And when a young woman from Nazareth wonders how a virgin can have a child,
God’s message begins with “Have no fear; do not be afraid.”
And when shepherds see the same heavens their ancestor Abraham saw open
up to reveal a whole host of angels, God’s message which announced the birth of
that blessed child, the message began with “Have no fear; do not be afraid.”
Again and again when Jesus taught his followers, he told them, “Have no fear, little flock; do not be afraid.”
So, here we are, centuries later, so easily fearful of terrorists around the world and disasters at home.
And Jesus tells us, “Have no fear, little flock; do not be afraid.”
But in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us just why it is that we should not be afraid.
“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
It’s as if we had listened to our local meteorologists and spent the night last night at the
lakeshore to watch the Perseid meteor shower.
And while we watched the wonder of “stars” falling in the night sky, we heard God say to us,
“see all those stars up there, so many that you really cannot hope to count them.
Just as Abram’s children are counted among them, you are counted among them too.”
God’s whole kingdom, which began with the very first word God spoke and continues to grow and grow as each
minute goes by;
it is God’s good pleasure to give you this kingdom.
God’s kingdom is understood by Luke as the ongoing creation and creative activity of God:
for unexpected individuals such as Mary and Elizabeth;
for communities like the disciples who followed Jesus and the disciples who saw him first on their way to Emmaus; and for a world beyond their understanding and beyond our understanding.
This is the first good news for today.
In the big picture, it is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!
And here begins the second good news for today.
Karoline Lewis, Associate Professor of Preaching at Luther Seminary, says: “Being without fear;
knowing the source of your treasure – that is, your identity, your worth – makes it possible to be prepared for and an actual participant in God’s kingdom.”
Knowing this, listen again to the rest of the Gospel reading for today.
“Sell your possessions and give alms……..for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We have a tendency to think of this is a punitive way.
Don’t be greedy, we think to ourselves.
Don’t make money and power and prestige and economic position your aim in life or else!
When, in fact, Jesus is telling us that, as his very Body alive for this day,
giving our whole selves is the way to find the treasures of the kingdom of God.
“Be ready for action; have your lamps lit;
be like the servants who can’t wait for their master to come and sit down and eat with them –
in fact, God will come and serve them!”
“Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at every unexpected minute of every unexpected hour.
You see, when we live in the faith that we have already been given the kingdom of God,
we, as the living Body of Christ on earth today, will open up the kingdom to others.
When our nation opens our very lives to the rest of the world with words
and actions of peace, love, and sharing our good gifts, the rest of the world
will greet us as the unexpected Son of God.
Ask Robert and Rose why it is that Ghanaians love Americans and they will tell you that Ghana has experienced the
goodness of the American people.
When our nation speaks and acts as though another people are not welcome,
that nation will see only our selfishness, our distrust and our fear.
When we give of ourselves to help fellow citizens who have experienced floods and fire, tornadoes and tragedies; those in other parts of our country see the living Body of Christ in our hearts.
This is the treasure that gives hope to those who have plenty and those who have little.
When we spare some of our own time and treasure to help projects
like Refugee One and PCO; Famous Fido and so many other neighbors in our own community,
then Unity Lutheran Church is seen as the living Body of Christ.
They will see us all as a people whose treasure and whose heart is one with the goodness of God.
Now, when we hear about all of those terrible people and events that bring fear to the hearts of most people,
we hear Jesus tell us, “Have no fear, little flock.
For it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Go out with my light and bring your treasures, your hearts, to those people.
Do whatever you can to bring them into God’s kingdom too.
This is not always easy to do. So I would like to ask you this week to make a special effort to pray
for everyone here today every day this week that we may all be open to see the unexpected Son of God acting in our lives and in the lives of others.
Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh tells the story of being with Mother Teresa one day after Mass.
After being introduced, she asked him “What can I do for you?”
“Pray for me,” he answered.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.
“Pray that I have clarity,” Father Kavanaugh said.
She said no. That was that.
“But why?” he questioned.
She announced that clarity was the last thing he was clinging to and had to let go of.
When he responded that she herself always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed:
“I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.
So I will pray that you have trust.”
Trust, little flock, that your Father has given you everything!
And then, go out and spend that kingdom of everything the way that God spends the everlasting love that made that
everything and makes everything possible through