Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Pentecost - 8/12

Sermon by Pastor Chrys Levesque, supply at Bethany, Ishpeming
August 12, 2007, 11th Sun. after Pentecost - Year C

“Do not be afraid? ... Riigghhtt!”
 Genesis 15.1-6 / Psalm 33.12-22 / Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16 / Luke 12.32-40

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure
to give you the kingdom.”  Luke 12:32

The news must have been particularly full of fearful things the day I looked a the readings for today, because my first impulse when I read these first words of the Gospel text was ...

                                    “Do not be afraid? ... Riigghhtt!”

The fact is, fear really does permeate our lives on so many levels that it actually becomes difficult to figure out what, exactly, we are afraid of!  The things we are able to name at a given moment, ... huge things like the threat of terror ... and daily things like health and jobs ... don’t begin to capture the general level of anxiety that enshrouds us like a fog. 

The world is so chaotic that we deal with it by expending huge amounts of energy, time, and resources to try to maintain some control ... wanting to believe that control is an effective antidote to fear. 

The root fear, really, is the fear of death.  Not only do we fear actually losing our lives to accident or illness, but we fear the little deaths that come with such things as failure at something we try to do, ... embarrassment over a word spoken out of turn, ... making a mistake ... finding out we are scheduled to work when we desperately needed a day off ... or not having enough money to cover the semester’s tuition.  Into this fear and anxiety ridden world of ours comes Jesus’ message:  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  And we are tempted to respond:  “Do not be afraid? ... Riigghhtt!”

But Jesus really is inviting us to let go of this pervasive fear of death.  He never denies that there are fearful things that we need to attend to … and that death really will come to each of us in some manner … some time.

Rather, he is saying to us, do not let fear rule your lives … do not let fear be the central focus of your lives … and so rob you of the joy of living.  Yes, there is appropriate caution ... like looking both ways before crossing the street ... but never leaving your yard because you are afraid of being run over is a bit much!  When we make fear … rather than faith … the center of our lives, we throw God’s gift of life back in the divine face … and we miss the enjoyment  … and the freedom to look around us …

… in wonder and delight in all that God has made … including the joy of relationship with others and with God’s own self.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

“In these few words, Jesus is inviting us to live confidently, with a profound sense of security; to live in faith, not fear.”  (Augsburg Sermons, C, p. 187)  He invites us to put all the anxieties of our lives in his hands, remembering that he knows very well that fear of loss and death are very much a part of the landscape of human life.  Remember, he did walk among us in human flesh.

Nevertheless, in this text, Jesus is peeling away our fears, like the layers of an onion.

Do not be afraid ... to loveand to forgive.  There is no personal security in being indifferent or hostile to the needs of others, and there is none in hating those who hurt us in any way.

Do not be afraid to have compassion for those in need ... even when their need is the result of their own bone-headed decisions.  We all make bone-headed decisions too, and judging others does not buy us more than a moment of freedom from anxiety.  As soon as we turn our self-satisfied backs, our anxiety is back with a vengeance.

Do not be afraid to trust God’s vision of the world ... to enter into that vision of care and compassion.  Share the resources God has entrusted to your care.  They may not seem like enough, but you will be amazed at how your real needs and many of your deep desires are met when you turn your focus outward towards others. 

Do not be afraid to have faith in Christ day in and day out ... to put Jesus at the center of life always …not just when you run out of self-sufficient ideas. 

Do not be afraid to pray for help in sorting out the confusion of a chaotic world nor to study the story of God-with-us.  In both you will find wisdom and peace.  Don’t give up in despair.  Pray.  Read.  Gather in community for worship and fellowship.

The God we gather to worship this day is the same God that promised Abraham that he would be the father of a people numerous as the stars in the heavens.  By faith Abraham followed God’s leading ... most of the time.  Human like all of us, he had his moments of fearfulness and an inclination to take control.  And yet, for the most part, he did indeed put his trust in God and so made the journey whose end he could not see … the journey that proved to be a profound blessing for … us! 

And we are called to do the same ... to follow God’s leading ... for the sake of a kingdom we glimpse only in part … and for blessings we cannot even imagine much less desire!  God’s love and power push through all hardship and fear … like a flower not only growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, but … over time … making that crack wider!

Two stories come to mind.  The first is not particularly God-centered, but it makes a spiritual point nevertheless.  It comes from World War II.  It seems that there was a particularly difficult Japanese code that needed to be broken.  It was a matter of national urgency.  One team after another of cryptologists—code breakers—had been given the task.  As each team took on the challenge, the members were advised … presumably to spur them on … that it had so far proven unbreakable, and that others before them had failed. 

Finally, yet another new team was brought in … but with a difference.  Can you guess what the difference was?  ….[pause] … They were not told of the previous failed efforts!  Without the fear of failure, this team managed to trust in their training and their God-given intellect so as to focus their energies on creative approaches to solving the problem.  And they succeeded.

The other story concerns a woman who raised about a dozen adoptive children, and did it on an economic shoe-string.  Most of them entered her care first as foster children.  She had been involved in her work for more than a decade when someone asked her how she managed to provide loving care for so many children with so many different needs.  Her answer?  “Well,” she said, “about the time the third child came into my home, I had a little conversation with God.  I said, ‘Lord:  This is a big job you’ve given me to do.  Tell you what:  I’ll do the work if it’s OK for me to leave the worryin’ to you.’” 

Do not fear little flock.  It is the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Let your faith in that promise … and not your fears … be the center of your life … and you will be astonished at the fullness of life you will experience.  Even more, you will be awestruck by what God will accomplish in and through your own precious lives.

May it all be so among us.  Amen.

 

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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