We are living in a culture of fear.
- there are new threats, elevated threat levels, bits of national and international intelligence gathering we are told about in the newspaper or on radio or TV.
- We hear about old intelligence we had been given that has proved to be faulty.
- We are told about rumors of new threats and know that threat assessment levels are used as tools in the political campaigns.
- We are in an economy locally and nationally where many fear for their job – will there be cut backs?
- Will I still have a job?
- What will I do for health care? \
- What will I do?
- We fear losing our life to terrorists, to random acts of evil, to disease…
- We fear for our loved ones and their safety – for our children and grandchildren as we look at changes in our society.
Who among us does not have some sort of fear we deal with on a regular basis?
But this is not just a recent phenomenon. The biblical people llived in a time when people regularly died quite young. When an infection we do not worry about could kill you. When invading armies and tribal conflict was the norm. Life was hard, short and uncertain. But the word of God says “ Do not be afraid.”
In Jesus’ day the Roman soldiers were the occupying army enforcing a brutal discipline. Disease and malnutrition were frequent occurrences especially among the majority who were poor. Land was being taken and people left desolate.
And it is to these people familiar with threats and filled with fear and apprehension that Jesus says “Don’t not be afraid little flock..”
Again and again in scripture we are given the message “Do not be afraid…”
And we hear it with the same skepticism that Abram heard it, and with which Jesus’ followers first heard it.
Don’t be afraid… I recall a sign my father had in his office – a take-off on a poem by Rudyard Kipling’s. It read “If all around you are losing their heads while you keep yours – you just don’t understand the situation.”
Do we understand the situation better than Jesus? Or than the messengers from God?
The scriptural message is consistent – Do not be afraid!
What does it take not to fear – I believe it takes trust.
Some years ago there was TV program called “Who do you Trust?”
Growing into adulthood we have learned that while we need to trust and that there are limits to that trust.
In the process of growing up we have learned you cannot trust everyone and you cannot trust anyone 100% (for each of us have those areas where we will disappoint another).
We are told we can trust God. But that is often not easy. We know the promises, but too often we don’t see their fulfillment around us.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews notes this same experience and writes “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them.” In essence they trusted God to fulfill the promisesin the future even when they did not see that fulfillment being close or immanent.
Why does God tell us not to be afraid. Because fear robs us – fear paralyzes us, fear takes away our ability to hope, to see a better future, and to actively work towards that future.
When we choose to trust rather than to fear, we change our world, we change the possibilities we see, and the posibilities we allow to influence us, our choices and actions.
Jesus’ words are not simply do not fear – but rather he ends with the words “God has given you the kingdom.” God gives us a new world.
Jesus suggests that we not just sit and wait for this new world to come into being but rather be dressed and ready for action. Be part of its creation. We need to be ready to act to bring that world we have been given, into being.
In one sense we are given a kit – the plans and us as the raw materials with the ability to put those plans into action. If all this kit came in a box on the outside we would read “The Kingdom of God – some assembly is required.” We have to build the world God gives us.
And we do that by choosing and acting out what it means to live in God’s world – loving God and loving our neighbors; putting on love, joy, peace, compassion, kindness, humility, being rich to God in prayer, in service, in worship and in love.
Jesus tells us not to wait – to begin to trust now –to act now – to live into the kingdom now. But what do we do with the fear?
In the musical the King and I there is a song When ever I feel afraid… which has within it a practical secret. It tells the listener to whistle a happy tune and no one will suspect you’re afraid. And it goes on: “Make believe you’re brave and this trick will take you far, you may be as brave as you make believe you are.
This trick is not about fooling ourselves as much as it is a way of living into a future we can envision.
We can live ourselves out of fear and into trust – out of the kingdom of evil and into the kingdom of God –
But it is our choice to trust, to act on that trust – to live out and live into the kingdom we have been given.
The world, some preachers, some politicians, some economists, even family members and friends will tell us is falling apart and we need to fear…
Jesus tells us “do not be afraid”. God’s promises can be relied on. And that God has given you the kingdom… build it in your life.
SO, WHO DO YOU TRUST?
This is about as powerful a writing as I have ever read. I am sorry you are dealing with hip replacement surgery and hope it is going well and that you will soon be healed. I had knee replacement surgery at the end of June and much to my horror it is a failed surgery. My knee will not maintain its flexibility after exercising and therapy. No answers, so far. So, fear is, unfortunately, a large part of my being right now. Fear I will never be whole enough to drive again, to ride in a car for an extended period of time, to care for my grandchildren, to be an equal partner to my husband. I read this writing often, trying to take it all in. Thanks so much for writing it.