The Third Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Have No Fear”
June 25, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 10:5a, 21-33,
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
For three years now, Chapman University in Orange, California, has come out with a report on what Americans fear the most. Their most recent findings were reported in USA Today awhile back. Care to guess what was the number one fear that was expressed?
It surprised me. Not that it was a fear among Americans, but that it was at the top of the list and this, for the second straight year no less.
The number one fear among those surveyed was the corruption of government officials. Hmm. Go figure. It is no wonder that we as devout Christians and loyal citizens of this land daily remember our government leaders in our prayers to the one true God.
Second biggest fear? No surprise here. It is the fear of terrorist attacks, be they on a grand scale like 9/11 or a small one as seen this week with the stabbing of a police officer at the airport in Flint, Michigan.
Quickly going through the rest of the list in order of percentage, you have the fear of not having enough money for the future, the fear of being a victim of terror, the fear of government restrictions on firearms and ammunition, the fear of loved ones dying, the fear of economic or financial collapse, the fear of identity theft, the fear of love ones becoming seriously ill, and the fear of the Affordable Health Care Act and what used to be “Obamacare.”
So, how does all this compare with your own personal fears? What keeps you awake at night? What are the things that really concern you? Bother you? Things that either occupy your heart and mind or things that you repress, not wanting to go there… to think about this or that?
Some would try (and actually have tried) to put all of this on some sort of continuum or scale with outright deadly fear at one end and simple concern at the other with all other related emotions and feelings fitting somewhere in between. Ok…
The fact is, we are talking about emotions and feelings… human emotions and feelings that a person can have… will have to certain stimuli. Not all people will react the same way and to the same degree, but they will all… in some form or fashion… react.
It is part of being human. God wonderfully created us with emotions… with feelings. Adam and Eve had the same and this, perfectly… before the Fall into Sin, that is. Then, like everything else due to sin… our emotions… our feelings… became imperfect, faulty and corrupt.
As a pastor, I have the joy and privilege of helping people with a wide variety of issues and aspects. And yes, this includes dealing with fears and concerns that they have. In these instances, I never have said or will say to someone that they should not have such feelings, fears and concerns.
Why? Because these things will come, do come, as long as we live in this mortal body, in our corruptible flesh with an imperfect heart and mind. I am talking about the “Old Adam” in us, that which is part of us to the day we die when we shall shed the same and receive perfect and holy bodies at the resurrection of all flesh.
No. The issue is not having fears, worries and concerns. It is what we do with these things, WHEN these things (notice it is not a question of IF these things) come about. They will… and we will… respond, that is, in some form or fashion. We will act and react. The question is how?
And the answer should not be “on our own” … or “alone” … if we truly want to confront them and properly deal with… if we really, truly want to put any and all fears, worries and concerns to rest.
If you think that this is where I will share with you that our help… our only help… the only real solution that we and all people have is in the name of the Lord… that it is in Christ, through Christ and by means of His grace showered upon us in Word and Sacrament… then, you would be right.
The thing is, the vast majority of you know that… you know the answer. You know the solution. You know where your help truly comes from. But you do not apply it. You do not put it into action.
And the “it” is your faith… faith in Christ… faith in His Word… faith in His promises… faith in the Sacraments… and what they deliver and provide.
Make no mistake about it my friends, there is faith and then there is faith. There is a living faith and then there is a dead faith. Which one do you have and how do you know? How would you know?
Well, here is an idea… poke it! Does it move? Has it moved? Has it shown any signs of life in you? Is there any actions associated with it? If it is just there, lying still and breathless… I think you have your answer.
Where there is faith, true faith… a living and alive faith… there will always be the fruits of faith.
Put another way, true faith… a living and alive faith will always bear fruit … including having the ability to trust. To say that we have faith in God… faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit… is to unequivocally trust our Heavenly Father… trust Christ our Savior, Lord and King… trust the mighty work of the Holy Spirit.
Where there is faith there is trust and where there is trust there is faith. The two go hand in hand with faith bearing the fruit of trust.
We are talking about having faith and fully trusting our Lord in the face of what will come, has come and continues to come upon us and all who believe… upon all who confess the Christian faith and live it daily… live in it daily.
What Christ shared with the Twelve in our Gospel lesson was more than just a little disconcerting. The part about brother delivering brother over to death, the father his child, children rising up against their parents and putting them to death. The part about being hated by all for His name’s sake… for the name of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 10:21-22)
Notice that our Lord then says, “When they persecute you.” (Matthew 10:23) It is not a matter of IF they persecute you. It will happen. It will be. And Jesus goes on to share with us that as “A disciple is not above his teacher” or “a servant above his master” so we are by no means exempt from persecution, suffering, pain and loss… all for the sake of Christ… all for the sake of the Kingdom.
Yikes! But in the passages that follow, our Lord says again and again… three times… not to fear… to have no fear. That as such may come upon us, send it out, shake it off, summarily dismiss it through the power of the Holy Spirit and don’t give it a second thought.
Why. Because whatever is invoking that fear… causing us to fear… cannot harm us. The Lord, our Lord, has us in His divine hands, under His protective wings. He will guard and defend us… help us… heal us of any wounds that the Old Evil Foe and his followers may inflict upon us in this life time. They are all short lived.
No. As Christ says in our Gospel text, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Indeed, even if we die at the hands of evil, we need not fear that evil for all that can die is our mortal flesh which will rise up perfect and holy on the last day. The question is, do we believe this… have faith in this… trust this?
If we do, there is no true fear to be had regarding anything and everything that can happen or will happen. There is no fear to be had about anything and everything in this world or beyond… anything visible or invisible… mortal or spiritual… EXCEPT… true fear, proper fear, rightful fear of the Lord our God… He who alone can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
We are talking about true fear, proper fear, rightful fear, reverence and respect of the Lord our God who loves us perfectly, who knows us perfectly… knows our situations and circumstances perfectly… who knows even the number of hairs on our heads… who know what is best for us and is seeing to it that it happens… is seeing to it that all things… ALL THINGS are working together for our good… for our good and that of all who love the Lord… who have faith in the Lord… who trust in Him regarding all things and far above all things.
And so I leave you with three words which make up one simple message. They are not mine. They are the Lord’s… “Have no fear.” Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Have No Fear” 6/25/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL