Rev. Kim Adams
June 22, 2014
Lord, open our hearts and minds
by the power of your Holy Spirit,
that as the scriptures are read
and your word is proclaimed,
we may hear with joy what you say to us today.
“Whoa, what does that passage say?” That was my reaction the first time I read the Scripture lesson for today. After a few times reading this passage, images of Superhero Jesus with a red cape and a “J” on his chest saying “Have no Fear, Jesus is Here!” invaded my mind, then I moved on to the Mighty Mouse theme and began singing “Here I come to save the day, Jesus Christ is on his way.” Then I stopped myself. I recognized that I was trying to make light of something that I didn’t really understand, most likely because I didn’t look at the passage in it’s entire context the first time I read it. However, after spending some time familiarizing myself with this passage, I learned that Jesus had just called and commissioned his disciples “to go out and proclaim the good news. The kingdom of heaven had drawn near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin disorders, and throw out demons.” (vv7-8) Then, I recognized the seriousness of this text. Can you imagine how intimidating it must have been for the disciples to go out and do what Jesus commanded them to do, after all, Jesus, their teacher, had experienced persecution in his ministry, and as followers of Jesus, why wouldn’t they? However, Jesus was concerned for his disciples and their mission and knowing they would encounter rejection and persecution along the way, Jesus did not want them to be overcome by fear.
Being overcome by fear can really be problematic, it can hinder the way we experience faith and life. About a month and half ago, my husband, Jason, daughter, Emma, son, Andrew, along with my sister-in-law and her family and I attended a Greek festival at the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Marietta, GA. Just outside the sanctuary there was a large amphitheater, nestled into the hill, where people were gathered, clapping their hands and watching Greek dancers dance to live Greek music - OPA! - It was a magnificent site. Emma, Andrew, and my two nieces wanted to go down and join in the dancing, and begged for one of the adults to go down with them and join in the fun, and yet the four of us were reluctant to do so. In all honesty, I really wanted to go dance with them, but between not knowing the dance moves and my “fear” of what others might think, held me back. So we found some seats and became spectators. However, shortly after we sat down, something interesting happened, without a word, my brother-in-law stood up, took Andrew and his youngest daughter by their hands, and with Emma and his oldest daughter following, the five of them headed down the steps of the amphitheater, joined hands with the other people, and danced. You could see the joy radiating from them as they smiled and moved to the music. It was a special moment for the four children, and I imagine it was a special moment for my brother-in-law too. As I reflect on that day, I realize that my brother-in-law was able to do what I would not allow myself to do, that is, by putting his fear aside, he was able to enjoy the moment more fully.Friends, what do you fear?
Putting fear aside can be difficult. Some people might be worried about what others think of them, other people might be consumed with the fear of failure, and some people even feel that by putting their fear aside, they will become vulnerable to judgment. Yet, others may have learned to fear from parents or other authority figures, whether it was intended to keep them out of harms way or to coerce them into believing a certain way.
Fear is powerful. In some instances, fear can motivate people to do things that are good for them like, wear seat belts, lock doors at night, and put on sunscreen. In other circumstances, fear can be immobilizing, preventing people from doing things like: putting an end to an unhealthy relationship, it can prevent someone from taking a risk on a new endeavor, and fear can silence us in the face of persecution and injustice.
Jesus’ disciples are called to be like their teacher therefore, on their mission, the twelve could not only expect to preach what Jesus preached, but also to suffer how Jesus suffered. I can’t imagine that anyone really wants to experience suffering, but when Jesus calls and commissions someone, is there even a choice? (Pause) Jesus their teacher, did not want fear to silence them in the face of persecution. So, Jesus says to them: “Don’t be afraid.” In fact Jesus says this three times in this text, so it must be pretty important!
Jesus tells his disciples “...don’t be afraid of those people because nothing is hidden that won’t be reveled, and nothing is secret that won’t be brought out into the open.” You see, Jesus doesn’t want the disciples to be silent in front of people, Christ wants them to share the good news, to share their new found faith with others. So, the message here is, don’t be afraid of what people will say to you, don’t be afraid to share your faith and proclaim the good news. Don’t be afraid of those people judging you or persecuting you. Everyone has secrets they want to share and your courage to step out and share your faith will help others do the same, and in the larger picture keeping secrets is futile, because God knows what is in our hearts and our minds, so it doesn’t do us any good to keep our faith to ourselves. In the world we live in and in the world the disciples lived in, change begins with a drop of water, then a trickle, eventually building into a gentle stream, and then a flowing river. Jesus wants his disciples, this includes us, to have the courage to be the first drop.
Again, we hear Jesus say “Don’t be afraid.” “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul.” You see, Jesus knows what is coming for him, he knows that the disciples are going to witness the arrest and crucifixion of their teacher. Those days are going to prove to be very scary for the disciples. What do they do? How do they handle this fear? “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul.” As we know all too well, humans have the power to hurt others, humans have the power of destruction, humans have the power to kill. The disciples knew this then just as we know now. So this fear is going to be very real for the disciples and what does Jesus reassure them of?.....That people can kill the body, but not the soul. God the divine parent, protects and cherishes your soul. No matter what physical harm might come to you on this earth, your soul, your very being, the core of who you are is shielded and protected by God who created you, God who loves you and is more concerned for your safety and well-being than you will ever be.
The last time in this passage we hear “don’t be afraid”, Jesus says “Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” This statement comes right after Jesus tells the disciples a story about two sparrows being sold for a small coin in the market, although those sparrows may seem insignificant to humankind, they will not fall to the ground without the Lord God knowing about it, God cares for creation. God cares for us. Humankind is created in God’s image. God created us, God has called us and claimed us, we are God’s children, God loves us!! We are in the Divine grip of God all the time...we are important to God! Creator God knows the number of hairs on our head, the intentions of our hearts, our inner most secrets. We’ve seen the work of God the Creator on earth and in the sky and in one another, and my, oh my is it a wonderful creation! We can and should get lost in the wonderment of God’s creation. God loves us so much, that God poured God’s self into human form in the person of Christ. Therefore to be like God, we are to live out our lives proclaiming God’s love and the love of Christ to the world. Jesus wants his disciples, all of his disciples, to live by faith, to be filled with hope and courage, not with fear.[
1]Friends, what do you fear?
What is holding you back from living into your faith?
What is restricting you from experiencing the love of Christ more fully?
When we participate in the life of the church, we live into our faith. When we reach out to the poor and marginalized, we experience the love of Christ. When we put our fears aside and live by Christ’s example, we experience our faith more fully. When we put our fears aside and trust in God, even in the darkest and scariest moments, we experience our faith more fully. When we put our trust in Christ and speak out boldly for our faith, we experience our faith more fully. When we trust, REALLY TRUST in the Holy Spirit to be at work in the world around us, we experience our faith more fully.
Friends, in life, the “fear” to dance can prevent us from experiencing a moment; don’t be afraid to dance, don’t let fear hold you back! In faith, the “fear” to dance can prevent us from experiencing the full love and awesomeness of the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit. Don’t let fear hold you back from fully experiencing the faith that God has intended for you. Do not be afraid! The Holy Spirit is with us. Christ is near! God is here!Amen!