Tag Archives: Fear

Advancing to the Rear!!

Make America Great  Again!!  Let’s go back to the Good old Days!!! These are currently  the “marching orders”  that Trump is trying to give to the Republican Party as the slogans for this Presidential election.  The acceptance of these slogans by the working class in great numbers is a portrait of the extreme ignorance of the history of their country that these people have . O.K. folks.  LET’S SEE WHAT  YOU WISH TO RETURN TO!   Let’s go back to 1870s to early 1920s.  That’s period is  known as the  “Gilded Age”  and indeed it was ‘gilded”‘ if you had the gold and were a member of the Upper Class. I  don’t see many of those people at Trump’s rallies. I  see a lot of working people struggling to make a  living, in debt up to the hilt,  not trusting the well educated and too  ill-educated themselves to separate Trump’s lies from the truth.  The  perfect audience for a demagogue.

There are things we need to remember about the “Good Old Days.” I’ll close with some pictures of life during the years between 1870s and 1920s:

  • Are you prepared to give up Social Security and Medicare? Going back will mean that most of you will  either have to be taken care of by your families or you will end your days in a “county poor farm.”
  • Don’t get sick as antibiotics have not yet been discovered.
  • The scourge of a crippling or fatal polio epidemic is always present, especially in the summers. There will not be a polio vaccine until the 1960s. Flu shots are unknown also.  Only measles can be inoculated against.
  • Most of you will work from dawn to dark around dangerous machinery as the Industrial Age really kicks in.  There is no 40 hour work week; it will be 70-80 hours. No days off; no paid vacation.
  • If you are injured on the job, you will be fired.  There is no workers’ compensation. You will be given what you are owed in wages up to the point of injury and sent home. Disability, a part of Social Security, is not law yet.
  • There is no OSHA so working conditions are bad—See Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle for an example of the working conditions in the meat packing industry during this time.
  • When you go to town, the best roads will only be gravel. After heavy rains most country roads will be quagmires and you will have to go on horseback. You’ll have to use them as most of you will still live in rural areas—only 10% in cities and the rest of the population on farms.
  • Many of you, if you are lucky, will get an 8th grade education, a smaller number will go to high school and a very small number of the elite will go to college.
  • You will be chopping wood for your heating stoves in the winter. There are no air conditioners, so it will be miserable to try to sleep on hot summer nights after those 12-14 plus hour days you will be working.
  • Take a vacation? Are you kidding? Have to be home as farmers (which most of you are) must be there to feed the livestock, milk the 15-20 cows, and turn the separator to separate the cream from milk—all by hand—remember, no electricity. No days off for farmers.
  • Need to go to the bathroom at night—use a “slop jar” in your room to be emptied in the morning. During the day, it is a trip to the “outhouse.”  When it’s hot, you will have to fend off the flies and wasps, as well as the smell. When it is cold, you will have to contend with a frozen “behind.”  Neither is pleasant.
  • For much of your time during these years, draft horses will be the chief source of power for your farm implements such as mowers, grain binders, cultivators, plows & drills. Horses usually work in twos—teams were often composed of a mare and a gelding—so your first task in the morning is to put on their harnesses (as well as feed and otherwise keep them ready to do their work).
  • If you were of age to go to school in the Fall to Spring, and your parents could spare you on the farm, you went to a Grade 1-8 country school. There were no school buses—you walked. Very seldom did you get a ride. Quite often your teacher would be a young woman just out of high school who had taken “Normal Training” in high school so she could teach. When she got married she would not be able to teach in most school districts. Those who allowed teachers to be married would cancel the contract with the first sign of pregnancy. The teachers who are married have no access to birth control except the “rhythm method’ or abstinence.

Are you still wanting to “Advance to the Rear” and go back to the “good old days”?

Fear for Power and Profit

We are a nation of fearful people and it is leading to all kinds of self-destructive behaviors by our fellow Americans.    Fear is divisive.  Fear leads to exclusion and scapegoating.   Fear is suspicious of everyone and trusting in  no one.    Fear will eat away our American freedoms.   Fear leads to hatred and hatred leads to violence and killing and lynching and  war.  Since 911 our political leaders and the gun lobby and manufactures ,especially, have fed on the current  atmosphere of fear and communicated it in many different ways for their political and economic gain.

Not only that, but fear leads to blindness.   The American people have been convinced that this fear is a good thing.   Fearmongers  have convinced us that we are on the right side in a battle against evil.    They have trumpeted that we must be  rid of illegal aliens.   They have said we must close our gates to refugees (A “wag” stated recently that France has requested the Statue of Liberty be returned).   Laws are being passed by states and attempts to pass laws at the national level to not allow Syrian refugees into the country—-why?   because they might have Isis members among them.   President Obama has been one of the few voices urging restraint concerning the divisive fear that is pervading our society.

Our fear has been extremely  profitable for the gun manufacturers—led by the NRA, their lobbyist, to produce and sell more and more guns as fear is fanned by demagogues and the NRA.   Every time there is a mass shooting, the sales of guns go up—although I’ve never read  that  any of these mass shooters have been gunned down by someone in the crowd!

Fear used for political and economic gain is destroying our  nation  more surely than any terrorists can do.    Think about it!!

Fear Not!!!

 Text:   Matthew 10:24-39

There is a story about a young man who went off to college with great expectations of success.   After he had been there a month, he sent a note to his father, “Feather in my cap, elected class president”.   Two months later, he sent another note to his father, “Another feather in my cap; accepted into the best fraternity”.   One month later, a third note:   Still another feather in my cap, leading role in class play”.  

One semester later, he sent a note to his brother:  “Flunked out, prepare father.   Tell him to send money for me to get home!”       The brother sent a note back:   “Father prepared.  Prepare yourself.   Father says put those feathers on your shoulders and fly home!”

Obviously the young man was afraid and insecure and was trying to convince  both himself and his father that he was successful by these “feather in the cap” notes—-while, in reality, he was struggling and gripped by feelings of fear of failure.   I often wonder how the story might have been different if he had faced the fear, talked about it with his father, and askd for help and advice.  He might have discovered his father had struggled with the same issues and could have given him help and support.   BUT HE WAS AFRAID TO DO SO!! 

One of the greatest causes of human stupidity in action that leads to wars, and killing,  and chaos and suffering today is Fear.   We are afraid of others.   We are afraid of ourselves.  Being fearful seems to be a national characteristic in our current times in the U.S.    We are afraid of the horrific things happening in the middle east spreading to our country.  Fear was at the heart of the terrible thing that happened in Ferguson, MO recently—-fear the white policeman had of black people—-fear the black teenager had of the police.   And because of that a needless death and resulting chaos,  fed by fear on both sides.

We do live in a frightening world—frightening in many ways.   Pick up your morning paper and read:

Terrorists attack randomly and try to kill as many as possible—over thirty people die at a beach resort in Tunisia, victims of a terrorist.  Attacks and threats are a daily part of our news media reporting.

Mass shootings at schools and public places are increasing greatly—the most recent was the killing of 9 people in Charleston, S.C. at a black A.M.E. Church during a prayer meeting the gunman attended.

Murder—shootings in Wichita seem to happen on a daily basis. 

Drunken drivers that cause death to innocent people

Lying

Cheating

Storms such as tornadoes, floods, hurricanes that destroy homes and lives.

Earthquakes

Also we fear losing jobs,  losing our health insurance, being struck down by cancer or other catastrophic health problems.   We fear for our children’s safety as well as our own, and this fearfulness causes us to teach our kids not to trust anyone they don’t know.   Fear causes us to encase ourselves and our families in a protective shell that  shuts out the rest of society and the world.

Just what is this “Fear”  that we are talking about?   I like Barbara Taylor Brown’s description of it:  “Fear is a small cell with no air in it and no light.  It is suffocating inside and dark.   There is no room to turn around inside it.   You can only face in one direction, but it hardly matters since you cannot see anyhow.   There is no future in the dark.  Everything is over.  Everything is past.   When you are locked up like that, tomorrow is as far away as the moon.”   In other words you cannot open the door from this prison because your FEAR paralyzes you.     If you do anything it might make it worse.  You feel safer to stay where you are even if you cannot breathe and cannot move—-that is how fear feels!

Only faith in God can cancel this kind of fear.  And Brown describes FAITH as:   “More like a rope bridge over a scenic gorge, sturdy but swinging back and forth, with plenty of light and plenty of air but precious little to hold on to except the stories that you have heard that this is the best and the only way across and that it is possible that it will bear your weight.!! 

In other words, we have to have faith in the power of the bridge to deliver us safely more than we do in the power of the gorge to kill us, if we are to overcome our fear.  In our own lives, we need to trust in God’s love for us and God’s presence in our lives more than the things that threaten us,  if we are to overcome our fearfulness.   Only God is able to help us cancel our fearfulness.

There is a lot of fear in the world.   First of all,  we need to differentiate between “fear” and “being fearful.”        

Fear” is a reaction to a definite threat.   It causes our adrenal glands to shoot adrenalin into our body and prepare us by increasing heartbeat, respiration, etc. for either “flight” or “fight.” 

Being Fearful” is a general feeling of being afraid without any concrete reason to feel that way.    It is more an attitude—-the way we view things.    Being fearful is like being anxious—there may not be any concrete and specific reason for it.  

Most of us are “being fearful” most of the time  because of something I call “the Human Condition”.    The human condition is something we all have to live with.  It can be summarized this way:

Some things will budge for us and some won’t.

We cannot live forever, no matter how desperately we try

We cannot control everything that happens to us.

 

That is the “human condition” and it can be frightening for us  because what it means is that we cannot choose all of the circumstances of our lives.  We cannot control everything that happens to us. 

Our lives can be comfortable one minute and spin completely out of our control in the next minute.

We can be a happily married couple one minute and a widow or widower the next minute—all in a heartbeat or the failure of a heartbeat

We can plan our future retirement and wake up in the morning and find that much of what we have worked so hard for and saved has been wiped out by a stock market over which we have no control. 

We can build a dream home and the next day huddle in its basement as a tornado destroys it!

What all of the above witnesses to us is that we are not in control. 

All we can really control is how we respond to what happens to us.

And just because we believe in God doesn’t shield us from any of the results of the human condition!    Our only assurance is that God loves us and will be with us to give us the strength and resources we need to cope with our human condition.    God’s resources are many,  God’s constant presence  and love are all around us.   God even sends his people, his servants to minister to us in times of need and to help us through any of the storms of life that we face  

We are not alone.   We need not fear.   As Paul writes in  Romans 8:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?   Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …..No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who love us.    For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

It takes a lot of courage to be a human being!!!  And it takes a lot of trust in God!!!  That’s why Jesus’s words are so important—-“Fear Not”!!

Jesus spoke to the problem of the human condition in our text today.  If we put the reading in context, Jesus was preparing his disciples to go on a mission to preach to the towns and villages in Galilee.  and was warning them that the things that people say and do about him will also be said and done to his disciples.   His disciples would be the recipients of the same hostility and rejection Jesus had already experienced.   They must  have shown signs of fear to go on the assignment as Jesus told them a total of 3 times to “Fear Not”.    He said:   “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves;….Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me….(10:16-18).    Because of our own experiences with fear, we can imagine something of the dread the disciples must have felt as Jesus sent them on their mission, especially because he went on to speak of the threats and dangers they could expect to encounter:  arrests, floggings, hatred, betrayal, and other forms of persecution.   I’m sure Peter must have said to himself—“Hey Jesus!  I didn’t sign up for this when I left my fishing boat to follow you!!”

But then Jesus told his disciples to not fear any of these things he had just listed.   He said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Jesus also told his disciples:   “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.   What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.    ….

And:  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?   Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.   And even the hairs of your head are all counted.   So do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows.” 

In the final analysis, Jesus said in these passages,  only two events could  befall his followers—life and death—–and both are in the hands of God.  So trust in God because tjat cancels out fear!   Therefore, do not be afraid.   God is God of the past, God is the God of the present, and God is God of the future.   You are in God’s hands and there is nothing to be afraid of if you trust in God.    GOD’S LOVE CANCELS OUT FEAR!!  Trust in God’s love and care for you!!

It’s always been that way.   Long before Jesus spoke, God had spoken to Israel through the prophet Isaiah, saying:

Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel.  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by name, you are mine.    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;  when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…..because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you!” (Isaiah 43: 1-4)

Some time ago, I read this story and it has stayed in my mind.   It so perfectly gives meaning to the text of this sermon that I’d like to close with it:

A man was traveling across the country on an airliner.   Somewhere over Texas, the plane hit a storm and the pilot came on and said,  “We are not going to be able to go around this storm or over it so we’ll be going through it.   Please fasten your seatbelts as there will be a lot of turbulence.

            Not too long after the announcement the storm struck.   There was thunder and lightening and the plane was tossed around like a child’s toy in the turbulence as the pilot fought to keep control of the plane.   Everyone was frightened—some were praying others were hugging loved ones—-except for one little girl the traveler observed.    She was about six years old and was sitting quietly in her seat,  seemingly not frightened at all by the fear and turbulence that was all around her.  

            After the plane safely landed, the traveler approached the little girl, still in her seat, and said:   I am surprised that you weren’t afraid of all that storm and what happened like the rest of us were.   Can you tell me why?   

            The small girl answered:   “My Daddy is the captain and he was taking me home.” 

 

GOD IS THE CAPTAIN OF OUR LIVES—-GOD WILL TAKE US HOME SAFELY—-DO NOT FEAR!!!   Amen

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

Fear Can Kill Us

 

 

 

Present day Americans are full of fear.   We fear other people who are not “like us”.  We fear other religions.   We fear poverty and we fear street people (homeless).   We fear people of other races and nationalities.  We fear unemployment.  We fear retirement and running out of money before we die.   If we are black, we fear policemen.  If we are policemen, we fear blacks.  We fear flying due to terrorist attacks.  We fear mass shootings in shopping malls and we fear for our children with mass shootings at schools.   So what do we do?—we buy guns to protect ourselves from other people who are not like us.   We install expensive security systems in our homes, our schools, our airports and municipal buildings.  So—now we are in fear of the guns being carried by everyone because we know that few really know how or when to use them!!  And so the circle of fear goes on and on, around and around, in an unending cycle of violence and fear and violence and fear and people continue to die because of our fears.   OUR FEARS ARE KILLING US!!

Isn’t there another way to live our lives?  A better way?  Yes!   Jesus pointed to it a couple of thousand years ago,   The Apostle Paul explained it in I Corinthians 13:1-13.   But it seems that we Christians have missed the point that both were making for most of the time the last two thousand years.

The point they were making is:  The way of love is the way to end fear, not more weapons.   Jesus said it when he explained that the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  Paul explained it in his “love chapter” of First Corinthians as a “better way” he would show them, concluding with the words:  “Faith, Hope, and Love remain—but the greatest of these is Love.”

After years of fear, and of killing other individuals out of fear in our own country and killing others around the world because of our fear of them, isn’t it time to try another way?—-a better way?—the way of love? instead of the way of hatred and fear and the resulting violence?

Take the Iraq War, for example:  We have spent, as a nation, according to a study by Brown University in 2013, about 2 trillion dollars on this war.   Add the benefits to veterans over a lifetime and the amount goes up more trillions of dollars.   This was a war started out of fear—a fear that turned out to be unfounded, that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and preparing to use them on the United States and the world.   The weapons were never found after extensive searching, but the U.S. made a preemptive first strike and then it was too late.   So, fear ran its course and thousands upon thousands of human lives were extinguished on both sides because of that fear.   And 2+ trillions of dollars were spent because of that fear.   We chose to act out of fear and have reaped what benefits?   We have reaped more fear and more hatred from those whose families we have killed and destroyed.   We have reaped more suffering and death of our soldiers who were killed or maimed and whose lives and the lives of their families were changed forever by their time in Iraq.   And now we see the rise of ISIS that operates by generating fear and hatred of all but their own brand of Islamic extremists—-and the fear of ISIS is threatening to start the cycle all over again.  And the cycle of fear goes on and on, and on, and on, and on….

Love is the only way to break the cycle of violence we are caught in.  Consider this thought   If we had taken the 2 trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war and spent it for humanitarians purposes in the Middle East in poverty stricken nations, in our own nation in helping the poor and homeless and providing jobs that paid well—-if we had used the money to lift up people rather than killing them, to help them find ways to produce food for their families, to provide hospitals and adequate medical care for themselves and their children, to help them improve technologically,  what would the difference be?    If we had spent the money for humanitarian things like decent water wells, the Heifer Project, the Peace Corps and had used it to buy houses for our homeless and provide jobs for the unemployed in this country and other countries—-what difference would it have made?   In other words—-if we had uused that 2 trillion dollars to show love and care for human beings created in God’s image—instead of shooting them down in fear and hatred or ignoring the poor in our own country–have we any idea what difference that might have made in the present state of the world?   Will we ever know?   Not until we have tried it.

The gun creates fear and hatred.  Love creates trust and compassion.  That is true on the individual level and it is true on the national and international level.  Perhaps it is time to end the politics of fear and try the politics of love at all levels—but the best place to begin is in our own lives, in our own cities and towns in our own country.   Who knows?  It might spread to our states, our country and the world from those simple beginnings?!!   The change begins with you and me!

Our Cycle of Fear is Killing Us

 

Present day Americans are full of fear.  We fear other people who are not “like” us.  We fear other religions.   We fear poverty and street people (homeless).  We fear terrorists attacks.   We fear our government.   We fear Republicans or Democrats (whichever we’re not).  We fear unemployment.  We who are older fear retirement and running out of money before we die.  If we are black, we fear policemen  .   If we are  policemen, we fear blacks.   We fear flying due to terrorist attacks.  We fear mass shootings in shopping malls and we fear for our children with mass shootings at schools.  So what do we do?—-we buy guns to protect ourselves from other people who are not like us.  We install expensive security systems in our homes our schools and our municipal building and our airports.   In my home state of Kansas, you can openly carry guns on the streets and in most public buildings, and you can conceal carry also without a permit.   With all these guns, has the homicide rate gone down, have mass shootings subsided any?    Are we safer with all our guns and security systems? Or do we now need to fear guns even more because everyone has one and few know how and when to safely use them?   So the circle of fear goes on and on, around and around, in an unending cycle of violence and fear and violence and fear and people continue to die because of our fears.  OUR FEARS ARE KILLING US!!

Isn’t there another way to live our lives?   A better way?   Jesus pointed to it a couple thousand years ago?   Paul explained it in I Corinthians 13:1-13.   But it seems that we Christians have missed the point  that  both were making—-The way of love is the key to end fear, not more weapons.     Jesus said it when he explained that the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.    Paul summed it up in his “love chapter” in I Corinthians 13: 1-13 as “the better way he will show them:  “Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.”   

After years of fear,  and of killing other individuals out of fear in our own country and   killing others around the world because of our fear of them, isn’t it time to try another way—a better way—-the way of love instead of instead of the way of hatred and fear and the resulting violence?

Take the Iraq War, for example:   We have spent, as a nation, according to a study by Brown University in 2013,  $1.7 trillion.   Add to this the benefits paid to veterans over their lifetime and the cost goes to over $6 trillion dollars.  This war started out of fear—a fear that turned out to be unfounded—-that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was preparing to use them on the U.S.   The weapons were never found, but the U.S. made a preemptive first strike and then it was too late.    So, fear ran its course and thousands upon thousands of human lives were extinguished on both sides because of that fear. And 2 + trillion dollars were spent because of that fear.  We chose to act out of fear and have reaped what benefits?    More fear and more hatred from those whose families we have killed.  More suffering and fear by our soldiers who were maimed and whose lives were ended or changed forever by their time in Iraq.  And now we see the rise of ISIS that operating by generating fear and hatred of all but their own brand of  Islamic extremists—- and the fear of ISIS is  threatening to start the cycle all over again.  And the circle of fear goes on and on, and on, and on, and on…..

Love is the only way to break  the circle of violence we are caught in..   Consider this thought:   if we had taken the 2 trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war and spent it for humanitarian purposes in the Middle East and in poverty stricken nations, including our own nation’s poor and homeless.   If we had used the money  to lift people up, helping them to find ways for them to produce food to feed themselves, providing hospitals and adequate medical care,  helping them improve technologically so that they might be able to earn a decent living. If  we had spent money for humanitarian things like decent water wells, the Heifer Project, the Peace Corps, If we had used the money to house our homeless, to provide jobs for the unemployed in our country-— In other words if we had used that 2 trillion dollars to show  love and care for human beings created in God’s image—-  instead of shooting them down in fear and hatred in other countries,  and  hiding the poor behind barriers in our own  country,   have we any idea what difference that might  have made?   Will we ever know?   Not until we have tried it.  

The gun creates fear and hatred.   Love creates trust and compassion.   That is true on the individual level and it is true on the national and international level.    Perhaps it is time to end the politics of fear and try the politics of love at all levels—but the best place to begin is in our own lives, in our own cities and towns in our country.   Who knows, it might spread to our states, our country and the world from those simple beginnings?!   The change begins with you!!

Fearfulness and Faithfulness

 

Text:  Matthew 10:24-39

Theme:   Faith in God cancels our fears.

There is a story about a young man who went off to college with great expectations of success.   After he had been there a month, he sent a note to his father, “Feather in my cap, elected class president”.   Two months later, he sent another note to his father, “Another feather in my cap; accepted into the best fraternity”.   One month later, a third note:   Still another feather in my cap, leading role in class play”.

One semester later, he sent a note to his brother:  “Flunked out, prepare father.   Tell him to send money for me to get home!”

The brother sent a note back:   “Father prepared.  Prepare yourself.   Father says put those feathers on your shoulders and fly home!”

Obviously the young man was afraid and insecure and was trying to convince  both himself and his father that he was successful by these “feather in the cap” notes—-while, in reality, he was struggling and gripped by feelings of fear of failure.   I often wonder how the story might have been different if he had faced the fear, talked about it with his father, and askd for help and advice.  He might have discovered his father had struggled with the same issues and could have given him help and support.   BUT HE WAS AFRAID TO DO SO!!

 

ONE OF  THE GREATEST  CAUSES OF HUMAN STUPIDITY IN ACTION THAT LEADS TO WARS, AND KILLING AND CHAOS AND SUFFERING  TODAY IS FEAR.   We are afraid of others.   We are afraid of ourselvesBeing fearful seems to be a national characteristic in our current times in the U.S.    We are afraid of the horrific things happening in the middle east spreading to our country.  Fear was at the heart of the terrible thing that happened in Ferguson, MO recently—-fear the white policeman had of black people—-fear the black teenager had of the police.   And because of that a needless death and resulting chaos,  fed by fear on both sides.

We do live in a frightening world—frightening in many ways.   Pick up your morning paper and read about terrorists who attack randomly and try to kill as many as possible; mass shootings at schools and public places regularly; murders, drunken drivers that kill innocent and unsuspecting people; lying, cheating; storms such as tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes.

We are afraid of losing jobs and afraid  of cancer, We fear for our children’s safety as well as our own, and this fearfulness causes us to teach our kids not to trust anyone they don’t know.   Fear causes us to encase ourselves in a protective shell that triest to shut out the rest of society and the world.

 

 

Just what is this FEAR  that we are talking about?   I like Barbara Taylor Brown’s description of it:  “Fear is a small cell with no air in it and no light.  It is suffocating inside and dark.   There is no room to turn around inside it.   You can only face in one direction, but it hardly matters since you cannot see anyhow.   There is no future in the dark.  Everything is over.  Everything is past.   When you are locked up like that, tomorrow is as far away as the moon.”

IN OTHER WORDS, YOU CAN’T OPEN THE DOOR OUT OF THIS PRISON BECAUSE YOUR FEAR PARALYZES YOU.   If you do anything it might make it worse.  You feel safer to stay where you are even if you cannot breathe and cannot move—-that is how fear feels!

Only faith in God can cancel this kind of fear.  And Brown describes FAITH as:   “More like a rope bridge over a scenic gorge, sturdy but swinging back and forth, with plenty of light and plenty of air but precious little to hold on to except the stories that you have heard that this is the best and the only way across and that it is possible that it will bear your weight.!!

IN OTHER WORDS—–we have to have faith in the power of the bridge to deliver us safely more than we do in the power of the gorge to kill us, if we are to overcome our fear.  We need to trust in God’s love for us and God’s presence in our lives at all times, if we are to overcome our fearfulness.   Only God is able to help us cancel our fearfulness.

There is a lot of fear in the world.   And we need to differentiate a little here.   There is a difference between “fear” and “being fearful.”

“Fear” is a reaction to a definite threat.   It causes our adrenal glands to shoot adrenalin into our body and prepare by increasing heartbeat, respiration, etc. for either “flight” or “fight.”

“Being Fearful” is a general feeling of being afraid without any concrete reason to feel that way.    It is more an attitude—-the way we view things.    Being fearful is like being anxious—there may not be any concrete and specific reason for it.

So—WHAT IS OUR FEARFULNESS THAT IS CONSTANTLY OUR COMPANION ALL ABOUT?    WHY ARE MOST OF US “BEING FEARFUL MOST OF THE TIME?  I THINK IT IS BECAUSE OF SOMETHING I CALL “THE HUMAN CONDITION” THAT LEADS US TO “BEING FEARFUL.”

The human condition is something we all have to live with It can be summarized this way:   Firstsome things will budge for us and some won’t.  Second, We cannot live forever no matter how desperately we try.   And third, We cannot control everything that happens to us.

THAT IS THE HUMAN CONDITION AND IT CAN BE FRIGHTENING BECAUSE WHAT IT MEANS IS THAT WE CANNOT CHOOSE ALL OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR LIVES.   WE CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO US!

Our lives can be comfortable one minute and spin completely out of control the next.

We can be a happily married couple one minute and a widow or widower the next minute—all in a heartbeat or the lack of a heartbeat

We can plan for our future retirement and wake up the morning before we retire and find that much of what we have worked so hard for and saved has been wiped out by a stock market or bank failure over which we have no control.

We can build our dream home and the week we move in huddle in its basement as a tornado destroys it.

WHAT ALL OF THE ABOVE WITNESS TO US IS THAT WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL!!.

All we can really control is how we respond to what happens to us that is beyond our control.

And just because we believe in God doesn’t shield us from any of the results of the human condition!    Our only assurance is that God loves us and will be with us to give us the strength and resources we need to cope with our human condition.    God’s resources are many,  God’s constant presence  and love are all around us.   God even sends his people, his servants to minister to us in times of need and to help us through any of the storms of life that we face

We are not alone.   We need not fear.   As Paul writes in  Romans 8:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?   Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …..No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who love us.    For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

It takes a lot of courage to be a human being!!!  And it takes a lot of trust in God!!!  That’s why Jesus’s words are so important—-“Fear Not”!!

Jesus spoke to the problem of the human condition in our text today.  If we put the reading in context, Jesus was preparing his disciples to go on a mission to preach to the towns and villages in Galilee.  and was warning them that the things that people say and do about him will also be said and done to his disciples.   His disciples would be the recipients of the same hostility and rejection Jesus had already experienced.   They must  have shown signs of fear to go on the assignment as Jesus told them a total of 3 times to “Fear Not”.    He said:   “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves;….Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me….(10:16-18).    Because of our own experiences with fear, we can imagine something of the dread the disciples must have felt as Jesus sent them on their mission, especially because he went on to speak of the threats and dangers they could expect to encounter:  arrests, floggings, hatred, betrayal, and other forms of persecution.   I’m sure Peter must have said to himself—“Hey Jesus!  I didn’t sign up for this when I left my fishing boat to follow you!!”

But then Jesus told his disciples to not fear any of these things he had just listed.   He said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

Jesus also told his disciples:   “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.   What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.    ….

And:  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?   Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.   And even the hairs of your head are all counted.   So do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows.”

 

In the final analysis, Jesus said in this passage,  only two events could  befall his followers—life and death—–and both are in the hands of God.  Trust in God cancels out fear!   THEREFORE, DO NOT BE AFRAID.   God is God of the past,  is God of the present, and is God of the future.   YOU ARE IN GOD’S HANDS AND THERE IS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF IF YOU TRUST IN GOD!!  GOD’S GRACE CANCELS OUT FEAR!!  Trust in God’s Grace!!

It’s always been that way.   Long before Jesus spoke, God had spoken to Isaiah, saying:

Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel.  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by name, you are mine.    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;  when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…..because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you!” (Isaiah 43: 1-4)

 

Some time ago, I read this story and it has stayed in my mind.   It so perfectly gives meaning to the text of this sermon that I’d like to share it with you.

A man was traveling across the country on an airliner.   Somewhere over Texas, the plane hit a storm and the pilot came on and said,  “We are not going to be able to go around this storm or over it so we’ll be going through it.   Please fasten your seatbelts as there will be a lot of turbulence.

Not too long after the announcement the storm struck.   There was thunder and lightening and the plane was tossed around like a child’s toy in the turbulence as the pilot fought to keep control of the plane.   Everyone was frightened—some were praying others were hugging loved ones—-except for one little girl the traveler observed.    She was about six years old and was sitting quietly in her seat,  seemingly not frightened at all by the fear and turbulence that was all around her.

After the plane safely landed, the traveler approached the little girl, still in her seat, and said:   I am surprised that you weren’t afraid of all that storm and what happened like the rest of us were.   Can you tell me why?

The small girl answered:   “My Daddy is the captain and he was taking me home.”

IF GOD IS THE CAPTAIN OF OUR LIVES—-GOD WILL TAKE US HOME SAFELY—-DO NOT FEAR!!!   Amen