Monday, August 8, 2016

Do Not Be Afraid, Sell Everything You Have

Luke 12: 35-48
August 7, 2016

“Do not be afraid” Jesus tells us.

When was the last time you were afraid?
Like really afraid of a real and present danger.
I was trying to think about that for myself.
The last time I was genuinely in danger and afraid.
I was trying to think of what I did and what was my reaction.

I actually couldn’t remember the last time.
I know some people have had terrible incidents,
Fear Not Little Flock
Patrice Lee Christiansen
and some people have reason to fear every day.
Some people have careers that make them face danger.
Some people have had health problems that are scary.
But those are unique situations.
Realistically though, most of the time
we don’t have any real and
present reason to fear most of the time.

And statistically, the world is getting safer.
Less wars than 100 years ago.
There is less crime and violence than there was 20 years ago.
The rate of deaths is 23% lower than 20 years ago.
Realistically, we have less to be afraid of.

But it sure doesn’t feel that way, does it?
Fear seems to be all around us.
We have the “what if” fear.
There’s “what if’s” about our health, our safety, our economic situations,
our friends and spouses, our parents.
And if you have children, you probably have a million “what if’s”
“What if” fear is swirling around us all the time.

Now, when I think about the “what if’s”,
I don’t have to go back so far,
Here’s a list of the things I was “what iffing” about 20 minutes ago:
What if I fall in the basement and break my leg and no one can hear me.
What if the presidential election goes wrong in November.
and the article that I actually read right before I was thinking about this:
“How worried should we be about a huge asteroid hitting earth.”
That’s all in the span of about 20 minutes before I wrote this.

Our heads are filled with what if’s.
TV and movies fill our heads with what ifs.
Our news media fills us with what ifs.
Our politicians – of all stripes fill us with what ifs.
Fear has great power in our lives.

Do not be afraid, little flock.
Do not be afraid.
Jesus uses this phrase - or something like it –
21 times in the gospels,
It’s second only to phrases in which he
implores us to love one another.

Jesus knows what fear can do to us.

Fear changes us, it does things to us.
And none of it is good.
It makes us hold onto things,
lock ourselves up in fortresses,
looking over our shoulders.

It stops us from doing, serving, trying new things, taking risks.
It stands in the way of love, sharing, understanding,
forgiveness, relationships, creativity and community
fear prevents us from living in the moment,
and noticing the great things that God is doing right here and now.

You cannot appreciate the kindness of a stranger if you’re
seriously worried about an asteroid crashing into the earth.
So do not be afraid, little flock.
Your father wants to give you the kingdom.
Whatever happens, God will be there with us.
We can’t lose it all because God is giving everything to us.

So no matter who becomes president or what fate
befalls this country, do not be afraid.
Our life is not in their hands.
Even if an asteroid hits the earth and we’re all done for.
The kingdom of God will be ours.
Do not be afraid.

So in one breath, Jesus says “do not be afraid.”
And then in the next breath he says
“Sell all your possessions and give it to the poor”

Now this week I’ve been trying to figure out
what the connection between the two is.
Here’s what I came up with after a while:

Now when Jesus talks about things, I don’t want you to
just get an image of people who have lots of stuff in their house.
(and that’s not just because we have a lot of stuff in our house.)
I don’t think this is merely about an abundance of things.
That would be too simple.

To humans, possessions often equal security.
There was a video I watched this week of the people
evacuating the plane that had a fiery landing in Dubai.
It showed most of the passengers in the smoke filled cabin,
reaching up and opening the overhead bins to get their bags
and the flight attendants yelling over the speaker,
“Forget your bags, just jump off the plane. Forget your bags.”
I don’t think these people were greedy.
I think they were afraid.
When we feel fear, we want to grab our things.
Doesn’t matter if it’s real fear like this, or “what if” fear.
Possessions can give us security.

And Jesus tells us to sell all you have.
So, Jesus is not just telling us to de-clutter
and live a minimalist life and have just a few tasteful obj’dart
Jesus says sell everything you possess.
Get rid of your security.

Jesus is saying, take those things that you rely on,
that you trust in and let go of them.
Maybe it is things, keepsakes, precious objects,
but maybe it’s something else entirely.
Maybe it’s a regular schedule, or a routine,
Maybe it’s your solitary life, or a cloud of friends that gives you security.
Maybe your status, position,
maybe it’s emotional self control, or emotional outbursts,
 or food, or wine or TV.
I don’t know what it is for you.
Just get rid of it.

Stop relying on everything that you rely on
give up your security blanket, and see how you do.
Take off the training wheels,
Put all your eggs in God’s basket.
Put God’s promises to the test and see what happens.

Then when you have nothing left, you can see how good God really is.
You’ll see that is where your treasure is,
and that is where your heart will be too.
In God’s care.

That's why people who have felt real fear
can tell you best about God's presence.
They've put God to the test.

Jesus invites us today:
Do not be afraid, divest and unload,
to stop scheming and worrying,
Give away what you’re clinging to,
close your eyes and jump off the cliff
and you will fall right into God’s arms.

At our Synod Assembly,
Dr. Cheryl Peterson, who is a professor at Trinity
and has preached here,
told us that the church that wanted to do mission
needed to be different than churches that just maintain.
She said that churches that maintain plan
and churches that do mission prepare.

Churches that just maintain
make detailed plans 5 or more years out,
deciding exactly how and when God will act
they make themselves feel secure in our own
ability and reasoning.

But churches of mission, prepare.
Get ourselves ready spiritually emotionally and physically.
We get ourselves ready to do whatever the Spirit calls us to,
“get dressed, ready for action, and have our lamps lit”
Don’t be afraid. Stop relying on your security blanket.
Get ready for the Spirit to come and surprise us.

And when we do, Jesus says,
The master will come home and sit you down at the table and serve you.
Little flock, our Father in heaven wants to give us the kingdom.

When we take these risks,
when we put aside our fears,
when we give away that which we depend on for security,
When we jump off that cliff
We have assurance that we will get a return.

Oh, not in more money, and not in more security,
Jesus never promises us that.
What we get back is the knowledge that God was there.
That God will be there, that God is always there.
And that is a treasure that cannot
be destroyed and cannot be stolen from us.

This congregation has jumped off that cliff many times.
The people here have taken risks in the name of Jesus.
And God has been with us.
Sometimes we succeeded and sometimes we failed.
But God is always with us,
TO help us through, to shepherd our success,
to rethink our failures, to comfort us,
and to get us looking forward to the next thing.
What are we clinging to that will hold us back when
the next opportunity comes?

What could you do if you had no fear?
What could we do as a congregation if we had no fear?        
What could we do if we didn’t fear losing what we had,
because we knew that the whole Kingdom was ours?
Jesus says that day is here now.

Do not be afraid.

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