Sermon for 10 Pentecost Yr C, 8/08/2004
Based on Lk 12:32
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Do not be afraid”
A woman went to the doctor’s office. She was examined by one of the new doctors, but after about four minutes in the examination room, she burst out, screaming as she ran down the hallway. An older doctor stopped and asked her what the problem was, and she explained. He had her sit down and relax in another room.
The older doctor marched back to the first and demanded, “What’s the matter with you? Mrs Terry is 63-years-old, she has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?”
The new doctor smiled smugly as he continued to write on his clipboard. “Cured her hiccups though, didn’t it?”
Fear. A Spanish proverb says: “A life lived in fear is only a life half-lived.” There is great truth in that, isn’t there? No one understood as well as Jesus did. That’s why so many times in the Gospels he admonishes his followers to “FEAR NOT!” In today’s gospel, he speaks again those very wonderful, comforting words to his first disciples and to us, saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
At an equestrian show in Calgary several years ago, the show was being conducted in an arena and the ice had been covered with some sort of board held together by tape. Everything went well until a line of six horses was wheeling around the corner. Suddenly, the tape tore, then the board slid across the floor leaving two riders stunned, laying helplessly on the ice after their two horses fell. One horse managed to stagger to his feet, but before long his legs slid in four directions and he went down again for the second time. He tried one more time, by this time the riders were up and the team cleared out of the arena.
A quick repair was made, but the surface remained the same. Next was a single rider. Everyone held their breath to see if she would perform. She went out on that troublesome surface and completed her act successfully.
Then the team returned, but the one who had fallen twice would not go on the surface again. We too sometimes develop fears that prevent us from doing what God and others call on us to do, like the rider in this story.
How many of us live in fear? How many of us allow our fears to control our lives? Often, when you listen carefully, many people begin their sentences with the words, “I am afraid…” How many of us are so filled with fears that we are unable to enjoy what God truly wants and means for us to enjoy? Fears actually make some people sick.
We fear for the worst and it actually happens, because we believe it so strongly. We are fearful about what we know or don’t know. We fear the past, the present or the future. We are afraid of ourselves; that we might achieve, succeed, fail or be defeated. We fear others; that they will not accept us or will hurt us; or we fear they will accept us and get to know us too well—especially our flaws and foibles! We are afraid of this world with all of its problems: poverty, unemployment, pollution and the greenhouse effect, nuclear war and terrorism, you name it, the list goes on forever. We fear life itself, we often fail to live life in all of its fullness and beauty. We are afraid of death and try to avoid its reality at all costs; even though Jesus has won the victory over death for us. And, ironically, perhaps our greatest fear of all is God—the One who alone is able to rid us of and destroy completely all of our fears. We are afraid of God because we would rather be gods of our own lives. We fear God because by not getting too close to God and when things go wrong, we can blame God instead of ourselves. We are afraid of God because we don’t trust God and believe that God wants what is best for us.
In most cases, once we give up our fears and trust God, we discover that our fears are unfounded. We often get so worked-up over nothing. Many people become so filled with fears of something or someone only to discover later, “that wasn’t so bad after all.” Our fears make life miserable for us and others because we lack courage, confidence and trust in ourselves, others, and in Christ.
Earl Cowden tells the story about a young woman, named Linda, who was in a terrible car accident. When the paramedics came upon the scene they found her in shock due to a loss of blood from a severed right leg. She was pinned in the wreckage and it was some time before they could free her and treat her wounds. All the while she remained conscious and alert. They were amazed at her calmness in view of the serious injuries she had sustained. Later one of the paramedics said to the media covering the story, “I guess the only thing that saved her life was the singing.” Puzzled at this revelation, they asked him what she was singing. He replied, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear…” 1
Linda had the courage, confidence and trust in herself, in the paramedics, and, most of all in Jesus Christ. Today Jesus invites us also to have courage, confidence and trust in him so that we don’t have to be afraid.
He speaks to us saying: “Do not be afraid, little flock…” These latter two words, “little flock,” are words of endearment; words that reminded his disciples and us that we are his chosen people and he loves us. We are his own, we are his family—therefore, we can trust in him to the utmost to help us with our fears, to give them over to him, and remove them from us. Jesus knows and cares for us his “little flock,” just as a good shepherd knows and cares for the needs of a flock of sheep. It is interesting that Jesus include the adjective “little” before “flock.” Sometimes we have the tendency to view that word “little” in a pejorative manner. We tend to associate it with lacking something, or not being good enough because of being too small. Yet Jesus doesn’t see it that way at all. He delights in the “little.” He says the little children are precious; he welcomes them, and reminds us that they are first in God’s kingdom. So too with us, we instead of lamenting over being “little,” we can celebrate it and be thankful for our “little flock,” by counting our blessings and sharing them with one another. We remember that God has a reputation of doing some very remarkable work through what is little. We can be encouraged by that and celebrate that!
Jesus goes on to say: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God is not a miser or killjoy as so many incorrectly believe. NO! Rather, God is most generous to us and finds pleasure, actually enjoys us, his people. This is true also of we who are parents in this world. Do we not find it a great pleasure and joy to be able to be generous with our children? I think we do. In generously and joyfully giving them gifts, we remind them that we love them. The same is true of God our Father. He is most generous and takes great pleasure in giving us his greatest gift—his kingdom. We as sinners do not deserve this gift, yet it is freely given to us by our loving Father, without string attached. IT IS A GIFT. This gift of love is more powerful and lasting than anything else in the world. Therefore, we can live life to the fullest, free of all our fears, knowing that Jesus is with us every step of the way. Amen.
1 Cited from: Dynamic Preaching, Vol. IV, No. 8, p. 7.