8/11/2019 Ninth Sunday after Pentecost Today text is Luke 12: 32-40
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And God’s people say…Amen!
‘Do not be afraid’; these are the first words the Lord speaks to Abraham, when God appears to him in a vision. Jesus echoes this pronouncement as he assures us that it is God’s good pleasure that the faithful will inherit the kingdom of heaven; ‘do not be afraid’. Small children are reassured thus; they are told there is nothing to be afraid of, for there are no monsters under the bed, no ghosts hiding in the closet.
Most of us outgrow and overcome our innate fear of the dark, where we can’t see what dangers may lurk around us. But, for all of us some fears remain. These are as varied and numerous as the individuals who deal with them. Yet Abraham was blessed with a faith in God that allowed him to believe that he would become the father of many nations. Sarah did, in fact bear him a son. In truth the three great monotheistic religions trace their lineage back to Abraham; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And it’s this same faith in God’s promises that pervades scripture; references to ‘faith’ appear over two hundred times in the bible. In contrast, ‘fear’ is mentioned half as often as faith. So then, our faith should be able to overcome our fear.
Yet, fear remains. While we anticipate the coming of God’s kingdom, we must nevertheless contend with the realities of this world. Violence in all its forms has become commonplace; as a society we appear to have allowed wholesale loss of life to be acceptable. So far this year, mass shootings have averaged one per day. Fear remains. Over 41 million Americans are struggling with ‘Food Insecurity’, the euphemistic term that is now used to describe what used to be called hunger. And approximately 12 million of these hungry are children. Yes, fear remains. An estimated 20,000 people are homeless in Massachusetts. Over 40 million Americans are living in, and struggling with poverty. Fear remains.
The dichotomy that exists between fear and faith is not a new one. And the things we fear most are the ones that require the strongest faith to overcome. Faith and trust in the promise that Jesus makes on God’s behalf; ‘it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’. The kingdom that is already here, but not yet fully realized. This concept of ‘already, but not yet’ parallels the relationship between fear and faith. God’s kingdom will not be fully attained until Christ’s return, but we experience it as ‘already’ here when we approach the fears that plague this world with the faith the Spirit bestows on us. But this faith cannot be a tranquil, inactive one. It requires vigorous engagement on our part. Violence may be overcome only when we as peacemakers, refuse to allow it to continue. Faith wins. Food insecurity is resolved when we, as providers feed the hungry. Again, faith wins.
Homelessness becomes a thing of the past, when we, as benefactors provide shelter. Faith wins again. People rise from destitution and hardship when we, as contributors care for those in need. In the end, faith wins. The fears of this world do not have to dominate us; faith in God’s promises will ultimately enable us to accomplish God’s will for his people. Faith wins.
Yet, we remain in the ‘not yet’ portion of the fulfillment of the kingdom. In addition to faith, what is needed most is hope. In Luke’s gospel Jesus tells us to have a faith that reflects expectant hope. We are instructed to be ready to live into a relationship that is fully connected to God. This results in hope based on the ‘already here’ portion of the kingdom of heaven. Faith, strengthened by hope will enable us to endure all that we encounter, knowing that the Spirit is among us. But, let’s be perfectly honest here. Everything doesn’t always turn out as we hope. We are broken people living in an imperfect ‘not yet’ world. But we continue in our hope that the perfection of the kingdom is to come. As Jesus tells us; ‘at an unexpected hour’.
Vaclav Havel, president of the former Czechoslovakia, stated; ‘Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out’. Thus, we are reminded that violence, hunger, and homelessness will not be solved overnight, but that as long as there is a will, and faith, and hope these social ills will be overcome. We are resurrection people, we followers of the Way of this Christ Jesus! Our very lives, our relationship with the Father is based precisely on faith and hope! We are commanded to be ready, vigilant, and prepared as we remain in expectant hope of the coming kingdom, when all be revealed and all fulfilled.
Our hope is manifested from the most personal to the universal. We hope for comfortable, secure, healthy lives for ourselves. We extend this hope to include our immediate families; then perhaps to our neighbors, or our fellow congregants a few pews away. As we venture further out, we then share the hopes of those suffering from the many fears we examined earlier.
Our hope is added to the faith that the ordeals of our anguished brothers and sisters will be relieved. Hope is what helps faith win! And this hope is manifest throughout the relationships that our faithful forebears had with God. And faith and hope are the cornerstone of our righteous relationship with the Father. Add to these the preparation that Jesus commands us to maintain, and we are thus ready for the action that needs to be taken in all facets of our lives. We are to be expectant and willing to do those things that will bring about the results we hope for. We are not guaranteed that what we hope for will be exactly what we receive. But we must remain hopeful, that what we strive for in faith will, by God’s grace come to be.
Emanuel Lutheran is in the midst of transition. The fear that any change brings is recognized and tangible. We can allow ourselves to surrender to the fear, worry, and anxiety that result when facing an undetermined future. Or, we can trust that whatever transpires will be God’s will for his people in this place. We can live into an expectant faith, recognizing that the Spirit is ‘already here’ and at work among us. The ‘not yet’ portion is yet to be revealed, but we must labor in faith and hope that a viable and robust Emanuel Lutheran will emerge from this time of transition. God’s will for the future mission of this place has yet to be made known to us; but we already know what our part must be. The specifics have been neatly laid out for us in this morning’s readings. We are to be ready to act when the unexpected happens. We must not be afraid to deal with the fear of uncertainty. Our hearts and minds must be focused toward our God. We must have the faith that wins over fear. And lastly, we must radiate an expectant hope that ultimately, we will grow into a stronger, more vigorous church. For hope, when strengthened by faith, wins!
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, help us to be ready when you call us to act. Teach us not to fear, but to have faith in the ‘already here’ of your kingdom. And bless us with hope that the ‘not yet’ part to come will be fulfilled according to your will.
And the people of God say…Amen!