— Rev. Phil Hobson

June 22, 2014

Matthew 10:24-39

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

This morning’s reading has Jesus talking to the Apostles before sending them out. What is remarkable is what we hear over and over:

So have no fear
Do not fear
So do not be afraid

  • Have no fear of those who might demean your reputation and say bad things about you.
  • Do not fear those who can harm your body.
  • So do not be afraid of not being known and loved by God.
  • So have no fear of breaking old family scripts that no longer serve life and God.

These were real fears for the twelve Apostles as they went out, like sheep among the wolves, needing to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.

Reinhold Niebuhr, a great theological mind of the 20th century, author of the Serenity Prayer, once stated

The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.

Look around; watch the news for twenty minutes: stories of greed, corruption, violence, oppression, and then great attention and energy given to what a celebrity is doing. We are buffeted back and forth between the atrocious and the trivial. Niebuhr has a point.

But in the face of this fairly accurate assessment of what happens when we try and live a life of integrity and compassion in our world, Jesus says

So have no fear
Do not fear
So do not be afraid

David Lose, Lutheran pastor and professor, tells of something he learned in psychology class which then played itself out on the soccer field.

[T]he physical, bodily symptoms of fear and excitement are identical. That is, you would not be able to tell the difference between fear and excitement by checking breathing, heart rate, release of sugar into the blood, or any of the other activities of the sympathetic nervous system that prepares us for “fight or flight” responses to threat. There simply is no difference.

But when he went out to play soccer, if he was afraid of the other team, he moved with less confidence, was more likely to miss-hit a pass or a shot on goal, more prone to injury. But if he was excited about the match, he moved easier, had more confidence, and kicked with more accuracy.

According to the body, there is no physiological difference between fear and excitement. But there is a vast psychological difference. That difference is in how we interpret the situation.

Maybe the most important word in those rebuttals of fear is the word “so.” So have no fear; So do not be afraid. This means there is a reason to not fear, a source of something other than being afraid. That source, that reason, is the promise of God.

You are following me, so have no fear of those who bad-mouth us.

You are living in God’s love, so have no fear of those who can harm the body; your hope and your love and your life and your soul are safe in God.

God knows each and every sparrow, and even each and every hair upon your head. God sees and remembers and keeps all of these. And you, you child of God, made in God’s image, are you not worth more than the sparrow?

As Bill W, one of the founders of AA, says, “In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.” No one is a throw-away. Not me and not you.

We can interpret our lives differently and change the way we live them. Fear is easy. It is almost a default setting in a world of tragedy and pain.

But we need not live on the default setting. We need not live lives of the atrocious and the trivial. We are called to the task of curing and raising and cleansing and casting out and proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of heaven.

Recently I have heard this statement a lot: “I do not know how you do it,” meaning handling Patrick and Mira’s health challenges and everything else.

Short answer? I don’t.

I do not handle it. If it were up to me and me alone, I would be a blithering fool. Or at least more of one than the one you see before you.

We handle it.

We handle it. Mary and I do. I could not deal with this stuff without a woman whose intelligence and ability to research and ask good questions and advocate on behalf of our children are as strong as Mary’s. I have told her I cannot imagine facing such things without her.

We handle it. Our families: Mira and Patrick’s grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and godparents, both near and far, willing to offer support and love in the form of phone calls and visits and funds and food and doing laundry and all sorts of other things both great and small.

We handle it. This community, this church, who have made such generous gifts and offered so much support and care. You are our village. We do not make it through stuff like this alone.

And the way we handle it is God handles it. Sometimes using us. Sometimes in spite of us. Often in strange and mysterious ways, God’s wonders to perform.

We each have our own crosses to bear: those things in life where we know it will be difficult, we know there is an easier way out, but we also know that to live our life with integrity and with faith a harder road is necessary. Our crosses may look different, or they may seem quite similar.

We pick up our cross and walk, we are able to do so, because there is one who has already borne the cross, one who has already walked this road, one who is strong where we are weak, who is loving where we are cruel, who is forgiving where we are judgmental of ourselves and others, who is known to us so often in the face and voice and love of those around us.

So have no fear
Do not fear
So do not be afraid

God’s got this.

Thanks be to God.