Fear Not! Let Go! Let God!
Fly for God Sake!
By Pastor Robert Sain
Old St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Newton NC
The 3RD Sunday after Pentecost
Do you remember six months ago when we heared the words of the Angel directed toward the Shepherds? “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people!” That seems strange, in light of Jesus’ words in the 10th chapter of Matthew: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Here Jesus is preparing his followers for the mission field, Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel they have been warned that will not always be welcomed. But here his words seem more threatening; son will be set against father, daughter against mother. Why? Doesn’t this seem strange in a Gospel where peace and love are lifted up as norms that believers are to follow?
Do not be afraid! Those words appear eighteen times in Matthew’s Gospel; and three times in today’s text. More and more, as Matthew’s Gospel unfolds, occasions to be afraid are unfolding right before his disciples eyes. And, eventually, there will be a cross for him to bear.
As Jesus encourages the disciples not to have fear, it seems to me that he is also indicating that there are things for them to be afraid of. We must consider however, the various layers through which the Gospel is directed. In the original context, Jesus instructs his disciples about their future mission; following his death and resurrection. But there is a second context; the context of the community of people, to whom Matthew is writing. Matthew has taken oral traditions about Jesus, and formed his Gospel to address the needs of a persecuted community of believers living in the last quarter of the first century.
Jesus seems to sweep one’s fears under the carpet. He doesn’t seem very pastoral; actually more confrontational; kind of like, “just get over your fear!” He acknowledges that believers will live a perilous life where indeed one may lose not only one’s close family relationships, but even life itself. But the challenge to relinquish holding onto one’s life and family, also contains comfort and hope, that things will get better.
Jesus does not sugar coat what it means to follow him. Walking the walk of faith is challenging; and perhaps dangerous. Indeed the cross is the lense through which a follower of Christ sees the world. Remember that Jesus himself had a rocky relationship with his own family. Jesus himself, bore his own cross, and endured suffering. “Lose your life to find it.” “Pick up your cross and follow me.” Difficult and strange sayings.
Yet listen to what Jesus says: “trust me”, “acknowledge me and I will acknowledge you before my Father in heaven.” When Jesus speaks of how believers are valued by both He and His Father, Jesus is suggesting that followers of Christ, have an incredible value. Through one’s connection with Christ, one can make a difference in the world. Being connected to Christ, means that Christ is always with us.
As one lives the way of Jesus, we relinquish our preconceived ideas about what we think is valuable in life. Instead we embrace the unchartered waters of what life with Jesus may be like.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he is saying the same thing that Jesus says, but he uses the metaphor of Baptism. Death is a necessary step toward resurrection. One day you/we will experience the death of our body. Until then, we will experience many other deaths and losses along life’s way.
Change is a difficult thing. But imagine what would happen, if a caterpillar would announce, “I want to stay like this.” If so, that caterpillar would never experience the beauty or experience of what it is like to fly!
People of God, fear not, On account of God through Christ, you will die. But on account of Christ: Fear Not! Let Go! Let God! Fly for God Sake! Amen! Amen!