Rev. David Wright:
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7th august 2022
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SERMON : ORDINARY 19 (LUKE 12:32-40) 7th AUGUST 2022
MAY the words of my mouth and the meditations in our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. <Amen>
I am told that the most popular Bible app, for those of us who cannot be separated from our phones, is called “You Version”. It is available in more than 60 languages and is installed on over 500 million devices worldwide.
Like many apps, “You version” collects statistics and in most years the most popular Scripture verse has been John 3:16 (“For god so loved the world …”). However, after two years of pandemic, currently, the most popular verse is the Scripture that was our “Sentence” last Sunday … Isaiah 41:10 (“So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”) <PAUSE>
As always, our gospel readings are so rich, so deep, so insightful for us. As always, this humble preacher wrestles with how to speak to such wondrous words and keep his message to around ten minutes!
This week, I thought I would allow last Sunday’s sentence to lead us into this week’s gospel and I’ll limit myself to the first four words of Jesus in this passage, “Do not be afraid …”
Let’s be honest, the last two years have been challenging, some would say, terrible years. They stirred up a lot of our fears and anxieties; precipitated divisions in society, and had us locked in so we couldn’t see family and friends. In our humanity, it should come as no surprise that these events were going to stir up some deep fears for both the present and the future. <PAUSE>.
The great existentialist philosophers, like Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Nietzsche, respond with … yeah, life is absurd, we’re afraid all the time, get used to it !
Yet, when Christians say, “do not be afraid”, it witnesses something that only Christianity proclaims : God's own journey into the heart of humanity and what frightens us the most.
It's only our faith that gives us the capacity to say “do not be afraid” even in the face of a pandemic and the challenges that lie ahead in an uncertain future.
When you read the Old Testament you’ll see time and time again, “Don’t be afraid”, “Have no fear”, “Don't worry”, “Don't be anxious”. Then at that glorious point between the old covenant the new covenant, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and he tells her, “Do not be afraid” and then we see Jesus picking up that thread throughout the rest of the New Testament and as we hear today, “Do not be afraid, little flock …” <PAUSE>
Another interesting statistic I got by using “You Version” is that there are 365 references in Holy Scripture to “Do not be afraid” - yes, one for every day of the year.
Why does God have to keep reminding us to not be afraid? Perhaps it is because we are finite beings and to be “finite”, and to know it, is to be anxious or afraid. To know that we live in a particular time and for a specific length of time produces anxiety.
Yes, time is only going in one direction and - yes again, as you’ve all noticed, I'm not getting any younger! I'm getting older, and because I exist in a specific time-frame, I am (we are) heading towards death ….. and there's nothing I (we) can do to stop that.
Therefore to live in a time-frame is to live with the certainty of an uncertain future.
Can that produce anxiety, yes; can that produce fear, yes
The answer that those existentialists give, “Get Used To it” is NOT the answer that our faith gives US because The Bible takes us beyond our finite nature.
Christ takes us to the reality of God who goes far, FAR beyond this limitation …
God is NOT in time - God is eternal ! <PAUSE>
God keeps reminding us of this with the words “Do not be afraid.” <PAUSE>
This is REAL spiritual power. It’s God saying … you can’t save yourself from your finite existence, another human being can’t save you from your finite existence, Christ says that only in God will your soul be at rest. <PAUSE>
So, when I orientate my life, not to my own ego, or anything else in this world BUT … only when I orientate my life to God … will my soul be at peace, be at rest.
This is so important, let me repeat the point : The only solution to my human fear and anxiety is to order my life to that which transcends my finite existence - … namely to the infinity of God.
That's why, from the heart of the bible comes, again and again, don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid. The voice of God and listening to that voice is why we are able to endure pandemics, and walk boldly into an uncertain future. <PAUSE>
So bring before our God our anxieties and fears,
listen to Christ’s voice “Do Not Be Afraid” with relief, and
leave in amazement, gratitude, grace and peace.
I runga e te Ingoa o te Atua, te Matua, te Tama me te Wairua Tapu.
In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit <AMEN>