Do Not Be Afraid – Dance in the Thunderstorm……..

Now that we are officially one day into summer, I thought I would add some words of encouragement for those who plan to venture out of their air conditioned homes, words of wisdom for those who want to live summer to the fullest:

For those of you who plan to go swimming, don’t dive into the ocean unless you can see the bottom and maybe even then, you might want to be careful, you could break your neck……for that matter, don’t swim in the Gulf of Mexico, there is at least one Great White Shark that the whole world is watching swim around…….

Don’t pick hard pears, green blueberries, green watermelons or green grapes and eat them, they can give you an upset stomach and could even kill you…….If you are out mowing your grass, don’t do it barefooted, you could lose some toes that way…..

And speaking of being barefooted, don’t try to walk into a Blackberry patch either; besides the briars, snakes like those places.

If you are out in your yard after you have finished the lawn and one of those summer showers approaches, don’t pick up a rake and wave it in the air, you could get struck by lightning and it could kill you. And speaking of lightning…….

One summer night during a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her little boy into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?” Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.” A long silence followed. At last, the silence was broken by the little boy’s shaky voice, “Mom, I think Dad’s a big sissy, you are better off staying with me!”

And here is one last one………For God’s sake, whatever you do, while you are away from church, don’t get the urge to evangelize……….don’t go around wherever you find yourself, and speak to total strangers on the street corners or on the beach or in berry patches or even in your front yard and ask them if they know Jesus….For God’s sake, don’t try to convert anyone to Christianity, especially members of your own family, you could get killed……

We don’t know if it is summer or winter, spring or fall when Jesus begins his instruction to the disciples as to what they are to expect when they bring the new religion, the Gospel of love to the world, but what Jesus does know is that they have no clue how hard life will be for them.

When we understand that the Gospel of Matthew was written on the scrolls some 35 years after Jesus death and resurrection, we have the perspective that what was being recorded included the experiences of the present conflict as the Gospel of living the resurrected life was being lived and spread by those who chose to proclaim Jesus as Lord.

And what Jesus tells the disciples and what he offers us are familiar words. “Do not be afraid.” These are words that we find offered throughout the Bible. These words are offered by angels and God throughout the most intimate and fearful moments that the human characters were experiencing in the moment.

These are the words that Hagar hears from God, when she sits in the hot desert sun, listening to her son Ishmael cry in the distance as he experiences the dehydration of his body and she has nowhere else to turn. The angel of God says “do not be afraid”.

The Bible is the story of the relationship between God and humanity, and as the story unfolds, we experience the interplay of fear and faith and observe how we vacillate between the two. God is one of our primary fears because God is beyond us in every way – God lives when we think we can live no longer, God gives when we think there is nothing left to give, God loves when we have given up on love altogether.

We can control many things but the one thing we cannot control is death. And the things we cannot control, we fear. Jesus comes among us to obliterate that fear. It would be easy for God to simply eliminate our driving fear of death, but if God did so, we would be no different than any other living organism.

God wants us to trust in faith that we should not fear anything or anyone, especially death. Jesus teaches us this morning that our purpose is to give hope to the world through his desire to allay our fears, even when we face persecution and conflict among those of our own family when we profess our faith in him. We are called to proclaim the mystery of the interplay between fear and faith by claiming Christ as Savior and Lord. We are called to be willing witnesses of faith over fear, we bring peace and calm to the world by proclaiming the fullest intention of God – which is to know God’s love for us.

Jesus says “do not be afraid”, the angels of God tell Hagar and you and me, “do not be afraid”.

Most of you are aware, I was supposed to travel to Haiti with Food For The Poor at the beginning of the month. I have to tell you that as the time drew nearer for my departure, I had some fears, and that was before I was fully aware of the severity of the epidemic virus that was beginning to be spread around the Caribbean.

There was still fear, though. As I read the pre-travel instructions, there was plenty of fear – don’t drink the water unless it comes out of a sealed bottle; don’t eat fruit that you haven’t peeled yourself, don’t eat street food; be careful how you touch people, especially those with open wounds or sores. All of these precautions were offered as we were planning to visit the poorest of the poor, the most desperate people for God I could ever imagine, these starving sick strangers who faced death every day as a matter of course.

Many of you shared your own fears for me both before and after the trip was cancelled. I appreciate your love and concern. In the end, pragmatic fear of death won out.

The thoughts that one experiences when considering missions to third world countries are vast and varied: Will I come back? If I come back, will I live? How do I resolve my fear of serving God over risking my life? Is mission work about really making a difference or is it about experiencing the possibility of death?

These are just a few of many thoughts and questions. But Jesus says “do not be afraid.” The angel of God says “do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid – It probably isn’t a good idea to: Walk barefooted through the fruit and berry patches, but you are in good hands if you do, do not be afraid………

It probably isn’t a good idea to: Dive into the ocean when you can’t see the bottom, or swim in the murky water, but you are in good hands if you do, do not be afraid……

It probably isn’t a good idea to: Do a rain dance on the highest hill holding a lightning rod in your hand if you please, but you are in good hands, do not be afraid.

It probably isn’t a good idea to: travel to a third world country where an epidemic is in the making, but do not be afraid, you are in good hands.

And for God’s sake, as you find yourself in new and different places in your summer travels. For God’s sake, whatever you do while you are away from church, don’t be afraid to evangelize the world a little……….DO go around wherever you find yourself, speak to a total stranger on the street corner or on the beach or in the berry patch or even in your front yard and ask them if they know Jesus….

For God’s sake, share your story of faith and fear and share that your faith in God has allayed your fear, proclaim that you have chosen faith over fear because of God’s encouragement, especially family flesh and blood, you are in good hands……do not be afraid, the Lord of love is in your midst.

(This is a sermon from last summer. In my effort to get my blog page and RSS Feed Page Set up….)

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