St. Augustine of Hippo


Episcopal Church

 


“Do Not Be Afraid...


August 11, 2019


The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre



Let’s pick up where we left off last week. Shall we?

Jesus taught his followers (including us) that although all blessings are provided by God, we sometimes believe that we can hold them captive and keep them for our own benefit. In response to someone inviting him to be part of a family inheritance conflict, Jesus told us the story of a rich fool cultivating the doctrine of “unholy trinity of Me, Myself, and I.” He concluded that if not stupid, it is foolish to believe that we are in control of our lives. In today’s lectionary scriptures Jesus is addressing the need to pursue God instead of being anxious for our earthly lives.

How easy is it to surrender to God? How easy is it to focus on God when the world around us seems to run after individual treasures? How easy is it not to be afraid when things around us seem to be collapsing?

In our modern culture, we have come to define success as individual accomplishments. Successful is a person who can provide more than needed for himself and who was able to accumulate a certain amount of wealth. Hence, that obsession for many to pursue happiness as the pursuit of material gain. People are ready to sell their souls, abuse, exploit and even kill others in the pursuit of material wealth. We never have enough. We have not understood that wealth is based on exploitation of one another. Wealth is what makes one believe s/he is superior to others.

Luke is one of the Gospels that address the question of money and earthly possessions with seriousness and consistency. Maybe there was a reason for that. Maybe under the Roman occupation, people were not hopeful that God could provide for them. And instead of pursuing communal success, the community was becoming oriented on self.

From Abram to us, we are still human, sometimes living hardships and asking if God can provide for us. It’s not always about financial success; sometimes, it is about what we consider that makes us human. For Abram, it was posterity. He wanted an heir so that his wealth would not be wasted. How many of us, when life is not what we want it to be, fall into disbelief, as if God has turned his back on us?

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid...” and this is good news because when God is standing by our side, nothing can stand against us. Do not be afraid is the assurance of God’s grace and love, no matter the tension in which we are. We don’t need to be anxious, concerned, troubled or be in fear. Faithfulness lies primarily on God. We are faithful because God first is faithful and will never let us down.   

While human promises are sometimes deceitful, divine promises are reliable. “Promises create a shared expectation about the future and bind together the giver and receiver of the promise in that shared anticipation. Promises create relationship. Promises create hope. Promises create faith.” wrote David Lose, professor of Biblical Preaching at the Lutheran Seminary in Minnesota. Jesus makes us a promise to return and take us by his side. That promise also creates relationship, hope and faith. To be a follower of Jesus is to have the courage to buy into this promise and enter into this relationship. It is to expect and believe that there is no reason to pursue material goods, be afraid or worry when the world is going upside down. It is to be assured that the earth will shake, the thunder will rumble and burn but Jesus will always open his harms to protect, provide for and rescue those who put their trust in him. Amen.