There’s a pervasive theme that runs through all our readings this day which seems to suggest that we should take up the matter of faith as response to fear and being prepared for an awareness of the presence of God.
Genesis says that the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision and the first thing the vision suggest to Abram is not be afraid, for the Lord is Abram’s shield. The Lord has promised a great reward for Abram, but the reward is dependent on his having a son. And because of Abram’s faith, and his believe in the Lord, God saw God’s promise through for both Abraham and Sarah.
In similar fashion, the author of Hebrews writes to the Jewish Christians about the matter of faith and goes on with what I believe to be the most well-stated definition of faith found in all of scripture: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1).
And then Jesus speaks of faith as being prepared, even in the face of great fear. Using the examples of people who packed their bags for a great journey, or those who stay awake to let people in who come home late at night, Jesus teaches us that the faith of person is an inner journey within one’s self that one must be open to when Jesus comes.
Fear. It’s all around us and closing in. So we think. I hear fear in our society. I see fear and acts of violence all around. None of us can escape it. We’ve got two choices; we can light a candle or curse the darkness. That’s it folks. Those are the only options we’ve got. I don’t want us to concentrate on our fears. We all know they’re there. The only question for us is: “What will we do with our fear?”
Sometimes fear is a good thing. It’s good to be afraid of certain things that can harm us. The most primitive part of our brains is called the amygdala. It’s the part of the brain which provokes in us the “fight or flight” response. Sometimes the amygdala can hijack the frontal cortex and the limbic area of our brains when we are afraid, and we can’t think rationally. We’re think from the most primitive area of the brain that response to “fight or flight.” And when that takes over, we lost our rational thinking.
The native American tribe, the Cherokee’s have a great proverb about this, without all the fancy brain science. It’s a story about an old warrior Cherokee who is speaking to his grandson. He tells the young boy, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.” “One is fear,” the wise old-man says. “It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego.”
The sage goes on to say, “The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, faith, kindness, respect, empathy, and truth.”
And the young boy thinks about what has been just said, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” And the grandfather quietly replies, “It depends on the one that you feed.”
Jesus says it like this in our text from Luke, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” And then Jesus goes on to say, “sell your stuff and give alms.” It’s as if Jesus is saying to you, that stuff you have doesn’t matter anyway. You won’t be needing it, and it’s all a stumbling block to what truly matters.
Friends in Christ, like the Cherokee proverb, we must ask ourselves, “Which wolf am I feeding?” Am I feed the wolf that fears everything that comes in my life? Am I operating out of place of fear and my only outlook on life is to be afraid of fear itself? Or, am I feed the wolf of faith? The place where I can trust and rely that God is in control, not anyone else and I can be ok because God is enough?
You see, we’re not gonna get very far in our faith life if we can’t understand the Reign of the living God as material rather than spiritual. If we have any attachment to the material and the stuff of the world, we will always operate out of fear. We will always live like there’s not enough stuff. We are not going to have much of a relationship with God when weekends are spent spending money and time on more material things.
Sabbath, not shopping. Not soccer, not dance. Not any other priorities we place will replace the spiritual component of our rest in God. It is time that is set aside for us to refresh ourselves and approach life from a new angle. Remembering the promises of God’s grace, we fashion faith that will move us from fear to boldness. That’s what we do when gather as God’s people.
And it’s the faith that has, moved generations of those who have gone before us. It’s the assurance of things hoped for, and conviction of things not seen. It’s faith that moved Abraham when he was called to set out on a spiritual journey to a place to receive his inheritance.
And has Jesus says, “have no fear, little flock.” What’s the worst thing that can happen? I tell you the worst thing, it’s that we lose our faith and hope that God will move our fears and forget the promise that God will form faith in us.
We are given this opportunity, this morning, and everyone new day to remember to ready ourselves to receive God’s unfailing promise of Christ love. We must be ready. For we never know when the next glimpse of the coming reign of Christ will show up unexpectedly. But, know that with our spiritual eyes, we will see the reign of Christ. It’s there. Look for it. Move from your place of fear to a place in life where the Holy Spirit will fashion a deep faith in God and promise we share in Jesus Christ.
Summer is a good time to take another look at all that we possess and inventory in our hearts and minds the spiritual treasures we have, the friends who love us without condition, the church that keeps us in communion with each other and God, the beauty of the material world that belongs to every human being. It is a good time to look up at the stars in awe, and remember that the God who made us also made them, but they are nothing compared with the treasure we have of being loved by that same God who asks us to show that love and care to every person we meet.