It’s quite strange indeed how fear depletes hope.
This week as I listened with the Holy Spirit, I heard a lot of fear. First sitting with my hair dresser a Christ follower, “I’m homeschooling my children,” she told me. “This last school shooting in Texas was more than I can take.” Talking with another person in the community, we discussed the tragic Apple River stabbing and the horrid death of the young man, Isaac from Stillwater. You can’t even go out on the river anymore for a lazy day, this friend proclaimed. Shootings at a fourth of July parade, shootings of school children while police standby, stabbing a young man on a river. So much fear right now. As Becky my hair dresser said, “It’s not safe anywhere.”
And yet, Jesus says today, “ Do not be afraid, little flock,” Oh Jesus. How are we to not be afraid right now? I want to argue with you on this point!
It’s quite strange indeed—there once was a community that valued the safety of its citizens more than anything else. They policed their borders fiercely, they taught stranger danger to all who lived within the confines of the city, they prayed fervently to God and found comfort in their faith but the stranger that came across the border? Oh God help them.
The name of the community was Sodom and their appalling sin was that they made no room for the stranger amongst them. They did not value their neighbor, they humiliated the stranger and made no space for hospitality. God would no longer listen.
Hear the words of Isaiah today:
I’ve have had enough, God says.
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Living with fear is not a new thing. We have lived with fear from the beginning. Sodom and Gomorrah are proof of that. The way that scripture has been abused and used for homophobic purposes is proof of that.
But do not be afraid little flock. Even in the midst of paralyzing fear, Jesus, has an invitation for us: It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. How do we inherit the Kingdom?
Again the words of Isaiah:
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
Jesus reminds us to change our lives—to step away from fear by giving alms. The real work of stepping away from fear is to first make a difference in someone else’s life. With every dollar we give away, we give away a little bit of our fear. This has real world implications that changes lives.
As you may know, we are in the midst of a raising money to help the refugee family we sponsor—the Sadats. What you may not know is that we gave away a great deal of fear, we learned to do good and rescued a family that was oppressed. To date, we as a congregation have raised over $7000. Add to that the mission committee’s gift of $5000 and we have at this time a little bit over $12,000 for them. This changes everything for them.
This how we give away fear—one dollar at a time. Its why churches matter as a place to learn good and to be a collective. Being community with people we have nothing in common with, people who are different from us, people who annoy us is deeply important and it comes back again to opposing fear. A colleague of mine, Tad Parks recently wrote, “Christians aren’t consumers. We are contributors. We don’t watch. We engage. We give. We sacrifice. We encourage. WE pray by laying hands on the hurting. We do life together. “
We need the church in order to serve and be the collective of learning good, seeking justice and rescuing the oppressed. WE can’t do this work alone. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christ follower. The church is a collective—a hive that seeks to do the work of the Creator we came from who desires to see the kingdom restored even in the midst of fear. Fear isolates us. Hope draws us together. Church centers itself on hope by inviting us to give away our fear one prayer at a time, one dollar at a time, one refugee family at a time.
In just a few short months, we will once again come to what I lovingly call the Annual Church beg-a-thon: our stewardship campaign. We will be reminded that the ministry of this place is sustained by our collective giving. That is our opportunity to give away our fear once again and to live in the hope of the kingdom. Hope beloved is a muscle and this is our gym. We exercise holy eternal habits in this place as Jesus invites us to think in a new way. The church is the way we exercise hope and hope is only found in the collective, in the community, in us together.
And the ONLY way to get to hope to get to love is through community. We need each other to find hope otherwise we are isolated in fear. Our work our mission beloved is to not fall into the deadening trap of fear but to instead stay alert to hope even in the midst of these troubling times—we are to think like Jesus and give away our fear.
It’s quite strange indeed that when we give of ourselves our treasure, our time our passion, fear dissipates and we are left with hope. It’s quite strange indeed that hope overcomes fear.
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