DO NOT BE AFRAID

DO NOT BE AFRAID

A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, 32-40

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Luke 12:32-40

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

You don’t need ME to tell you these are hard times.

You do not need me to tell you, but I am going to remind you.

These are hard times, and they have been hard for some time now.

Ten and one half years ago I arrived in town, and Ed Barrier met me at the plane.

He took me to my apartment, and the phone rang. It was Robbie Sanderson, telling me that a woman had been murdered by her husband.

Last week a young single mother from Hydaburg was found beaten to death by the side of the road, not far from Kalwock.

The times have BEEN hard, and they ARE hard.

If you saved our prayer lists from the last couple of years, you could look on them and see deaths by suicide, deaths by accident, deaths by murder, deaths by long, lingering painful illnesses, death after death that was tragic and horrible and unpleasant.

You could look on that list and see addictions and death by addictions.

You could look on that list and see marriages and divorces,

You could see people looking for work and still looking for work.

You could see teens in trouble and a world in turmoil.

You could see people arrested for unmentionable crimes

And people falsely accused

And people whose lives are ripped to shreds.

But here’s something else I’m going to remind you of:

We haven’t seen the worst of it.

Thousands of teens are homeless in Anchorage and other larger cities in Alaska, and it gets cold here.

It gets miserably hot elsewhere in the country, and it gets hotter every year.

Plenty of people get hassled needlessly by the police, and abused at home, and mistreated at work- if they’re lucky enough to work- in this country,

And few people understand them.

And there are babies born in refugee camps this morning whose parents and grandparents were also born in the SAME REFUGEE CAMP!

And the world has forgotten, for the most part, the people whose poor, pathetic lives were ripped to shreds by an earthquake in Haiti 6 years ago- or was it seven?

Here’s what one pastor said: “There’s no such thing as perfect life lived with no hard lessons.”

Now, we have been talking about getting to the point of trusting Jesus in our lives, trusting him completely, and we said,

We need to pray.

Let’s say it together:

WE NEED TO PRAY.

And we said, “Seek the things that are above.”

Let’s say THAT together,

SEEK THE THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE.

But we need to do one more thing, and it may be the most important thing.

It’s a weird way of saying it- we need to DO one more thing, when the thing we need to do is to NOT do something.

But we need to NOT be afraid.

Do NOT be afraid.

Let’s say that together:

DO NOT BE AFRAID!

Jesus said it first, and you may well know- it’s the most often repeated phrase in the Bible.

Do not be afraid, Jesus said to the crowd of first century Jews, people who were part of a shrinking middle class caught up in a economy where the rich were getting richer.

Sound familiar?

Do not be afraid.

And they were governed by romans, who had swords and knew how to cut throats with them and who had tax collectors, and knew who to take your money with them.

And they had governors who were Jews, but not Jews like them.

And they had church, with a 700 rules to obey.

DO NOT BE AFRAID.

And then, some author wrote to the first Christians, and reminded them: these are hard times, and they have always BEEN hard.

But do not be afraid.

Ok, Jesus- how does that work?

We’ll start with this: whoever it was that wrote Hebrews was taking the LONG view.

All these THINGS happened to all these SAINTS while they were looking even FURTHER down the road, towards the CITY that God has ALREADY PREPARED.

They weren’t looking forward to something next week, or next year, or after the election, or even ten years down the road.

They were looking WAY-AYYY further than that.

Which is something we are not so good at.

And I’ll tell you something else: they were NOT looking for something that they were planning and building.

It was a different builder altogether building that city.

It was God.

But still, they lived in the here and now, it was in the her and now that all kinds of horrifying things happened to them, while they were looking somewhere else.

 

Ok Jesus, how does that work?

It works like this: we hold on to right now.

Because Jesus was NOT talking about down the road.

Nope.

Jesus said, “Get ready.”

Get ready,

Put on your rain gear and extra tuffs,

And out new batteries in your flashlights,

Because this is going on RIGHT NOW.

There is a word that’s not in either of these passages, but it’s a word that the people who RECEIVED these passages were trying to hear.

 

Salvation.

But listen closely: salvation is all through both of these passages.

Salvation is the situation in which we will live in that city down the road,

And salvation is what’s knocking on the door this very hour, while we’re scrambling to get our boots and coat.

John Wesley, writing about another New testament passage, write this about the way salvation was used there:

You are saved.

It is not something at a distance.

It is a present thing,

A blessing which,

Through the free mercy of God

You are NOW in possession of!

It’s HERE

And…

You HAVE it!

I have a friend in ministry, on the other coast. I mention her from time to time, and she’s doing a ministry with inner city kids and no church is helping her or even encouraging her and she had told me that some pastors are even opposing her, not because they don’t like what she’s doing but because they don’t like that it’s her doing it.

And last week somebody was bullying her on the subject, and she had to push back.

It was terrifying.

But here’s what she did.

She found some words of encouragement elsewhere, and she leaned into them, and through them

She leaned into Jesus, and through Jesus

She pushed back her bullies.

She is living in a metaphorical tent, and it’s almost a real tent, but she is looking forward to a city not built by human hands- and she leaned into it to get through the day on Thursday.

So now, we have no idea what’s going to happen to us tomorrow,

Because bad news comes every day.

And we have no idea what’s going to happen to us or this church or this country in the next year, let alone ten years.

But we are going to do one thing: we are going to NOT be afraid.

Do not be afraid.

And we are going to look beyond this tent we are living in, and look to whatever that unbelievable thing God is building.

But we are going to do something else.

We are going to do what we have the opportunity to do right now:

We have an opportunity NOW
To not be afraid.
We have an opportunity NOW
To be ready.
We have an opportunity NOW
To make purses that will not wear out.
We have an opportunity NOW
To rejoice,
Even though the times are anxious times.
We have an opportunity NOW
To look forward to the city
Being built by God.

Do NOT be afraid- say it with me now:

DO NOT BE AFRAID.

Don’t, and Jesus will take you further than you know.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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