Luke 12:4-7, 22-34
April 12, 2000
About a two weeks ago I heard a song sung by David Roth about the time his spouse was doing graduate work in psychotherapy. It's a cute song and connects with me, as my spouse is a psych nurse.
I heard a line in the song, "Fear is just simply forgetting that everything's alright," and was reminded that the Lenten experience is not so much about giving up things for Lent as it is about preparing ourselves to live in resurrection light. Somewhere in Lent we need to hear again that the fears which come so naturally to us have already been taken care of. This doesn't evaporate the fear, but it puts it in a new context so we can better deal with it.
Luke's twelfth chapter records Jesus having a couple of things to say about this business of fear being -- not understanding that everything's alright.
Jesus' context is that of responding to religious bullies, to people who can kill you, but after that are pretty weak. Ordinarily we might think that this business of being killed is pretty serious and ought to be feared. But, remember, we already know about resurrection.
This Lenten business is an attempt to get us to know in our own lives what it is that we affirm in Jesus' life -- that if GOD is for us, who can be against us? Troubles? Betrayal? Death? We are practicing here what it means to be a new creation in Christ.
One of the religious bullies most churches face is that of its own members reining in one another by saying, "I've not done it that way before, so you shouldn't even think about trying it." Usually we try to draw others in by saying, "We've not done it that way," but we really mean "I'm uncomfortable."
But guess what, everything's alright. We live in the light of resurrection which makes ancient truth very uncouth. How do we live with one another in light of GOD nurturing the church until the end of time.
What is it that most frightens us as a church? And, how do we see these fears in the light of resurrection?
Are we afraid of sinners getting permission to come to church? Well, aren't sinners already here? How can we see sinners in a resurrectional light? This is an important question -- After all, you and I are here!
If we don't phrase it in terms of sinners, might we be afraid of people coming who have a label on them? Would a label like Hmong-speaker or non-English speaker give us pause. Well, maybe one non-English speaker would be alright, they could be our little mission field right here. What about 25 or 50? Wouldn't that start changing us?
Would a label like convicted arsonist give us pause? Don't we already have so much invested in our buildings that we would always be on edge if they went down to the basement unattended? Wouldn't we be more afraid with a convicted arsonist around than set free from our worry about keeping up appearances?
Would a label like homosexual give us pause? We have so much misinformation in our heads about this issue that we would be more afraid than ever that the church won't survive? We would think there is a gay lifestyle when in reality there is no such thing as a heterosexual lifestyle, or any other. We would think gays recruit children when the truth is that the overwhelming percentage of pedophiles are heterosexual and heterosexual rape is epidemic. With fearless eyes we might see the issue is that of healthy and unhealthy ways of participating in the sexual aspects of our lives which we United Methodists call "a good gift from God."
Would labels like "evangelical," "liberal," "speaker in tongues," "social gospeleer" or the like give us pause? We like things orderly in our worship so we can keep the worship package to one hour on Sundays. We don't have time for a word of prophecy from a speaking and interpreting of tongues in our worship. We don't have time for seeing what social implications our worship has for us to take up a cause after worship as a result of what we experience in worship.
There are so many places where the church is fearful. There are so many places where you and I are fearful. In both cases, institutionally and individually, we are afraid we will have to call out, "Help, I've fallen and can't get up."
It is at this point of recognizing we are still swimming in a sea of fear we need to hear again and again that resurrection is our reality -- "Fear is just simply not remembering everything's alright," and "God doesn't forget a sparrow and considers you important enough to have counted the hairs on your head even if that number is zero."
Indeed there is more than enough fear going around. Fear of the next test at school, fear of getting pregnant or not getting pregnant (depending on your circumstance), fear of staying in the same old job or being laid off, fear of kids getting in trouble and parents dying, fear of falling and not getting up. We live in a universe of fear.
During this Lenten season I hope and pray you will have caught a preview of Easter and the "Kingdom of GOD" "come on earth as it is in heaven." I hope and pray you have renewed appreciation for the better reality that "everything's alright." I hope and pray that your Lenten experience will help you hear these resurection words from Jesus in Luke's twelfth chapter in a new and fresh way -- hear them again and be glad. [Read Luke 12:22-34]
Isn't it obvious -- everything's alright!
And we pray --
Copyright 2001. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.