Recent sernon by Heston Groenewald

Don’t be afraid! Which is a perfect word of challenge and comfort for these strange times we live in- with the political environment driven by fear, and this playing out in daily life in all sorts of little and large fears.

 

And fear is the way that many people read this gospel text. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Does that conjure up images of fire and brimstone, and God sneaking around to try catch us doing something naughty?? Even Christians have assumed and acted as though Christianity is a fear-driven faith.

 

But fear is not the way of God. And fear is not the tale in this gospel story. Jesus even says- don’t be afraid! And that phrase is a regular refrain, repeated 100+ times through our scriptures.

 

Don’t be afraid, Jesus says to his disciples. He doesn’t say that our fears aren’t real- he knew very well that fear is a real and present companion- for himself and for his followers ancient and modern. Don’t be afraid. Sp what are the fears that you are carrying this morning and this week? The state of the world is a scary thing. Climatebreakdown is a scary thing. No-deal Brexit and the economy shrinking is a scary thing. The rise of xenophobia and racism is a scary thing. For many of our neighbours, housing is a scary thing. Hunger and poverty are scary things. The world of employment can be a scary thing. Pensions and the future can be a scary thing. For many of our Muslim neighbours, what’s going on in Kashmir is a scary thing.

 

Our fears are real, but Jesus says don’t be afraid. Fear is not the way God works. It is God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom- to give you ALL THINGS as St  Paul says repeatedly. All things- the whole cosmos: life, death, space, time, history. All things are ours in God. God’s way is the way of generosity and abundance not austerity and poverty- the way of faith and hope not fear and despair.

 

And so Jesus says, don’t let life whip you along in fear, but rather let God entice you along in hope. BE PREPARED because God is doing exciting things and good things- justice things, healing things, generous things. And God wants us to give us this kingdom- God wants us to have a part in this healing and justice and generosity.

 

So ‘be prepared’ doesn’t mean be afraid because God is watching over your shoulder. Be prepared means, (St Augustine) Love God and do what you want. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. He was madly in love with God- that’s where his heart was and that’s where he put his treasure and his time and his energy. God’s love was the vision that fired him up and the passion that shaped his life.

 

Nothing is more practical

than finding God,

than falling in Love

in a quite absolute, final way.

 

What you are in love with

(what seizes your imagination)

will affect everything.

 

It will decide-
what gets you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,

what you read,

whom you know,

what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

 

Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

 

(Pedro Arrupe, SJ)

 

Once Jesus had found this treasure that is God’s love, he shaped his life and his heart around it. And he invites all of his followers to do the same. And so GK Chesterton’s recommendation was spot on: ‘Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.’

Where and how do you fall in love with God daily?? How do you make time and space in your daily life for God to ‘seize your imagination and affect everything’?? In his brilliant book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg offers helpful observations from Jesus’ life.

 

Worship

Jesus took part in regular corporate worship, and fed his heart and mind with scriptures

 

Creation

Jesus enjoyed God’s creation

Jesus took long walks

 

People

Jesus had a circle of ‘friends in faith’ with whom he shared everything

Jesus welcomed children

Jesus enjoyed partying with non-religious types J

Jesus had role-models in his faith

 

Justice

Jesus prayed

Jesus ‘broke bread’ with people of all sorts

Jesus gave generously

Jesus lived by these words of Isaiah:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls or lambs or goats.
Even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
Rather seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.

 

We can’t control the world. We can’t protect ourselves from Brexit or every act of gun violence, or every cancer cell, or every heartache and pain. But we have good role models in Jesus on his way to the cross, and his disciples being beaten and jailed and killed. They all overcame fear with LOVE which is a far greater force than fear. St Paul- Love drives out fear. St John- God is love and God has made us in love and for love. St Luke- God has given us this kingdom of love which looks like justice and generosity.

 

Love makes us a potent gift of God to a world which is being bombarded with fear on a daily basis. Jesus says, don’t be afraid. Choose to overcome fear. Choose God, choose each other, choose beauty, choose justice.

 

What you are in love with

(what seizes your imagination)

will affect everything.

 

Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

 


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