12th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 12:32-40 Sermon
August 19, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
123 “Come Down O Love Divine”
388 “As Pants The Hart”
531 “Jesus Saviour Pilot Me”
576 “Abide With Me”
ARE YOU AFRAID?
TEXT (vs. 32, 39-40): “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom….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. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
What are you afraid of? Are there things out there right now that cause fear in your life? I’m sure there are. I have certain fears myself too. We all do, and it is a part of life.
The Greek word the Bible uses for fear is “phobos” when it is a noun, or “pho-BEH-oh” when it is a verb. And I’m sure that you’ve heard that word before, because it has been transliterated into English with the word “phobia.”
You’ve probably heard a lot of those phobia words before. Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces. Agoraphobia is the fear of open spaces, and people who have that have been known to stay locked up inside their homes for many years. Then there’s hydrophobia which is the fear of water. Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. Achluophobia is the fear of darkness. Those are some of the phobias we might know about and have heard about.
But there are some that aren’t quite so common too, and these are genuine by the way. Teutophobia is the fear of German or German things, while Anglophobia is the fear of England or English culture. Anthrophobia is the fear of flowers, Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth, Chrometophobia is the fear of money, Clinophobia is the fear of going to bed, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words, Pantophobia is the fear of everything, and where would we be without Phobophobia which is, of course, the fear of phobias.
I assure you that I’ve only given you the tip of the iceberg here; there are literally hundreds of phobias, and even different names for the same phobia. If you want to see them, you can get on the computer and go to: www.phobialist.com and check them out for yourself.
The very fact that all these phobias exist should serve to point out one very key issue, which is that fear is so deeply ingrained in humanity, that we accept it as part of life without giving much thought to it at all.
If you watched the news at all over the past couple of weeks, we can see classic examples of fear. First there’s the war in Iraq, and the threat of terrorism. Our whole country is on alert for fear of the terrorists. Then there’s the bridge collapsing in Minnesota, which has given rise to new fears regarding bridges and their safety. The mine disaster in Utah brought additional fears. And now the threat of hurricane Dean in the Gulf of Mexico has many fearing for life and property loss. Those are real fears.
But we have our own personal fears we deal with all the time, and I’ll use myself as an example. When I left my house today, I took my key and locked the deadbolt for fear that someone might come in and steal my stuff while I’m away. My car is also locked and my keys are in my pocket—not that I’m really afraid that something is going to happen while I’m in here, but it is more of a force of habit because there are places where I sometimes park where people would get into my car and ransack it. I also do things like check the stove and the coffee pot to be sure they’re off before I leave.
These are basically normal fears, and the steps to alleviate them are simple. But then you have obsessive compulsive people who will go and recheck the same door lock and the same stove knob many, many times, and even turn the car around and go back home again and check them once more just to be sure. That’s when fears start to get out of control.
Why, oh why are we plagued with so many fears and phobias? Why are there worries and concerns in this world? Why the anxieties and problems?
At the beginning of our service, we heard the words: “Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against thee by thought, word, and deed.” By nature sinful…this describes what we are by nature. We are born sinful. It isn’t something we learned on our own or decided to do by ourselves.
But God rescued us from this situation. He himself put on human flesh and came into this world. He was born and lived his whole life without anxiety, without worry, without fears and phobias, without any sin whatsoever. Because he had no sin of his own, he was able to take our worries and anxieties, in fact all our sins, onto himself.
He took all of that to Calvary’s cross where he endured God’s punishment for sin. Because of that, we can be rid of he burden sin creates. Through faith in Jesus our Saviour, God’s image in us has been restored, and we can stand before him completely free from the sin that has enslaved us from our conception.
This is one of the points Jesus is making in our text for today. In verse 39 he says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” He says “do not be afraid,” or as it is often translated, “fear not.” You don’t need to fret or worry, because through your faith in Jesus your Saviour, God not only will give you a place in his kingdom, but he is PLEASED to do so! You will be there because he wants you there; you won’t be like an uninvited guest or an outcast. You will be there because it is your home!
Knowing this fact should be a constant source of comfort to us here on this earth. In John chapter 14 Jesus gives comfort and hope to us. Here are some selected verses: First, verses 1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” And then he continues in verse 27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Now that God has saved us and made us his own through faith in Christ, the battle begins. Satan doesn't care that the sinful nature is dead. He uses it to attack us anyway. Like a zombie or a vampire from a horror movie, our dead sinful nature continues to battle the holy nature God placed in our hearts. Every Christian in this world has a holy nature, provided by God, and a sinful nature, our old dead selves trying to destroy our faith. We are at the same time saints and sinners.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus was teaching his disciples. He knew that they were both saints and sinners. Jesus was teaching them about one of the weapons that old, dead, sinful nature uses against us. That weapon is fear.
One of the reasons people have fears is because they want to be in control of things. I know that I want to be in control of things in my life, and I’m sure you want that for yourselves as well. One of the reasons I lock my doors is because I want to be in control of who comes in and who doesn’t. I have caller ID on my phones so I can control who I talk to when it rings, and avoid telemarketers. I even want my TV remote with me in my chair so I can control what programs I watch. I like the freedom to come and go as I choose.
But there are those things over which I have no control, and I have to accept that as well. For a lot of people, that lack of control causes all sorts of anxiety. Some people try to micro manage everything instead of trusting others. You’ll often hear them say things like, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” Some people will literally make themselves ill over this. It’s all a control issue.
In today’s text however, Jesus tells us to “Fear not.” And here he speaks of one area of life that nobody controls, and that’s the day we meet him face-to-face. Nobody on earth knows when that will be. Some people will die first, while others will still be alive when he comes to judge the living and the dead. The point is, that we need to be ready. He uses the example of the thief in the night. Nobody knows when a burglar might show up at their home, so they are ready at all times. We need to be prepared to meet Jesus according to his time schedule, and not ours. When we’re ready and prepared, then we have nothing to fear.
The other day, I was watching an interview with a man by the name of Bill Maher. In case you don’t know who he is, he fancies himself to be a comedian. He is also a self-acclaimed political analyst, as well as a hard-boiled atheist. He has had various TV shows, all of which have been relatively short-lived, probably because a majority of the American public can’t stomach his caustic ramblings anymore than I can.
In this interview, he indicated he’s producing a new movie called “Religulous,” a word he coined by combining “religion” and “ridiculous.” He said he wants it to be released around Easter, to try to dash the hopes of the religious idiots who are paying homage to a missing dead body which was supposed to have been miraculously taken into heaven. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s his stated purpose.
Why do you suppose Bill Maher is so anti-religion anyway? I think it’s because he wants to be in control of everything. Religion represents something he can’t control, and a truth that exists beyond the realm of his own mind. But he does admit that he simply does not know what is beyond the grave. And that little admission blows a huge hole in his anti-religion argument. It’s out of his control. Whether he wants to or not, he will meet Jesus one day. And even though he tries to cover it over with a caustic façade, the unknown represents an element of fear for him.
It’s true that none of us here can give a personal account of life after death. We have yet to experience it. So we have to take God at his Word, and believe that heaven is the beautiful land of eternal paradise, where he dwells and where he has a mansion prepared for us.
In our text for today, Jesus tells us to not be afraid, because we have the inheritance of heaven waiting for us. He tells us not to become so pre-occupied with things of this world that we crowd him out of our lives.
Our Gospel lesson last week focused upon the foolishness of putting our trust in things of this world. When we die, it’s all left behind. It does us no good on the other side of the grave.
Today we see the foolishness of living in fear. The unbeliever lives in fear, because they don’t trust the promises of God. But since God loves us, we have nothing to fear.
The Apostle John writes some fitting words in his epistle. In I John chapter 4 verses 16-18 we read: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Certainly we will have certain fears during our lifetime. If you put me on anything higher than an 8 foot stepladder, I get dizzy. I guess I have acrophobia to a certain degree, because being in a tall building doesn’t bother me. My solution to that is to let someone else who doesn’t have that fear climb that extension ladder while I keep my feet on the ground. I’ll also continue to lock my house and my car; that’s nothing more than common sense.
We always need to remember that we have a God who has loved us to a degree we can’t even imagine. And because of that love given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord, all of our fear and doubt and anxiety has been removed. Our heavenly Father is pleased to give us our mansion in his heavenly kingdom. And so we wait—not in fear, but in joyful expectation, because we know neither the day nor the hour when we will finally see Jesus face-to-face.