What are you afraid of?

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Fear is a funny thing, isn’t it. For example, despite all my desires to climb a mountain or go to the highest height to have the best view, I know my legs, my body would not permit me. There comes a moment in an ascent, be it an escalator, stairwell, or mountainside, that if I can see the world below my body begins to quake. Heights are not my thing. I’m also afraid of deep, dark water, the odd spider, depending on the size, and we know that apparently caves give me the heebie geebies. As a child I wasn’t afraid of a monster under my bed or the dark, but actually terrified of mascots, particularly the sugary breakfast cereal mascot Captain Crunch. Fear can catch us off guard too, we may discover that despite thinking we could handle something, fear will pop up and prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes fear is irrational. We know that logically there is no reason to fear something but it happens anyway. Fear can also cause us to do irrational things. Whether a threat is real or imagined fear can cause us to experience anxiety or simply concern but it can also cause us to panic or experience terror. Fear is also one of the most pervasive and powerful motivating forces in the human experience. Many people in control recognize the power of fear and use it to ensure conformity in various ways. Fear is the driving force behind many aspects of our economy.

Last week we discussed characteristics of discipleship, which included curiousity, doubt, authority, and being called before being equipped. I have wondered if being courageous means being fearless but I don’t think so. Courage is facing fear, acknowledging it, naming it, but not ignoring it. In fact the Webster’s dictionary defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous”. Courage is certainly a characteristic of discipleship. But most of us are more like the Lion in the land of oz. We put on a brave face but when reality hits we can cower. Jesus recognizes that fear has the potential to cause failure in discipleship. In this difficult passage which juxtaposes warnings with words of comfort Jesus is trying to get the disciples to acknowledge their fear so that they may have courage.

Jesus knows the disciples are already courageous, after all, they have left the security of their families, jobs, and homelands to follow him. This passage comes immediately after the twelve are called and given their mission. If this is Jesus’ way of giving a pep talk- it is rather distressing. He is extremely realistic about the threats they might face. He warns them that by following him, life will be frighteningly difficult. But at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their ability to be disciples.

Jesus begins our passage by stating, “Have no fear of them.” Who is this “them” that he speaks of? We know it refers to the Pharisees and Synagogue leadership because Jesus makes a comment earlier in the passage that “They will flog you in their synagogues”. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees outright and Jesus knows that this is not going to win them any favours. In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that by associating with him they will experience difficulties. Associating with certain categories of undesirable people will bring dire consequences.

Also, part of the authority given to Jesus is to break open the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. It is a certain kind of leadership that can lead to and in secrecy and a certain kind of power that closes the books to the average people, so that the people are afraid and therefore easier to control. But Jesus says, God will be the one to uncover everything that is covered and will reveal all the secrets.

I suspect this “them” that Jesus is referring to is not limited to the pharisees and religious leaders. One must also remember that Jesus and the people of the New Testament were living in an oppressive state. Pax Romana, Roman peace was certainly not peace-filled. For the Roman empire peace was not so much the absence of war but rather the moment when ones opposition and enemies were so beaten down that they had lost their ability to resist. This peace was provided through control and fear. The Hebrew people had hope in a Messiah that would over turn this fear and oppression. The statements Jesus makes in this passage is the closest Jesus comes to saying that indeed this system will be overturned through him, the Messiah. But following him means a break from the norm, means redefining the socio-economic structure of the day and that it will be met with resistance, force-filled control and violence from the oppressors.

Discipleship means the disciples will have the ability and authority to heal, cleanse and forgive, but it also means becoming completely vulnerable with dependence on God. Jesus says that this vulnerability could include arrests, violence, persecution, hatred and opposition from the religious leaders as well as opposition from family members. After all not only is God, through Jesus, revealing words spoken in secret but also membership with Jesus can lead to the tearing apart of families.

Jesus focuses on the difficulties that will face the disciples, because naming them aloud, acknowledging the suffering that will be encountered is the first freeing step from fear. Fear loses its power when we refuse to allow that fear to stop us from facing our most difficult challenges. This is easier said than done, we know that, the disciples knew it and Jesus is aware of it. However, in our vulnerability there is strength, because instead of fear controlling our lives we turn to God. In amongst these words of fear Jesus soothes the disciples with words of comfort.

Stanley Saunders from Columbia Seminary says “Jesus describes worst case scenarios, and they are bad, but with these warnings are statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through Christ, God. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must be proclaimed and the gospel lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples’ disposal against all the powers of this world. God alone is the one who we should fear.”

But God’s power surpasses that of human rulers. Jesus reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers who control them with fear but rather God’s power contains grace and mercy. Repeatedly Jesus says “Do not fear”. Why should they or we not fear? The threat of death for the disciples is the most powerful form of fear. But Jesus says, God’s power surpasses all those fears and God’s power is nothing like those human powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do. God knows our fears and promises to be present through them. The threat of violence and isolation from the family are real concerns for the disciples. However, in their simplicity, vulnerability and dependence on God, it is God’s presence that posses real power. These fears that the disciples have are no longer a determining force in their lives because the one who has ultimate power over their whole being exercises that power with love.

Like the disciples we look at the human systems that control with fear and power, systems of oppression, poverty, false and superficial peace, systems that work in a world of secrecy and we are asked to speak against them without fear, in vulnerability, with trust in God’s presence. The fears we have need not be pervasive powers in our lives because the one who has ultimate power over our whole beings exercises that power with grace, mercy and love. Amen

June 22, 2014
Preacher:

Service Type:

Fear is a funny thing, isn't it. For example, despite all my desires to climb a mountain or go to the highest height to have the best view, I know my legs, my body would not permit me. There comes a moment in an ascent, be it an escalator, stairwell, or mountainside, that if I can see the world below my body begins to quake. Heights are not my thing. I'm also afraid of deep, dark water, the odd spider, depending on the size, and we know that apparently caves give me the heebie geebies. As a child I wasn't afraid of a monster under my bed or the dark, but actually terrified of mascots, particularly the sugary breakfast cereal mascot Captain Crunch. Fear can catch us off guard too, we may discover that despite thinking we could handle something, fear will pop up and prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes fear is irrational. We know that logically there is no reason to fear something but it happens anyway. Fear can also cause us to do irrational things. Whether a threat is real or imagined fear can cause us to experience anxiety or simply concern but it can also cause us to panic or experience terror. Fear is also one of the most pervasive and powerful motivating forces in the human experience. Many people in control recognize the power of fear and use it to ensure conformity in various ways. Fear is the driving force behind many aspects of our economy.

Last week we discussed characteristics of discipleship, which included curiousity, doubt, authority, and being called before being equipped. I have wondered if being courageous means being fearless but I don't think so. Courage is facing fear, acknowledging it, naming it, but not ignoring it. In fact the Webster's dictionary defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous”. Courage is certainly a characteristic of discipleship. But most of us are more like the Lion in the land of oz. We put on a brave face but when reality hits we can cower. Jesus recognizes that fear has the potential to cause failure in discipleship. In this difficult passage which juxtaposes warnings with words of comfort Jesus is trying to get the disciples to acknowledge their fear so that they may have courage.

Jesus knows the disciples are already courageous, after all, they have left the security of their families, jobs, and homelands to follow him. This passage comes immediately after the twelve are called and given their mission. If this is Jesus' way of giving a pep talk- it is rather distressing. He is extremely realistic about the threats they might face. He warns them that by following him, life will be frighteningly difficult. But at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their ability to be disciples.

Jesus begins our passage by stating, “Have no fear of them.” Who is this “them” that he speaks of? We know it refers to the Pharisees and Synagogue leadership because Jesus makes a comment earlier in the passage that “They will flog you in their synagogues”. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees outright and Jesus knows that this is not going to win them any favours. In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that by associating with him they will experience difficulties. Associating with certain categories of undesirable people will bring dire consequences.

Also, part of the authority given to Jesus is to break open the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. It is a certain kind of leadership that can lead to and in secrecy and a certain kind of power that closes the books to the average people, so that the people are afraid and therefore easier to control. But Jesus says, God will be the one to uncover everything that is covered and will reveal all the secrets.

I suspect this “them” that Jesus is referring to is not limited to the pharisees and religious leaders. One must also remember that Jesus and the people of the New Testament were living in an oppressive state. Pax Romana, Roman peace was certainly not peace-filled. For the Roman empire peace was not so much the absence of war but rather the moment when ones opposition and enemies were so beaten down that they had lost their ability to resist. This peace was provided through control and fear. The Hebrew people had hope in a Messiah that would over turn this fear and oppression. The statements Jesus makes in this passage is the closest Jesus comes to saying that indeed this system will be overturned through him, the Messiah. But following him means a break from the norm, means redefining the socio-economic structure of the day and that it will be met with resistance, force-filled control and violence from the oppressors.

Discipleship means the disciples will have the ability and authority to heal, cleanse and forgive, but it also means becoming completely vulnerable with dependence on God. Jesus says that this vulnerability could include arrests, violence, persecution, hatred and opposition from the religious leaders as well as opposition from family members. After all not only is God, through Jesus, revealing words spoken in secret but also membership with Jesus can lead to the tearing apart of families.

Jesus focuses on the difficulties that will face the disciples, because naming them aloud, acknowledging the suffering that will be encountered is the first freeing step from fear. Fear loses its power when we refuse to allow that fear to stop us from facing our most difficult challenges. This is easier said than done, we know that, the disciples knew it and Jesus is aware of it. However, in our vulnerability there is strength, because instead of fear controlling our lives we turn to God. In amongst these words of fear Jesus soothes the disciples with words of comfort.

Stanley Saunders from Columbia Seminary says “Jesus describes worst case scenarios, and they are bad, but with these warnings are statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through Christ, God. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must be proclaimed and the gospel lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples' disposal against all the powers of this world. God alone is the one who we should fear.”

But God's power surpasses that of human rulers. Jesus reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers who control them with fear but rather God's power contains grace and mercy. Repeatedly Jesus says “Do not fear”. Why should they or we not fear? The threat of death for the disciples is the most powerful form of fear. But Jesus says, God's power surpasses all those fears and God's power is nothing like those human powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do. God knows our fears and promises to be present through them. The threat of violence and isolation from the family are real concerns for the disciples. However, in their simplicity, vulnerability and dependence on God, it is God's presence that posses real power. These fears that the disciples have are no longer a determining force in their lives because the one who has ultimate power over their whole being exercises that power with love.

Like the disciples we look at the human systems that control with fear and power, systems of oppression, poverty, false and superficial peace, systems that work in a world of secrecy and we are asked to speak against them without fear, in vulnerability, with trust in God's presence. The fears we have need not be pervasive powers in our lives because the one who has ultimate power over our whole beings exercises that power with grace, mercy and love. Amen

Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes

Fear is a funny thing, isn’t it. For example, despite all my desires to climb a mountain or go to the highest height to have the best view, I know my legs, my body would not permit me. There comes a moment in an ascent, be it an escalator, stairwell, or mountainside, that if I can see the world below my body begins to quake. Heights are not my thing. I’m also afraid of deep, dark water, the odd spider, depending on the size, and we know that apparently caves give me the heebie geebies. As a child I wasn’t afraid of a monster under my bed or the dark, but actually terrified of mascots, particularly the sugary breakfast cereal mascot Captain Crunch. Fear can catch us off guard too, we may discover that despite thinking we could handle something, fear will pop up and prevent us from moving forward. Sometimes fear is irrational. We know that logically there is no reason to fear something but it happens anyway. Fear can also cause us to do irrational things. Whether a threat is real or imagined fear can cause us to experience anxiety or simply concern but it can also cause us to panic or experience terror. Fear is also one of the most pervasive and powerful motivating forces in the human experience. Many people in control recognize the power of fear and use it to ensure conformity in various ways. Fear is the driving force behind many aspects of our economy.

Last week we discussed characteristics of discipleship, which included curiousity, doubt, authority, and being called before being equipped. I have wondered if being courageous means being fearless but I don’t think so. Courage is facing fear, acknowledging it, naming it, but not ignoring it. In fact the Webster’s dictionary defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous”. Courage is certainly a characteristic of discipleship. But most of us are more like the Lion in the land of oz. We put on a brave face but when reality hits we can cower. Jesus recognizes that fear has the potential to cause failure in discipleship. In this difficult passage which juxtaposes warnings with words of comfort Jesus is trying to get the disciples to acknowledge their fear so that they may have courage.

Jesus knows the disciples are already courageous, after all, they have left the security of their families, jobs, and homelands to follow him. This passage comes immediately after the twelve are called and given their mission. If this is Jesus’ way of giving a pep talk- it is rather distressing. He is extremely realistic about the threats they might face. He warns them that by following him, life will be frighteningly difficult. But at the same time he builds the case for why they should not let this fear master them or hinder their ability to be disciples.

Jesus begins our passage by stating, “Have no fear of them.” Who is this “them” that he speaks of? We know it refers to the Pharisees and Synagogue leadership because Jesus makes a comment earlier in the passage that “They will flog you in their synagogues”. Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees outright and Jesus knows that this is not going to win them any favours. In fact, Jesus warns the disciples that by associating with him they will experience difficulties. Associating with certain categories of undesirable people will bring dire consequences.

Also, part of the authority given to Jesus is to break open the hypocrisy of the religious leadership. It is a certain kind of leadership that can lead to and in secrecy and a certain kind of power that closes the books to the average people, so that the people are afraid and therefore easier to control. But Jesus says, God will be the one to uncover everything that is covered and will reveal all the secrets.

I suspect this “them” that Jesus is referring to is not limited to the pharisees and religious leaders. One must also remember that Jesus and the people of the New Testament were living in an oppressive state. Pax Romana, Roman peace was certainly not peace-filled. For the Roman empire peace was not so much the absence of war but rather the moment when ones opposition and enemies were so beaten down that they had lost their ability to resist. This peace was provided through control and fear. The Hebrew people had hope in a Messiah that would over turn this fear and oppression. The statements Jesus makes in this passage is the closest Jesus comes to saying that indeed this system will be overturned through him, the Messiah. But following him means a break from the norm, means redefining the socio-economic structure of the day and that it will be met with resistance, force-filled control and violence from the oppressors.

Discipleship means the disciples will have the ability and authority to heal, cleanse and forgive, but it also means becoming completely vulnerable with dependence on God. Jesus says that this vulnerability could include arrests, violence, persecution, hatred and opposition from the religious leaders as well as opposition from family members. After all not only is God, through Jesus, revealing words spoken in secret but also membership with Jesus can lead to the tearing apart of families.

Jesus focuses on the difficulties that will face the disciples, because naming them aloud, acknowledging the suffering that will be encountered is the first freeing step from fear. Fear loses its power when we refuse to allow that fear to stop us from facing our most difficult challenges. This is easier said than done, we know that, the disciples knew it and Jesus is aware of it. However, in our vulnerability there is strength, because instead of fear controlling our lives we turn to God. In amongst these words of fear Jesus soothes the disciples with words of comfort.

Stanley Saunders from Columbia Seminary says “Jesus describes worst case scenarios, and they are bad, but with these warnings are statements of reassurance and repeated calls to resist fear. The most important element of reassurance lies in the integral relationship that is affirmed between the disciples and Jesus, and through Christ, God. Even though doing so will bring suffering, the gospel must be proclaimed and the gospel lived is the most powerful tool at the disciples’ disposal against all the powers of this world. God alone is the one who we should fear.”

But God’s power surpasses that of human rulers. Jesus reassures the disciples that God is not, in fact, like the powers who control them with fear but rather God’s power contains grace and mercy. Repeatedly Jesus says “Do not fear”. Why should they or we not fear? The threat of death for the disciples is the most powerful form of fear. But Jesus says, God’s power surpasses all those fears and God’s power is nothing like those human powers. God knows and cares even for the sparrows that are sold two for a penny. God knows even the hairs on our heads better than we do. God knows our fears and promises to be present through them. The threat of violence and isolation from the family are real concerns for the disciples. However, in their simplicity, vulnerability and dependence on God, it is God’s presence that posses real power. These fears that the disciples have are no longer a determining force in their lives because the one who has ultimate power over their whole being exercises that power with love.

Like the disciples we look at the human systems that control with fear and power, systems of oppression, poverty, false and superficial peace, systems that work in a world of secrecy and we are asked to speak against them without fear, in vulnerability, with trust in God’s presence. The fears we have need not be pervasive powers in our lives because the one who has ultimate power over our whole beings exercises that power with grace, mercy and love. Amen