SERMON PREACHED BY THE REVEREND ROBERT E. STEVENS, JR., CURATE
CALVARY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, PITTSBURGH PENNSYLVANIA ON
THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 12 AUGUST 2001
Do not be afraid? You must be kidding Jesus, there is so much to be fearful of these days! Just watch the news. People are hurting people, the financial markets are shaky, we even need to be wary of the heat. Fear is a powerful motivator is it not? But is fear the law we should live by? Jesus says no! because fear keeps us from being who we really are.. Fear keeps from being free.
In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us first not to be afraid, then he continues to tell us that we must be ready at all times. That action and readiness are called for if we are to live a life dedicated to God. Jesus is urging us to be ready to live expectantly. But even in the midst of talking about thieves and the unexpectedness of life, Jesus is clear that this is not to be a source of anxiety or fear.
Fear is not the goal. Freedom is the goal. Throughout the Gospel Jesus is urging us to live free lives. Lives that are not bound. For it is through freedom that we experience joy. And it is when we are free that we receive the kingdom that Jesus speaks of in today's Gospel. But as silly as it soundsFear is comfortable. We rest in it! It is much easier to be fearful than to take the risk to be free. Freedom is not without its risks. Look what happened to Jesus. Look what happened to people throughout history that took the chance to live free. St. Paul to Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom is risky and costly, but it leads to joy. And Joy is not possible when fear rules our lives.
I have a professor and mentor that used to ask me when he perceived that I was resting in my fear, "Well Rob, How much joy can you stand?" That question had a way of jarring me back into reality. My fear of this or that would so consume me that I would forget the words of Jesus to not be afraid. Our fear holds us back and yet it is the thing that we hold onto the tightest.
What are you afraid of? What wakes you up at 2am? Our fears are countless.. We might fear that we will not be financially secure, that our dreams will not come true, that our kids will not be all that we hope, that our church will not take care of us, and the list goes on and on. What would happen if we let those go of those fears and rested in the assurance that Jesus gives us today in the Gospel, Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
How you might ask do we do that? This week in the Men's Bible Study we talked about faith. And we wondered how we get more faith. We realized that faith just like freedom is not a commodity that we can acquire and say, "Look at me I have faith or I am free! Whew I'm glad that is over!" but instead it is something of a process. Something that we live into.
Jesus is quite clear on how to go about this process. He says that first we are act like we are free to live like it. So much emphasis these days is placed on feelings. If we don't feel a certain way then it must not be happening, whatever it might be. Jesus takes another angle. I recently heard a priest say, "When in doubt act confident." Another saying attributed to the 12 step method is "fake it until you make it." They may seem trite but I think they are right on the mark. Jesus says that where our treasure is there our hearts will be also. Not the other way around. Action is sometimes the best way to change, the best way to be free. The best way to discover our faith.
Listen again to the Good News Jesus tells us today. He says "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
I wonder ... How much joy can we stand?