Sermon for August 11, 2019
Texts: Deuteronomy 6:10-13; Psalm 113; Hebrews 11:1-3; Luke 12:22-40
Sermon: "Dressed for Action, Lamps Lit!"
Fear is real. It taints our vision. Fear cannot pierce the darkness of night. Fear cannot make us whole when we find our world breaking apart. Fear cannot pay the bills and cannot change the relationship that seems to be falling apart.
If only there were more barns said the man in the parable we heard last week. I'll big bigger barns to hold all my crops. Somewhere every day, someone says, "What I need to do is win the lottery!"
In the car on the way back from Meridian yesterday, I heard an interview with an anthropologist from the University of North Carolina who has spent years studying the poultry workers in the South, especially in Mississippi.
She described how so many of the workers are in the Mississippi plants as a result of recruiting that the plant owners then did in South Florida years ago. They chartered buses to bring back all the workers who were glad to be offered the jobs in poultry processing plants.
And when they arrived in Mississippi and began their jobs here, the anthropologist said that they really loved the place. The work was grueling, physically stressful, and mentally without any joy whatsoever. But they loved the place.
They found Mississippi a peaceful place to raise their families, a place that was welcoming to them. As the anthropologist says, "They became as Southern as any of the rest of us who live in the South and claim it as home."
These are the ones who were terrified a few days ago in their workplaces and homes and schools. Families were disrupted and children especially vulnerable as they learned of their mother or father's detainment by immigration authorities.
Is there another way to do this?
I don't have the answer to that question. But this I know: The people whose lives were assaulted, whose children were terrorized, and whose families were torn apart a few days ago in our own state, are people like us. They are God's children. And they are hurting and fearful.
At the Presbytery meeting in Meridian yesterday, the decision was reached that our best contribution to the situation in these communities would be to join the efforts already started by others. That is what I am recommending we do -- any who want to contribute to this.
The Carlisle Crisis Center in Forest, Mississippi, will gather supplies and distribute them.
There are lists of the kinds of foods needed. The food will be delivered to an agency that will get the food to the people most in need.
Fear has gripped those communities -- fear for life itself, for family, for the future, for freedom that seemed so sweet only a week ago.
The world is filled with things that make us anxious. There are global fears -- such as terrorism and climate changes. What do those mean for us and for the future of our younger generation?
There is fear in the kind of shaky economy in which we live -- fear of losing everything, even when "everything" we have seems like not very much, really.
There is the fear of declining health as we age and an inability to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. There is even a fear of the foods we buy and the water we drink.
The world can seem a scary place.
There must have been plenty of anxiety in the crowd of people Jesus addressed all through chapter 12 of Luke. That's the chapter we read from earlier. Listen to all the many ways Jesus addresses them about their fear and how to be free of it:
Are you afraid of the future, afraid of death?
Jesus tells them earlier in chapter 12, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7)
Are you afraid, Jesus asked, to share the gospel because you are afraid you don't have the right words to say to someone?
See in verses 11 and 12, Jesus tells them, "Do not worry about … what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say" (Luke 12:11-12).
Are you so afraid of your future that you must store all these extra things in case you may need them later? Your greed may deprive needy people of the necessities of life. Jesus tells them:
"Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15).
Rather, Jesus says to them, be "rich toward God." (Luke 12:21).
Are you afraid that you may not have even the basic necessities of life? Does this fear keep you from prayer, from devotion, from living as if you are God's child?
Jesus says, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing … Strive for [your Father's] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well" Luke 12:23, 31).
And that brings us to the comforting verse that begins the reading for today:
"Do not be afraid (Fear not!), little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)
It is as a gift that sets us free from anxiety if we accept it with heart and soul and mind and with all our strength of purpose in the life God has given us.
Jesus has commanded us, his people of the church, to do all we can do to help those who are in need. As he lifts each one of us up, he directs us to turn and help someone else to stand taller.
And we have this promise from Jesus:
"Come to me when you're weary and have heavy burdens to carry," Jesus said. "Come to me and take my yoke upon you. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light, he said. Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart." (See Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus is our yoke partner and our teacher -- through him, our lives become easier; burdens are less overpowering. We can see our way out of dark places and away from dark powers that have led us there.
In the parable in the lesson for today, Jesus pictures God as the master who returns home to find the servants alert and ready to serve him. But look closely at what happens next:
The master gathers his robes around him and ties them up with a belt around his waist, so the robes won't interfere with his preparing and serving a meal. Then HE busily sets out to serve the servants.
So will it be with our God in heaven, blessing those who have been a blessing to God in the work of his kingdom. God created us in love. God adores each one of us. God wants each one of us to flourish.
God would not have us be afraid. God would not have any of his children be afraid. God sends us into the dark places with our lamps lit so that we may with God's help make the darkness go away for people who can't find their way. May God help us to be comforters.
Jesus tells us what to say: "Do not be afraid…it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Let us take up that comforting line that Jesus has given us to give in his name. Let us say those words to ones we know need to hear them today. Amen