“Unafraid” – August 11, 2019

“Do not be afraid, little flock”

Scripture (Luke 12.32-40): ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. ‘But know 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, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Reflection: “Fear,” writes Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman in his book, Jesus and the Disinherited, “is like a climate closing in; it is like the fog in San Francisco or in London. It is nowhere in particular yet everywhere. It is a mood which one carries around with himself, distilled from the acrid conflict with which his days are surrounded. It has its roots deep in the heart of the relations between the weak and the strong, between the controllers of environment and those who are controlled by it (pp. 26-27).”

Reflection: This Sunday’s lectionary reading from the gospel of Luke is set within the context of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem and the cross. By this time in the gospel of Luke, Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). Along the way, he sends out messengers to announce the nearness of the kingdom of God (10:9). In chapter 12, a crowd of thousands gather, trampling each other to see and hear him. He speaks to the anxious crowds and his disciples and comforts them with a promise, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

The disciples and the crowds are anxious and afraid. They struggle daily to survive. They live surrounded with the experience of utter disregard and contempt from the Romans who control their environment and they are always on alert against the perpetual threat of one-sided violence and extermination.

Jesus’ comforting words to the anxious and fear-ridden crowds and disciples served to help them create a confidence, hope, and faith about the future by assuring and reminding them of God’s saving acts and God’s love and care for them. Jesus does not describe how or when they would inherit the kingdom. But, the knowledge of its coming and their inheritance of it is a treasure they can claim deep within their souls that gives them the courage to live as if it was already a reality they possessed. This in turn empowered them to push back the innumerable fogs of fear, to spiritually and psychologically overcome their inward sense of dehumanization, and live their lives with human dignity, eager expectation, and hope in their hate-filled, cruel, and violent world.

Prayer based on Psalm 33:18-22: Your eye, O LORD, is on those who fear you, on those who hope in your steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Sustain in your mercy, the souls of those hearts are glad in you, who trust in your holy name, who wait for your help, and are in need of your protective shield. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Amen

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