Sermon: “Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not.”
LSB Series A; Proper 7
The Third Sunday after Pentecost; June 21, 2020
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:5a, 21-33
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have no fear. Do not fear. Fear not. Do you think that Jesus is trying to tell His disciples’ something? How about us? Do you think He might have a point that He is trying to get across? Do you think there might be a lesson that He wants us to learn?
Fear is gripping our world these days. Fear of the coronavirus. Fear of going out in public. Fear of dying alone. Fear of unemployment and underemployment. Fear of rioters and looters. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of saying the wrong thing the wrong way in a world of racial divide. Fear is everywhere.
One of the most famous presidential quotes is about fear. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inauguration speech as president in 1933 while this nation was in the grips of the Great Depression said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Fear is gripping. Fear is paralyzing. Fear is overwhelming. Fear is all-consuming. And Jesus tells us that we don’t need to be afraid while living in this world. The only fear that is necessary for us is to fear God.
Fear of God is a good thing. The First Commandment instructs us that “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
What does it mean to fear God? The catechism tells us that “It means to take God seriously as our Creator and Judge. He means what He says when He threatens to punish those who disobey.”
Scripture tells us in Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.”
Scripture also tells us in Matthew 10:28, in our text for today: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
A fear of God is good for us. When we fear God alone, all other fears fade away. Our focus is only on loving, honoring, and serving Him. And the service that He calls us to is to proclaim His good news “in the light and proclaim it from the housetops.” He’s given us the Gospel, and now He wants us to share what we have been given to share.
But instead of fearing God and sharing His good news, how many of us allow the fears of this world to run our lives?
Have we allowed the fear of what others think about us to dictate our words and actions? Have we chosen to be silent in our faith for fear of how it might affect our livelihood, our reputation, and our relationships? Have we?
It’s certainly understandable in a world that is filled with fear these days, but it is not inexcusable. Just because there is fear in this world, doesn’t mean we abandon God’s calling for us to serve as His witnesses.
If we have abandoned this post He has placed us in, then we have misplaced our fear. What is the worst that another human could do to us? Though they can take our life, they can’t destroy our soul. Only God has that power, and we are called upon to obey God, rather than men. We are called upon to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, for He alone has the power to save us from eternal death. So, let us obey His command to proclaim His name all the while trusting in His loving care.
Yes, God cares for us…immensely. Jesus says: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
If each sparrow that falls does not escape God’s watchful eye, then what makes us think that He will not care for us? If He goes to the great length of counting each of our hairs, an extremely tedious process, then what makes us think that He will not watch over and protect us? Yes, God cares for us. (Pause)
Now look, let’s not mince words. Sharing our faith is difficult, at least we think it is. Let me explain. Each of us has in our minds that we desire to share the faith, but we question if we have the wherewithal to do so. We are afraid we are going to mess up. We are scared we might say the wrong thing. We think we might offend somebody. We think they might reject us, or even worse, we may even think they might harm us. The devil uses all of these things to work to his advantage to silence us in our witness. He doesn’t want the good news getting out. He doesn’t want Jesus spoken in the light or proclaimed from the housetops. So, he convinces us that we are doomed before we even begin. So what do we do? We clam up. We clam up in fear.
Jesus says: “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father in heaven.”
These words are both encouragement and warning. He strictly calls upon us to acknowledge him before others. When given the chance, don’t clam up, don’t fear, he is with you.
But if you get into a steady diet of not saying anything, then what may happen is that you yourself may begin to deny Him as Savior as well. He doesn’t want that to happen, so He encourages all of us to not be afraid.
Let’s not mince words again. When we go to witness about our faith to others, we aren’t going to get it perfect. Much of the problem is that we just haven’t put our witness into practice. We have allowed fear to keep us from sharing the good news we’ve got. And we’ve most certainly got it. We all have stories of the profound impact that Christ has had in our lives. Share that story. People will listen. If they are willing to hear about the fish that got away or the most recent vacation or the struggle you’ve been going through, then they will listen to your faith story as well. And yes, we are going to mess things up. We are going say things in ways we wish we had not. But remember, all of what we say is covered in the protecting hand of our God who loves and forgives us. He’s got our backs.
Literally, He carried us and our sins upon His back as He went to the cross of Calvary. He had every reason to be afraid. His own people were surrounding him with shouts calling for His crucifixion. They wanted him to die. They were spitting on him and beating him. They were saying some of the nastiest things to him. Just imagine how much fear he could have had in his heart at that time.
But He wasn’t afraid. He knew that He was doing the will of His Father. He had been sent to do just this. In honor and respect of His Dad, He kept going, living His life out fully in obedience to the end. All the way through the suffering, the bleeding, the unending ridicule and tormenting…all the way until it was finished. That’s what He did for you…and for me.
And it was all to ensure that you and I would be protected in this world that is gripped with fear. It was all to ensure that we would have no need to fear the terrors of the night or the arrows that fly by day, as the hymn says. Those flaming arrows of the evil one have been quenched in the blood of Jesus our Savior.
His blood covers us from all that would harm us in this world. Our place in this life is not positioned in fear or in trepidation. Rather our firm foundation is the solid rock of Christ on which we stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
Jesus does not back down in the face of fear. Yes in this world we will have trouble, but we can take heart, He has overcome the world. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God exercising His authority and divine power on our behalf.
On our behalf, He pleads to the Father to provide for us all that is needed to navigate a world filled with fear. And He does. With His Word and His Sacraments, He fills us to overflowing. We are cleansed inside and outside, protected inside and outside. Our salvation is secure.
Security in this world does not come in the absence of fearful situations. Security in this world comes in knowing that when everything is said and done, Jesus Himself will stand before us and all we will have left to do is bow our knees and with our tongue confess that He is Savior and Lord.
And that is exactly what He is. He is our Savior and Lord, and now He sends us, covered and protected in His blood to share His Gospel in the light and to proclaim His name from the housetops.
Yes, His name is written on your hearts and upon your forehead. You have been redeemed, by Christ the crucified. And His name is now on your lips, the same lips that have tasted and seen in the blood of Christ that He is good.
So have no fear! Do not fear! Fear not! He is with you as you share the good news of great joy that is for all people! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.