Father Mark, Sermons

Do Not Fear….

Proper 7C; Pentecost 4; Matthew 10:24-39.

I have a question for you.  How do you publish news quickly?  Tell the person to whom you speak, “Don’t tell anyone.”   Word will be around town in a couple hours. 

Luling isn’t much different than Galilee in getting the word out, except for how we do it.  Back then, houses were small and extra room was found by using the flat roof.  People would congregate on roofs and hold conversations to neighbors on roofs adjacent to them. 

I wonder if residents hid by laying down on the roof when the Roman soldiers came to town.  There was probably as much or more fear back then than we experience now, some for similar situations.

What is Jesus’ response?  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 little confused perhaps? 

There is a lot of fear in the world right now.  There are many and different kinds of fear some of them healthy, some of them not.  Fear is hard wired into us as a means of self-preservation.   Fear awakens us to discern and follow a wise course of action. 

During our present situation, most of us have taken great precautions to sequester ourselves from others.   I take it that it is healthy fear that I’ve never wanted to be a pastor in a snake handling church.  But there are times when fear moves beyond self-preservation to inhibit our ability to live.   For example, the fear of failure inhibits people from trying; fear of being hurt, keeps us from reaching out; fear of being alone can reveal a fear of abandonment.  Fear of dying can come from the fear of non-being. 

Jesus speaks of fear—fearing as the disciples what others might do to us if we live out or share our faith.   Jesus is explicit not to fear those who can kill our body, but only the one who can destroy both the soul and the body.   This can be confusing.  Who or what can kill the soul? 

Jesus is explicit for us not to fear death of the body as the body is not who we are. 

The body is only an outward expression.  Jesus teaches us that we don’t have a soul, because who is it that has the soul?  

Jesus teaches us that we are souls.   The Kingdom of God is His present reality within us.  Any teaching that holds that human beings are separate from God places our soul in hell. Separation from God is the essence of hell.

Hell refers in this instance to mental and spiritual suffering, inner torment. 

God does not create hell.  We do.  False teachings can distort our mind, compromise our actions and create a draught in our souls where there is no living water—leaving us truly dead on the inside. 

This is what Jesus teaches to be fearful of—not crippling fear, but awareness of evil forces and false teachings that deny or distort that God and we are one.

I was never made so aware of this soul death as when I did prison ministry. 

There’s a term used in prisons called, “dead eyes.”  Dead eyes is when you look in a person’s eyes and there’s a vacancy, an emptiness, or a crazed look.  Dead eyes is when you cannot find the soul of another because it’s been sealed away in some way.  The severity of this goes far beyond mental illness.  Chronic lawless behavior reveals that the life that was once in the person has in some way disappeared.   Wisdom as a source of guidance and action are replaced by compulsion or impulsive reactivity creating more hell.  Instead of a lake of still water resonating within there are either churning, stormy gales or a dry hole. 

Hell is a place we create when we have lost the presence of God in the present moment.   Metaphorically, this is the Gehenna or hell of which Jesus spoke of the trash dump southwest of Jerusalem when useless items were taken and burned as trash because there was no more useful life within them.

Confessing Jesus means to allow the Spirit of Jesus to live through us—realizing we are One.  Jesus realizes that the world is afraid of Divine Love and will resist it, placing fealty in other things such as wealth, power, government, possessions and other false idols.  By living the truth in love in word and deed, others will sometimes react to us, as if we were transgressing against them. 

The Peace of God is to be embodied before we can be used to be a source of the Spirit’s peace to be implanted in others. 

The peace of God is an inner harmony that sustains us when there is conflict in the world.  At times like these, we must allow God to take us deeper into himself and his peace—a peace that the stock market, politics and other things of this world cannot give, even though the world promises a paradise that only turns out to be counterfeit.

We lose things because we are forgetful and cannot recall where we put them.

Jesus is telling us that we will lose things—people and places too as we continue to make choices about what we regard as ultimate in our lives.  

A question to ask ourselves is:  “What is it that we fear losing most?   Jesus taught us that what we are to fear most is the loss of our soul.  

Fear not.  God has a hold of us and he will never let us go.  Be still and feel the heartbeat of God within your own.

Amen.