BELONGING TO OTHERS – “Friends and Enemies”
March 17, 2019
As humans, we confess we have much to fear, whether from friends or enemies.
May we recognize and accept fears while bravely continuing to follow God’s purposes.
Today is St Patrick’s Day – just out of curiosity, how many of you wore something green today?
I distinctly remember St. Patrick’s Day at Westside Elementary School.
What I remember was that, if you didn’t wear green, you were liable to get pinched!
My fourth grade year, I somehow missed wearing anything green,
and I remember getting pinched by classmates.
My recollection is that much of the pinching was from the fingers of flirtatious
Even so, the next year, my fifth grade year, I made sure I wore something green.
Some of you may remember the popular 1980’s song “Kid Fears” by the Indigo Girls.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, both from Decatur, had many pop hits, including the song “Kid Fears”.
Are you on fire From the years, What would you give for your Kid fears? Your kid fears
Amy Ray wrote that “’Kid Fears’ is about the difficulty of growing up,
getting into a world where people know where your hiding places are and what your secrets are.”
When we are young, our fears may seem huge to us.
When we grow older, many would gladly return to those fears compared to their current troubles.
Jesus, in the 13th chapter of Luke, has set his face toward Jerusalem.
Since the 9th chapter, his purpose has been clear. He is moving toward Jerusalem to a show down of sorts.
His adversaries are on the prowl – the religious and legal leaders keep testing him, the political leader Herod Antipas has sent his spies to watch Jesus’ every move, real threats are being made on his life. Jesus knows that he is on a collision course with destiny, that in Jerusalem, he will meet a similar fate to other prophets who have gone before him.
When Jesus was a child growing up in Nazareth,we can imagine that he had many of the same fears as other children.
Perhaps the child Jesus was afraid of the dark or of disappointing his mother Mary.
When he became an itinerant rabbi and began to challenge the whole Temple system and those who profited from it, his fears matured.
Not only did he fear the method of his impending death as he moved toward Jerusalem, he feared for the life and health of the very people who would cry out to crucify him.
In the 13th chapter of Luke, Jesus refers to himself as a mother hen trying to protect her chicks and he refers to the people as baby chicks unwilling to enter the protection of his outstretched arms.
Significantly, Herod Antipas, ruler over Galilee and political striver,
is referred to as a fox. A fox is not an overly imposing figure for a human,
but for a mother hen and her chicks, a fox can be a threatening, terrifying presence.
Even so, the term “fox” has a double meaning of sorts.
An online commentator wrote that in Jesus calling Herod a fox,
Jesus was not simply implying that Herod was sly, rather he was commenting on Herod’s ineptitude, or his insignificant stature in the whole scheme of God’s plans.
Jesus was telling the people that Herod, despite his threats, in the whole scheme of God’s purposes, would end up being just a “small-fry” in history, a relatively “insignificant person”.
Jesus implied that Herod would not be remembered as a “lion” of a leader for his people, but the opposite, more like a “pompous pretender”. (www.jerusalemperspective.com)
At that very hour some Pharisees came to him and said, “Get away from here for Herod wants to kill you.” Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox for me, listen I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow and on the third day I will finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow and the next day I must be on my way because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. I often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing. See your house is left to you. But I tell you, you will not see me until the times comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
“You will not see me until the time comes when you say,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
In other words, Jesus was saying that they would not see him again until the day we call Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly on the back of a donkey, the Sunday before the Thursday when he gathers in the upper room with his disciples, the Sunday before the Friday when he would be crucified.
At the Confirmation retreat yesterday at Lake Lanier, it was good once again to spend time with those eighth graders and their mentors.
They are a thoughtful, mature, and insightful group. They ask great questions.
Allysen and I always offer them the opportunity to write down anonymously whatever question they like on 3×5 cards, and then we address their questions before the whole group.
Some of their questions reminded me of something Vernon said at the Wednesday night Bible study:
What you say about others reveals much about yourself.
For the confirmation class, the sort of questions they asked revealed a bit about who they are and what they are interested in or concerned about.
On Wednesday night, Vernon was talking about how our view of others and what we say of others often reveals our own fears and insecurities.
Jesus called Herod a fox. Again, in Hebrew, a fox is not a worthy lion of a leader to be respected, but a sly pretender, one who tries to survive and make their way.
But when Jesus also referred to himself as a mother hen trying to protect her chicks, he revealed the real and present physical threat that Herod represented.
Today, Sarah Junkin Woodard visits us from her mission in Nicaragua.
A bit over twenty years ago, Sarah was preparing to wrap up her work in Managua, ready to hand over five or more years of work to local people to carry it on as she returned to the States.
Then Hurricane Mitch happened. In 1998, Mitch swirled over Nicaragua for five days, dumping feet of water and rendering tens of thousands of people homeless and helpless.
Sarah said that she and others, despite the dangers, despite the fears,
either had to be part of the problem or part of the solution,
so they stayed to help the Nicaraguan people.
Twenty years later, they are still there, still helping people in dire need.
Fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined.” (dictionary.com)
Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor, claims that fear is a powerful and complex emotion, so complex, in fact, that we may not even realize when we are expressing it.
Men, in particular, may say: “I ain’t afraid of nothing. I ain’t scared of nobody.”
But “people don’t understand that anxiety is fear. Jealousy is fear. Greed is fear.
All of those are elements of a fear-based culture.”
Nearly anything that goes against God’s purposes may be motivated out of fear.
Dr. Brown continues: “Eating is fear. Drinking is fear. Drugs are fear. Rage is fear.”
Dr. Brown says that in our culture many tend to be afraid and act from fear;
“we just have to get to the point where we understand (our fear) doesn’t mean
that we can’t also be brave”; we cannot allow our fears to guide us.
When fears guide us, then tragedies like the shootings in New Zealand occur.
I John 4:18 proclaims: “Perfect love casts out fear,”
Living under God’s blessing of love instead of living in fear transforms our lives
and the lives of everyone around us.
What might it mean for us to live not in fear of neighbor, but in love for neighbor?
What could it mean for our state government or for our national foreign policy
to live in love for neighbor and not in fear of neighbor?
What would it mean for you to approach the most difficult people in your life,
whether they are friends or enemies, not with fear, but with the self-giving love of Jesus Christ?
As Shirley Guthrie would teach, Jesus is the human being we are all meant to be.
Jesus lived in perfect love for God and for others.
Fear, though surely present in his life, did not control his decisions and actions.
Even when friends deserted him and enemies surrounded him, Jesus was free –
free to live, free to love, free to go against the grain, free to speak the truth in
love, free to speak truth to power, free to give up his life,
free to lay down his life of his own accord so that others may live.
Since today is St Patrick’s Day, I will close with Saint Patrick’s Breastplate,
a fifth century prayer attributed to the great evangelist to Ireland.
A breastplate is the piece of armor that protects one’s vitals; this prayer is called his breastplate.
Though often surrounded by friends, St Patrick also encountered enemies and adversaries.
His prayer reveals a heart fearful of what could happen to him, but leaning wholly on the mercies of God:
I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity…
I bind to myself today…The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea,
The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today God’s Power to guide me, God’s Might to uphold me, God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me, God’s Ear to hear me, God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me, God’s Way to lie before me, God’s Shield to shelter me, God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature, Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near, Whether few or with many. I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets…Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today Against every poison, against burning, Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left…
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity…
On this St Patrick’s Day, as always, the power, strength and comfort of the Trinity is available to us, even in the midst of fear. Amen
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church