9th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
[Genesis 15:1b] – “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
In his inauguration on March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
I think I would have to disagree with Mr. Roosevelt. I believe there are things to fear in this world. For instance, a friend of mine in California, a female with three children, recently told me of how a homeless man, dressed only in his underwear, was seen by her neighbors as trying to break into her home. She and her children weren’t home at the time and her next door neighbor scared the man away.
She sent me an email saying the police suggested video cameras, motion detectors, lights at all entry points. She asked, “In your spare time, could you please find out what type of outdoor camera I might be able to use on the front and back doors? No wires, battery operated, motion activated and manageable through a mobile app. If it has voice/speaker that would be good too.”
She is trying to protect her family by creating a shield of alarms and lights. She is rightly worried about strange and dangerous people trying to break into her home.
We worry about our lives in this realm. ‘How am I going to pay the rent?’ ‘Are my children safe?’ ‘How am I to pay for my hospital bills?’ Do we worry because our faith is lacking or do we lack faith because we worry?
Last week we heard Jesus instruct his disciples on mistaking the things of this world as important. The rich man died in his earthly wealth and all his gathering and collecting of his treasure was in vain. His wealth did not save him from death, nor did it bring him to life with God.
Shipmates of mine expressed their fear and anxiety to me when our ship deployed into the Persian Gulf and other ‘hot-spots’ around Indonesia and North Korea. I never did have any fear while onboard my ship no matter what the circumstances. The only time I ever feared for my life was when I was on land in a foreign port.
Why did I fear harm? It was not because of the crazy taxi drivers, which was a very real fear, but because on land, I was merely flesh and blood. On land, I did not have armor plating or machine guns to protect me. On solid ground I was not surrounded by my fellow shipmates who would all work together so that all would survive. For me, when I was in harm’s way, my shield was my ship, my crew and, of course, my God.
We have all experienced the fear and doubt in the unknown that could only be overcome by faith. When we were children, our shield was our parents. They protected us from the evils of this world. They would stand before us and take the blows and worries of the world. As children, we knew our home was safe and when outside our homes, our parents were there to keep us from harm.
If we only had the faith of a child! As we get older, our faith in the world becomes weaker; we search for our worldly shields. Many search for answers to restore their faith, but we are no longer children. We no longer have the childlike trust in our father’s assurances. Our worry and fear cloud our relationship with our father in heaven. We look for salvation in the works of human hands.
‘I must earn more money to insure my child’s future.’ we say. Or, ‘I must save up equity to guarantee my retirement.’ Or, ‘My mutual funds are my safety net.’
“… all the nations of the world seek after these things” [Luke 12:30a]
Jesus is by no means telling us to lead slothful lives. He is not saying we should sit idly and wait for all things to come to us. Jesus is telling us to trust in Him for the Father who is creator of all sent Him.
Will worry extend your life? Some would argue the opposite happens. Will faith and trust in Christ extend your life? Yes – to eternity.
Like Abraham, we start to question if God is really looking out for us. We question if our Father in heaven is still there to protect us from evil. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God to ‘deliver us from evil’, but do we always believe in His deliverance?
I see the church here on earth as my shield. I see my brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow travelers in this world, looking out for one another. We have a common goal and mission, to fight our great enemy of sin and the Devil.
We may go out into the world alone and be beaten by the armies of Satan’s hand. We may stumble, fall or be led astray into some dark alley of desire, but the Holy Spirit is always with us. With him, we can return to the safety of our home here on earth, the church.
In this house we are protected from the world. Here we can rest and regain our strength. In this sanctuary we not only receive the refreshing communion of the Holy Spirit with our brothers and sisters, but we also receive the life-giving communion of the very body and blood or our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here we pray with one voice to our Redeemer and never failing shield.
Some say God does not hear our prayer. Some say God does not get involved with our lives. Yet God is more involved with your life than you may think.
The sun would not rise but for the will of God. The birds of the air and the lilies of the field would not thrive if not for the will of God. Your heart would not beat if not for the will of God. No one can defy or deny the power of the creator of all things. Even Jesus prayed to his father and ours, “Thy will be done.”
Yet still we seek out comfort and help from things of this earth rather than having faith in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Remember the faith of Abraham, Enoch, Abel and Noah? Theirs was considered righteous before God.
Because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of every last one of us, our faith is no longer lacking. Because of Christ’s victory over death through his resurrection, our baptism gives us the faith of Christ to replace our own. Thank God that we no longer walk this earth with our obedience to the laws of God as our only recourse to righteousness.
God’s hand is our shield and our sanctuary. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we are now children of God and heirs to His kingdom. Jesus now holds us in the palm of his hand where we are always safe and secure. We may sometimes fear what we see in this world but we can take comfort in the knowledge of our strength and shield of Christ Jesus.
For Christ’s sake, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” [Luke 12:32b] St. Luke tells us. We desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called our God, for he has prepared for us a city. [Hebrews 11:16]
The faith of Christ dwells within you through the power of the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit given to the disciples by Christ’s own breath.
Through water and the Word, the Holy Spirit has made your heart His home. That same heart, created by the Father which beats with life by the will of God, does not worry about food or clothing.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [Luke 12:32]
Our heart is our treasure – God’s treasure, the Holy Spirit’s treasure – where our heart is, is where our treasure resides.