Be Not Afraid
I don't know where you were on Thursday when you first heard about the attack on Fort Hood. I was just coming home and had the radio on when I heard the horrifying news. My first reaction was to say oh no, not again. We've witnessed too many similar horrors throughout the years from Columbine to an Amish school house to Virginia Tech. And each of these tragedies has something that makes them unique. This time it was the knowledge that it was an attack on soldiers by a soldier on American soil, rather than Afghanistan or Iraq where you expect to be under assault but not here, not on an Army base. And then I thought of our own people here who serve in the military some who have come to us from Fort Hood and it hit too close to home.
Our opening prayer the collect for the day said, in part, "O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal live: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure." Some days it feels that the works of the devil can't be destroyed soon enough and we wonder where the hope is. One reason such events as the Fort Hood attacks grab us is that they remind us of the fragile nature of life. Or as we frequently say in our closing blessing, Remember life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us.
Last Sunday, after our services, and after pronouncing this blessing I went home and discovered that the husband of a friend of mine had died that morning of a heart attack. He was two years younger than I am and there had been no previous indication of illness and suddenly he was gone. Attacks don't always come in the form of armed assailants. Does this reminder that life is short make you live in fear or live in hope? Or are you just saying to yourself, yeesh this is depressing I'm so glad that I came to church today.
But I repeat the questions, do you want to live in fear or live in hope? As a Christian I choose hope because hope is part of the DNA of Jesus that gets put into each of us when we come to Christ. Fear isn't of God. Time and time again in Scripture we hear the words, Be not afraid; fear not. They are almost always spoken by an angel of God to a fearful humanity. Be not afraid.
When people come to me for counseling, fear is almost always an element of that discussion. Most of what I do as a pastor in those situations is to help name that fear be it fear of a marriage breaking apart or fear of losing a job or fear of losing your sobriety or fear of losing your health of fear of losing your savings. In Scripture, Jesus has taught us that when you name your fears, God gives you power over them. Fear is not how Jesus would have us live. When you are afraid, you clench up inside but God says, "Be not afraid."
In First John, Jesus beloved disciple gave us the perfect description of God. He said, "God is love." Then he went on to say that perfect love casts out fear. When we allow ourselves to be immersed in the perfect love of Jesus Christ, fear begins to fade. Fear is not of God, it's of the Enemy and the Enemy can never stand up to the presence of love or to the presence of Jesus Christ. Be not afraid. Claim that DNA that is part of your Christian being.
In two of our Scripture lessons for this morning we read of two sets of women who are destitute - all of them widows in a society where that meant having no security, no means of providing for yourself or anyone else. The widow Naomi sends her equally widowed daughter in law Ruth to a distant kinsman in hopes of providing for her. Naomi says, "I need to seek some security for you so that it may be well for you."
I want to say the same thing to you today only I don't want to send you to some distant person who may or may not care. I too feel the need to say to you, "I need to seek some security for you so that it may be well for you." And the best security, the best comfort I know is Jesus Christ. I want you wrapped in that comforter of love to keep the chill of the world, the flesh and the devil away from you. Wrapping yourself in that comfort will not necessarily protect you from attack but you will find that the Christ-like DNA within you gives you the peace and resilience that can't be found any where else.
Somewhere in our area there is a Honda van that has just one bumper sticker. I sometimes feel that the driver must be an angel because I always seem to see this van when I'm feeling down. The bumper sticker has just three words, "Be not afraid." And every time I see that I am reminded of who I am and whose I am.
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal live: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure. That when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom. Amen.