“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 11, 2019

“Fear Not, Little Flock” (Luke 12:22-34)

“Fear not,” the Lord tells Abram in our Old Testament Reading for today. “Fear not,” Jesus tells his disciples in the Holy Gospel. “Fear not.” “Fear not.” Do these “fear nots” have you tied up in knots? Are you worried that you’re not good enough of a Christian, because you do have fears, you do have worries? Well, instead of being tied up in knots, realize today that these “fear nots” come with promises attached. And that makes all the difference. And so our theme this morning: “Fear Not, Little Flock.”

What are your fears? What scares you, what causes you to be afraid? Mass shootings at a school or workplace? The stock market plummeting and your retirement savings going down with it? Maybe you’re worried about your kids or grandkids, how they’re going to turn out, whether they will live a responsible life and stay with the church or go astray with the culture. There are many things we could be worried about, many things that could cause us anxiety.

What are people generally afraid of or anxious over, around the world and throughout human history? The most basic anxieties are things like having enough food and clothing and shelter. Of course, in our country we tend to be more concerned about having too much food. We’re worried about our weight. We’ve got plenty of clothes, and we’ve got a roof over our head. Perhaps we’re worried about paying for all of this stuff, that’s true. But most of us are not suffering from any lack of food, clothing, or shelter.

What other worries might we have? Our health? Are you worried what a colonoscopy might reveal? Or a medical diagnosis like cancer, diabetes, or autoimmune disease? Are you worried over the fact that you’re getting older, and what that might mean in terms of loss of your independence or the burden that you’d place on others? Are you afraid of losing your husband or wife? Suffering and loss are things that people generally and genuinely are afraid of.

And then there’s the big one: Death. Lurking around in the back of our minds, and sometimes moving to the forefront, is the prospect of our own mortality. Unless Jesus comes back first, we’re all going to die, every single one of us.

So even if we’re fairly well off, we still can find enough things to worry about, to be anxious over, to be afraid of. And not without cause, if we’re honest about it.

So what do we do with these fears? What can we do? I suppose we could play the stoic and keep a stiff upper lip. Just ignore our fears and anxieties and pretend they don’t exist. That would be one way to stuff our fears or suppress them. Some people try to escape through alcohol or binge-eating or binge-watching Netflix. But maybe we don’t do such a good job of getting rid of our fears, of hiding them away. They have a way of showing up somewhere else, in one form or another, whether in hypertension or stress or taking it out on others. But none of those coping mechanisms really deal with our fears in an effective way.

Now at this point I suppose I could just tell you what to do: “Have faith! You gotta believe! Just work up a stronger faith and you won’t have all these fears.” Or I could point you to those heroes of faith we read about in Hebrews 11: Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham–oh yeah, especially Abraham! And you can throw in his wife, Sarah, in there too. The Faith Hall of Fame! “By faith” Abel did this. “By faith” Enoch or Noah did that. Same with Abraham: “By faith.” So now you too, go and do likewise! Follow in the footsteps of these heroes of the faith. Imitate their example. You too can overcome fear by faith! But such an overly simplistic understanding of faith does not do the job. Just telling you not to fear doesn’t do away with your fears.

Brothers and sisters, what lies at the root of all of our fears? It is indeed our lack of faith. Our worries and anxieties are the result of our lack of trust in God. Basically, we don’t think God really cares about us enough or loves us or will take care of us in the future. And that is the oldest lie in the book. Literally. Adam and Eve fell for that lie, and we’ve been falling for it ever since. We doubt God’s word: “Did God really say?” We think God is holding out on us. He’s trying to spoil our fun. I think I can make a much better god for myself.

But then I find out I’m not such doing such a good job of being my own god after all. I mess things up. But the real God? I don’t trust him to look out for me. That’s too scary. I don’t know what he might let happen. And so my fears and my anxieties increase. I’m afraid God won’t come through for me. I’m fearful like Adam was, when he ran away and hid.

But doesn’t God tell us to “fear not”? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do, if we’re good Christians? I mean, the Lord told Abram, “Fear not.” Jesus tells his disciples, “Fear not.” Maybe we better stop being afraid, or else we’ll really have something to be afraid of!

But that would be to misread these texts and take them out of context. These “fear nots” are not simply more commands that we better obey or else. Rather, they are reassurances. They’re meant to relieve our fears, not to increase them. For these “fear nots” come with promises attached. And because they do, these “fear nots” will keep your life from becoming unraveled!

The “fear nots” of God come with promises attached. They come with a reason, a basis, for why you should not fear. And these reasons are rooted in who God is and what he has done for you–and will do for you in the future. This is gift, this is promise, this is good news!

Why need we not fear? Because God’s promise is that he will take care of you. He loves you and cares for you from beginning to end. God is your loving Father, who loves you even more than you love yourself. He knows what’s best for you. He knows what you need, even before you ask him. This is what Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus says to us today:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”

Dear children, God is your kind and loving heavenly Father. Trust him to take care of you. Don’t be anxious. Fear not. That’s what Jesus says. And because Jesus is the one who says it, you can believe it. Look at what Jesus has done for you! He did something you could never do. He overcame death! For you! Jesus has conquered your biggest fear, the fear of death. Even more, death under the judgment of God, separated from him. Jesus dealt with that very real fear, and did so decisively. He took death and God’s judgment onto himself, in your place. Christ’s atoning death on the cross took away God’s wrath and brings you God’s mercy.

Now you know that God is for you and cares about you, no matter what. As Romans 8 says: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Or, as Jesus puts it, when you have God’s kingdom, then all these other things “will be added to you.”

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Friends, this is your greatest treasure, and it is a gift! The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. If you have the kingdom, then you have everything you need with it. So there’s no need for fear. Christ’s “fear not” comes with a promise attached: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It’s the Father’s good pleasure, meaning, he really enjoys giving it to you! He gives you the kingdom, and all that that means, through his Son, Jesus Christ, with whom he is well pleased. God gives peace to men, the peace of heaven here on earth, out of his good pleasure. The kingdom is the gracious rule of God in our lives through the gospel. God’s kingdom consists in his gifts of righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, life, and salvation–all the good gifts we receive in Christ Jesus our Savior.

So fear not. You are not able, by being anxious, to add a single hour to your span of life. But Christ is able, by his death and resurrection, to add not just hours but endless ages upon ages to your life! His gift of eternal life is yours today. Don’t worry about it!

My friends, the “fear nots” of God come with promises attached. The promise of a kind and loving heavenly Father, who will take care of you from day to day, all your days. The promise of forgiveness of sins and peace with God. The promise of everlasting life. All these promises are tied to Christ Jesus, your Savior. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.”

“Fear not, little flock.” And, yes, St. Matthew’s is a little flock. We’re not many in number. Still, “Fear not, little flock.” We may be little, but the big thing is, we are Jesus’ flock! And so Jesus, our Good Shepherd, speaks a “fear not” to us today. And it comes with a promise attached: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

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Published in: on August 10, 2019 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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