2nd Sunday after Pentecost—Year A—June 22, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What are you afraid of?
Do you have any phobias?
How does your body react when you encounter or even just think about your trigger?
I wouldn’t call it a fear, but I get really nervous when preparing to repel down the side of a mountain. My heart started racing, my stomach contracts and releases extra acid, I start to sweat, and nine times out of ten, my emotions come pouring out of my eyes in the form of tears.
You see the first time I ever broke the edge, which is the proper term for that first step of rock climbing. I sat down too far in my harness. My feet slipped out from under, went over my head, and I slammed against the side of the rock. Needless to say, I freaked out! The professionals had to pull me back up the rock, and I was done for the day. I did attempt to climb from the bottom up, but I did not again to repel from the top down until a whole year later.
With the same group of Lutheran youth and chaperones gathered around, I faced my fear, and after a couple of times of getting to the edge, getting really nervous—bodily response, tears, and all—someone decided to distract me by singing “I’m a Little Tea Pot” as the professionals hooked me into the proper lines, walked me backwards to the edge, and I stepped over. Believe it or not, it worked, I broke the edge 3 more times that day.
I am happy to report that I have never broke down in tears to the top of a cliff again. However, anytime I approach the edge, fully harnesses, and ready to walk backwards of a ledge, my body reacts in the same way—churning stomach, tight throat, maybe a little shaking and sweat—just no crying. Because instead of being scared-nervous, I’m excited-nervous!
Our bodies’ responses to fear and excitement are very similar; the difference comes only from how we interpret the signs. Either they can fuel our performance to be better, or they can make us feel overwhelmed, unprepared, and lead us to mess up or even give up.
So after today’s texts, which are you feeling?
Over the years, you have heard the “large print” of the Christian life highlighted—grace, community, love, forgiveness, daily bread, gifts of the spirit—along with, of course, some prayer, worship, work in the world, and evangelism. But today’s texts really highlight what one of my colleagues this week called the “fine print of the Christian life.”
- Jeremiah 20:7-13
- Psalm 69:7-18
i. “suffered reproach”
iii. become a stranger/alien
iv. eaten up
vii. murmured and sung about
- Romans 6:1b-11
- Matthew 10:24-39
i. Kill the body
ii. Set families against one another
iii. Take up cross
What is your bodily response to that list? Are is stomach turning in knots, is your pulse raising, are you started to sweat, or breathing swallower?
Are you nervous or scared?
The Christian life is not always easy. Although we are no longer living in a society where being Christian is against the law…it still might cause divisions among families, heartbreaks when no “progress” is seen, or a sense of loneliness and isolation when there are arguments and disagreements within the community.
But with all this potentially depression fine print of side effects, comes a reiteration of the promise that starts it all! The label on your Baptism does not say, “in case of any of these side effects, contact your doctor immediately,” it says (or would say if a label actually existed), “Do not be afraid. God’s got you. Call on God anytime. God will not let you fall. You are of more value than a sparrow. The Lord is with you. Yell at God if you need to…God can take it.”
So no matter what you are afraid of. Regardless of whether you would call it a fear or just something that makes you a little nervous, whether you think it was brought on by your Christian vocation—speaking truth to a crowd that doesn’t want to hear your prophecy, isolation because of your beliefs, or fear you are not equipped enough to do God’s work—or is just a side effect of this life, no matter what is ailing you. God offers you comfort and reassurance.
Sometimes we forget about the fine print of the Christian life, but just as often we might forget about the fine print of the fine print. In the face of adversity, God is with you and there is no need to be afraid. Fear is usually just excitement with a little self doubt when we forget about God. Amen.