Sunday, April 7, 2013

From Fear to Faith

What is it like to live in fear?

Jesus Appears to His Disciples 
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 
Jesus Appears to Thomas 
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

John writes that, on that first Easter evening, 
“the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” John 20:19

The disciples had heard the witness of Mary, who told them she had seen the Lord, but they were still afraid.
They didn’t know what was going to happen next, they didn’t know if they would soon be arrested and crucified themselves, so they hid, in a locked room, and they huddled in fear.
“the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.”

Perhaps some of you know what this is like.
I can remember the days following 9/11, when many in America were afraid to leave their houses, certainly around the world people were afraid to fly on a plane, for days and weeks and even months thereafter.
I would imagine people in Christchurch following the two major earthquakes were afraid for days, weeks and even months in case there was another one even stronger than the last one. 
For me I remember when our son had a febrile convulsion and went blue without breathing that I thought he was going to die.
My husband has attempted suicide on a few occasions now and I have been afraid that he would die as a result. 
Other than that, I can’t recall being so fearful that I felt it necessary to lock myself inside to keep me and my loved ones safe.
And yet, I know that there are people for whom this is a daily reality:
·        people living in countries ravaged by war or neighborhoods plagued with random violence,
·        people whose lifestyles or religious beliefs or immigration status make them fearful of the authorities,
·        people who are so weakened by age or disease that even the normal challenges of life become dangerous to their health and well-being. 
There are often good reasons to be afraid, good reasons to be careful, good reasons to lock the doors and stay inside.
Even the disciples, who had locked the doors in fear of the religious and political authorities, had good reason to be fearful. 
The decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus were filled with persecution and violence, and the Book of Acts recounts many stories of the apostles being arrested, beaten, and killed for giving witness to their faith.
And yet here comes Jesus, knowing full well what had happened and what would happen, and he enters the room filled with fear, and he says, 
“’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  John20:21-22
Jesus takes their fear, and he replaces it with faith, sending them out into a dangerous world to be his witnesses.
He did not remove the object of their fear, he simply gave them the strength to overcome it, that they might be free to live life in the face of fear.
What about the rest of us?
Though our fears may not force us to lock our doors and stay inside, they can often influence how we live our lives in ways large and small.
We read of children being abducted in the streets, so while we don’t prevent our kids from ever playing outside, we certainly keep a closer eye on them.
We hear of drunk drivers causing accidents and wasting lives on our roadways, and while this doesn’t keep us from driving ourselves, we certainly try to be more cautious and alert.
We know of people who are struck down with life-threatening diseases, and while we know we can’t escape death forever, we try to be faithful in seeing the doctor and living a reasonably healthy lifestyle.

And yet, is this all the Holy Spirit empowers us to do, helping us to live lives that are safe and cautious, not controlled by our fears, but certainly not oblivious to them, either?
Or is there something more, something more profound, more radical, more life-affirming that God wants and needs us to be about?
Could it be that the Holy Spirit is offering us the strength and the courage and faith to take even greater risks, knowing that our ultimate destiny is safe in the hands of a loving and living God?

Before his arrest Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, 'I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do' (John 17:4 ).
In the final audit you will stand before God and He will ask you,
'What did you do with the gifts I gave you?
Did you fulfil your assignment on earth?'
In that moment, nothing will be more important than how you answer that question

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Look at the apostles; they did not leave that upper room to live lives of quiet, faithful witness, they proclaimed God’s message with boldness, often entering a city and going straight to the synagogue, directly challenging the religious establishment with their provocative claims that Jesus was the Christ, the crucified savior of all.
"We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
That is the theme of our passage from Acts, and, indeed, of this whole section from, chapters 3-8.
After the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is sweeping through Jerusalem with power to enable Peter and John and the other followers of Jesus to heal, to convert multitudes, and to speak boldly.
The result is that Jerusalem is in an uproar, and the disciples are repeatedly hauled before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious and political council, to account for what is happening.
But if we read further on in Acts 5 we see that the Sanhedrin were furious and wanted to put Peter and John to death.
But then an honoured Pharisee among the Sanhedrin talked and persuaded the council to release the disciples warning them not to speak about Jesus anymore, for fear that an uproar would occur, and we know the rest is history.

What about you?
What is it that the Holy Spirit is calling you to do, but fear is holding you back?
Is it confronting unethical or destructive behavior at your workplace or in your home or within our government and the decisions they are making?
Is it stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking a leadership role in a group you belong to or here in the town? Is it opening up your cheque book and sharing your resources in a way that you know will make a difference, letting go of the need to save it all for a rainy day?
God has given you talents and He wants you to use them.
They may lie dormant under layers of failure, fear or low self-esteem.
You may be aware of them, yet not know how to put them to work.
God’s Spirit is alive and well and breathing on us right now, offering us peace, and faith, and strength, and sending us out to be an “Easter people” in a world controlled by death and fear.
Our task is simply to breathe in that Spirit and accept the gift that God is offering us, allowing ourselves to become a people defined not by our fears, but by our faith, as we boldly set out to follow Christ into the dark and scary places of our world, trusting in the God who brings life out of death, and courage out of fear.
God can take something that looks like nothing, and create something wonderful with it.
Just think: He made the earth from nothing - so imagine what He can do when He has something to start with!
All it needs is for us to stop living in fear and stepping out in Faith
Today get down on your knees and pray,
'Father, help me to recognise and maximise the talents You have placed within me, and use them for Your glory.' That's a prayer God will answer!
Let us pray
Thank you Father for loving us before we even knew you. Thank you that you have a perfect plan for each of us no matter who we are or where we are in this life.
Help us to let go of the fear that is not of you but receive the faith you breathe on us by The Holy Spirit so that we may be bold and step out to be your human hands, feet, voice and ears.
Use us as we hear what you will have us do and may it bring all the glory to You and not to us so that others will know of Your awesome love and desire for all to live in the grace of You loving heart saved by Your Son Jesus shedding blood on the cross, dying and rising from the dead to be the first for all of us.
Help us to fulfill this task in the name of Jesus
Thanks be to God; amen.

Sermon Fiona Van Lent 7/4/13
All scripture is taken from New International Version 1984 

No comments :

Post a Comment