Luke 12:32-40

Six Important Words

August 7, 2016

We hear a lot of words every day. Some words that we hear are full of meaning to us and some seem to be meaningless. Some words that we hear excite us and some bore us. Some words that we hear comfort us and some upset us. Some words that we hear we can’t seem to get enough of and some we wish would stop. 

I have a question:

When are just six words enough?

When do just six words give us comfort and strength?

When do just six words have power and real meaning when we hear them?

The answer is:

When the six words are the words spoken by Jesus at the beginning of our reading from Luke 12:32-40 for today. The six words that can comfort us and that have power for us when we hear them are:

“Do not be afraid, little flock.”

            That one short phrase can remind us of the countless times God offered reassurance, courage and strength to His people. Even if you are not sure that you remember all of the Bible stories you learned as a child, and even if you can’t recite impressive numbers of Bible passages, you can hang on to these six words, and these words can tell you volumes about God and the loving relationship God has with those who trust Him and have entered into His “flock.”

“Do not be afraid, little flock.”

            In our passage from Luke 12:32-40 Jesus is addressing His disciples. He begins by saying, “Do not be afraid.” Even if we didn’t have the rest of the passage, that phrase alone would be enough to speak to our hearts and offer us hope. When Jesus speaks these words, it’s as if He is recognizing that there would be people and events in our world that can disturb us, unsettle us or even make us afraid. Jesus knows what it is like to be human.  He has firsthand experience with danger, hardship, persecution and hate. Jesus knows that life can offer challenges that can be overwhelming and even debilitating. Notice that He does not tell His followers to ignore those sometimes harsh realities of life. We don’t have to pretend that hardships don’t exist. Yet in the midst of them, Jesus is offering us reassurance by saying, “Do not be afraid.” Yes, there may be times of sickness, challenge or sadness, but Jesus says “Do not be not afraid”. We are not alone in those challenging and even sad moments of our lives.

“Do not be afraid, little flock.”

            With those few words, Jesus brings us back to the very beginning of the Biblical story and reminds us of one of the overriding themes in the Bible. The phrase “do not be afraid” is found again and again when comfort and assurance are given to God’s people. All of us can take heart from these examples of God’s faithfulness.

In Genesis, God’s word comes to Abram, who is being called on a journey into the unknown. “Do not be afraid,” God says. God promises protection and presence. God will be there when most needed.

Moses gets to share these courageous words with the people of Israel when he tells them, “Do not be afraid” about trusting God as God leads them from slavery to freedom. It is no wonder they are filled with fear when their entire existence is about to be uprooted as a whole new life unfolds. Yet God promises to be on the journey with them.

Are you on the brink of a new chapter in your life? Do not be afraid, God is with  you.  

The prophet Isaiah speaks to a brokenhearted people who fear that they have been banished from their home land and their relationship with God. After defeat in war and enslavement by the Babylonians, the people of Israel hear the welcome news, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” This is truly heartwarming news to a people who must have felt cut off and forgotten by God.  

We hear these words again in the Gospel of Luke. “Do not be afraid” the angel  Gabriel says to Zechariah in the temple as the birth of John the Baptist is foretold. Gabriel repeats the reassurance to Mary when he announces the wondrous news of Jesus’ birth.Do not be afraid,” sings the angel to the terrified shepherds out in the fields. “I am bringing you good news of great joy.”     

Momentous change and transition can be frightening, yet we are always  promised God’s steadfast presence.  Over and over again and again in scripture God reaches out to His beloved people in times of crisis and loss. God showers reassurance on them, and on and us. When we hear Jesus echoing this refrain: “Do not be afraid, little flock” He is speaking to our deepest fears and reassuring us. 

Sometimes people suggest that faithful people should never be afraid, as if fear is a sign of doubt or lack of faith, but Jesus recognizes our human weakness and understands our frailties. He knows there will be times when fear will grip us, threaten to paralyze us, and keep us from knowing which way God wants us to go. That is when these six words address our deepest need. When Jesus speaks these words, He is reminding us of God’s faithfulness. We do not need to be afraid, not because there is a lack of frightening events or threats in the world, but because God is with us, just as God has always been with His people.

“Do not be afraid, little flock.” Jesus says. That one phrase reminds us of our spiritual ancestors who have passed down stories of God’s steadfast love. Our confidence is rooted in examples of God entering people’s lives during moments of crisis and extreme need. Our circumstances may actually be terrifying, yet God enters into our terrifying situations to calm our fears and guide our path. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says, because there are already thousands of years of Biblical stories that remind us of God’s commitment to those who trust Hm.

            Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid” are important, but His next two words are also filled with reassurance. Jesus calls His listeners “little flock.” He identifies His disciples as beloved children who will receive the unrelenting compassion and attention of a diligent caretaker. With these two words, Jesus reminds us that He is the Good Shepherd who will care for His sheep. As part of His “little flock,” we are encouraged to remember the dedicated shepherd in the 23rd Psalm. We rely on Jesus, who will lead us to still waters, restore our souls and offer us comfort when we need it most. As members of this little flock, we can be sure that Jesus will search for us if we should happen to lose our way or wander from God’s path. We can recall Jesus describing the rejoicing that takes place when a lost sheep is found and reunited with the flock. It is not only the entire flock that matters, but each individual member as well. Having 99 sheep will not be accepted as “good enough”,  this caring shepherd wants every single sheep to be gathered in. These two words, “little flock,” ring out with Jesus’ love and compassion. We are part of His little flock and we are invited to listen to the shepherd’s powerful voice. He offers himself as the door to the sheep, the one who will stand in the entrance of the sheepfold and guard against danger and threats.

 

“Do not be afraid, little flock.” Just six words, but they are enough to reassure us that we are known and cherished by God. These six words offer us an identity that even a cynical, often discouraging world cannot take away. The world might threaten to knock us down by trying to convince us that we are not good enough, rich enough, smart enough, or fashionable enough to be of great value. If we listen to voices of doubt, we could be convinced that we are too old, too weak or simply not skilled enough to make a difference. These voices could fill us with doubt about our value or ability. But the voice of Jesus defines who we are in God’s sight.  We are part of His flock, surrounded by His renewing love and therefore able to go into a needy world to make a difference.

 

“Do not be afraid, little flock.” These six words can embolden and empower us to be about the business of serving God and sharing God’s love in our community and the world. Because God promises to always be with us, we do not have to be afraid to enter into places of great need. God is already there. We do not have to wonder if we have the wisdom to confront confounding situations, the Good Shepherd will provide the guidance we need. We can take the words of Jesus to heart and be transformed by them.

 

            “Do not be afraid, little flock.”

 

Go into the world and offer the life-giving love of Jesus to a world that needs to receive it.  Amen.