Lent 2 March 17 2019
We are 2 weeks into the Season of Lent, , the six weeks in the Church year when we focus on what God has done for us through the death of Christ for our sins and our response to God’s great love for us. One way we can respond to God’s great love for us is by trusting God in times we might be tempted to be overcome by fear.
My Dad used to tell us the story of an incident in World War II. The best German fighter plane in World War II was nicknamed the Fokkwolf. It was a terror in the skies for Allied planes. Dad was a B-24 Bomber pilot in Europe, and used to tell us the story of how one day in the Mess Hall of his home field in southern Italy there was a sign sporting a picture of the Fokkwolf with this caption: Who’s Afraid Of The Big Fokkwolf? Without much hesitation Dad took out his pen and wrote under the picture and caption: I am. Billy D. Hayes. Before long, most of the other pilots at his home field had done the same.
Fear may be a healthy emotion at times. It at least can keep us from being too rash or too foolish or overconfident. But at other times fear is not so good.
Our Old Testament and Gospel lessons for today are about, among other things, fear.
“O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless”
You can hear the fear in Abram’s voice.
Our Old Testament lesson is about one of the times God came to Abram, whose name, of course, was eventually to be changed to Abraham, and promised him that his descendants would inherit the land on which he was tanding. Abram watned to believe this, but there was one problem. God promised him this years before, but after many years he still had no children. How could Abram’s descendants inherit the land if he had no descendants? Had he followed and trusted God for nothing? Was there no reason for what he had done? Had he given up his family and fortune and followed God for no reason? Could God be trusted? Fear that God would not make good on His promises must have gripped Abram. There must have been some fear on Abram’s part that the circumstances of his life were going to keep God’s promises from being fulfilled. Questions like “Could God be trusted?” and “Was God really in charge?” must have run through Abram’s mind.
“Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
The Pharisees were tying to strike fear in Jesus’ heart and get Him to abandon His mission and ministry. Our Gospel lesson tells of the time some of the Pharisees told Jesus of Herod’s plot to kill Him. This message may have been intended to strike fear in Jesus, and it probably did strike fear in the hearts of some of his followers. Could it be that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem but that Herod was going to kill Him on the way? Jesus was teaching that He was going to Jerusalem to die, and yet rise again, but could it be that His death was now immanent at any moment and at the hands of Herod? And if Herod killed Jesus what would happen to them? It may have looked like the circumstances of life were going to keep Jesus’ promises from coming true. Could Jesus be trusted?
God reassures Abram that He can be trusted. God repeats His promise of descendants to Abram, then in a vivid picture of an ancient covenant ceremony God commits Himself to fulfill that promise. God commits to keep God’s word. God says, in effect. that it doesn’t matter what the circumstances of life may look like, God and God’s promises can be counted on. God was in charge of Abram’s life, not the circumstances of being childless.
“Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.” Jesus responds to the Pharisees. In other words, Jesus says that it doesn’t matter what Herod wants to do to Him, what matters is God’s plan for Him. Herod can’t interfere with God’s plan.
Aren’t there times in our lives when we let the circumstances of our lives scare us and make us afraid? Aren’t there times when the things happening in our lives strike fear in us? Aren’t there times the circumstances of our lives cause us to doubt God’s plan for us? Don’t we, like Abram, look around sometimes and wonder if God and God’s plan for our lives can be trusted? Can’t we understand how Abram felt, simply because we’ve been there, too?
There are times that I am. Aren’t you?
What are some of the things that scare us? What about the present economic situation? It’s scary! What about the escalating violence in the world and even in our community? It’s scary! What about poverty, hunger, and homelessness? Problems we used to think were “out there somewhere” have come closer to home, and that can be scary. What about debilitating illness? The thought of getting a debilitating illness can scare even the most healthy of us, and those who have a debilitating illness can be very scared at times. And then there is the thought of death. The thought of our own death or the death of a loved one can truly scare us.
These are just some of the things that can scare us and there are many, many more. Many circumstances of life do indeed scare us, and sometimes we are so scared we want to throw up our hands and say: “Lord — don’t you see what’s happening?” “Can’t you tell what we’re up against?” “Don’t you care?”
Friends, we need to hear again the words of God to Abram. We need to hear again God’s promise to be with him, that the circumstances of childlessness did not mean that God’s promises would not be fulfilled. We need to hear again God’s promise that God was in charge of Abram’s life, regardless of how desperate the situations of Abram’s life may have looked,
We need to hear again Jesus’ words that regardless of what Herod may do or want to do, He knew God was in charge.
The things of life don’t have to strike fear in us, or at least they don’t have to take away our conviction that God is with us, regardless of how desperate our circumstances may appear. In prayer, Bible Study, and Worship we can get another vision of our circumstances, especially those circumstances of life that scare us. As Abram worshipped God he received a new vision of God’s presence and God’s promise to be with him. As we pray, study, and worship we can get a new vision for the fact that regardless of life and how it may appear, God is with us to strengthen us. God is with us to strengthen us to cope with and overcome the things that scare us. God is even with us to give strength to others who are contending with their own fears.
God was with Dad as he flew against those scary Fokkwolves. God was with Abram as he journeyed on in faith. God was with Jesus as He journeyed to the cross.
There’s another expression my Dad used to talk about from from World War II. When planes would get damaged by the enemy, but the pilot successfully landed the plane, they sometimes said they flew home “on a wing and a prayer.”
God’s wings hold us up and sustain us when we face the hard times of our lives. Prayer is when we give our problems and troubles to God, and let God strengthen us and sustain us.
The author Max Lucado writes:
“Jesus is not afraid of the things that cause us fear. He never said ‘Don’t bring your fears to me. I’m too busy.’ Instead, He says: ‘I’m not afraid of the things that cause you fear. Bring your fears to me.”
We can take our fears to Jesus. He wasn’t afraid of Herod and He is not afraid at all of the scary things in our lives, but He strengthens us to cope with them.
We don’t have to be afraid. Amen.