THE 3RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Matthew 10:5a, 21-33
Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven
So… what are you afraid of? An exercise in fear. Yes, these last few months have been an exercise in that for many of us. Fear. Yes, those in authority over us have made use of it to get us to do, what they wanted us to do, when it comes to Covid 19. No, doubt they felt this fear themselves, as they said what they said and did what they did to instil it in us. Dads after all who try to instil a healthy fear of a busy road in their children, do so because they fear what could happen if their children should run out onto it.
No, I don’t think that this was just some elaborate mind control experiment or a way for those that God has set in authority over us to grasp more power, but instilling fear is a tried and true mind control technique and without question our Governments have taken on powers and taken away rights in never before seen ways. Fear, yes, fear is very powerful thing that can be used for good or bad depending on who makes use of it. Godly fear can help us to live a good and Godly life, whereas a worldly fear can drive us away from God and into sin.
So… what are you afraid of? Death? Yes, there’s a lot of that around these days. Many are anxious and afraid of what Covid 19 could do to them or those that they love. Afraid of death and even more so in some cases afraid of the actual dying. With the extreme measures that we have taken to try and put a stop to the virus, there can be no question that our society as a whole fears death. Which is a little odd, given that our government is set to enact the most permissive euthanasia or assisted suicide legislation in the world. Odd, yes, but then again perhaps not, because assisted suicide is simply an attempt to take control over something that we fear.
Yes, people are afraid of dying and death. Some would say that it is that fear, that helps to keep us alive, but as many are finding out it is not the nicest way to live, no, it’s not. Huddled away in our homes behind locked doors for fear of what’s out there and what it might do to us - keeping everyone, even our nearest and dearest far from us, no, that’s not nice to say the least. A Father’s day socially distanced from Dad? Unable to be with the man who’s been with you from the start or to hug the man who used to hold you on his knee? Yes, you wouldn’t be able to do those things if he died from Covid 19, but it’s kind of crummy that Covid 19 is robbing you of them even now.
Yes, people are afraid of dying and death and because of it they are praying, as they have never prayed before. No, not all are, but more are than normally do. Even a small number of atheists and agnostics have admitted to having been moved to pray. Covid 19 is turning people to God, no, not by the millions, but if it moves even one to return to their heavenly Father, it would be worth it, in God’s eyes anyway. Yes, people are praying that God will spare them and save their lives and the lives of those that they love from this virus. I know that I have, perhaps you have too.
It is the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure that most of you know that. It’s what God wants us to do with all our anxieties, fears and cares. Over and over again throughout the scriptures He calls on us to cast our burdens upon Him, to call on Him in the day of trouble, to ask and He will answer. As our God who just wants to be our God, who has numbered every hair of our heads and doesn’t even let a sparrow fall to the ground apart from Him, He wants to do all the worrying for us. And so in these troubled days, in the midst of all our worries and cares, He calls on us to repent of trying carry our own load, as though we were our own gods, and instead, turn and let it all go by leaving it all in His most capable hands.
We are right, beloved, in the midst of all our fears to entrust our lives day by day into the Lord’s hands, but as the Lord speaks to us today, He has something even greater that He wants to do for us. As He speaks to us today about our fears, and especially the fear of death at the hands of others or as in our day at the hand of Covid 19, He calls on us to fear God more than others or anything else, even a contagious potentially deadly virus. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
More fear? Greater fear? Is that what really need, beloved? According to Jesus, yes. Because God not only wants to save us from death you see, He wants to set us free from having to live in fear of it. God wants us to fear Him more than anyone or anything else to set us free from living in fear of it all - because it is not the life that He created us for and it is no way to live. He wants to deepen us in the truth that He is greater than anyone or anything that can come against us, so that the fear of Him can drive all other fears from our hearts.
The truth is, beloved, the Lord not only wants to save you from death, He wants to set you free to despise it. Death? What is death to me? Death is a mere nothing compared to my good God. A cross and an empty tomb make it perfectly clear, that when it comes to death and the Lord there just is no contest. O death where are your plagues? O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? No, beloved, death is not anything that you should fear. The Son of God has overcome death with His victorious resurrection and He has overcome your death by your baptism into Him.
Death has no claim on those that Christ has claimed as His own. It cannot and will not snatch them out of His hand. For God’s children to live is Christ, to die is gain. No, there is nothing for those that the Lord has redeemed from death to fear in it. And if there is nothing to fear in death, then there is nothing to fear in what might bring us to it - not even Covid 19. No, beloved there is nothing to fear even in dying, because our dying like that of the sparrow’s will not happen apart from our heavenly Father or His only begotten Son our Saviour. As promised, when it comes time for us to die the Lord Jesus will come and take us home to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God.
Fear not then, beloved, for you are of more value than many sparrows, the Lord leaves that in no doubt today as He sets the price that He paid to save you out on the altar in His body and blood. Yes, the God who gave His only begotten Son to suffer and die on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins has numbered every hair on your heads, your days and lives are in His hands and He will not fail you. Amen.