12th Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2015
“Are You Afraid of God?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon this morning is the first lesson read earlier from Psalm 139.
My dear friends,
What are you afraid of? Deep down in the darkness of your life where you don’t like to look, what’s down there that makes you afraid? I think it is a well established fact by now around here that I fear and do not care for snakes or needles…both of which I had to face this past week.
Long before I feared needles, I feared Dr. San Guinary. Who’s that, you ask? Well, back when TVs didn’t get 400 channels but instead got 4, and nothing was in HD because reception depended on how well the antenna was pointed, programming was a bit limited in the early and mid 1970s. Our local NBC affiliate in Omaha, NE dressed up producer John Jones in a bloody lab coat in a wacky lab and he hosted a scary movie every Saturday night starting at 10:30 PM on “Dr. San Guinary’s Creature Feature.” Looking back on it all now I see it as cornball shtick, but when you’re a 7 year old, that was scary stuff late at night!
Again, what are you afraid of? A few years back, Forbes Magazine worked with the Anxiety Disorders Association of America to identify what people are most commonly afraid of. Here’s the list of most come fears that cause behavioral responses: bugs/mice/snakes/bats, heights, water, public spaces/transportation, storms/thunder/lightning, and closed spaces. That’s Forbes Magazine. I still want to know what YOU are afraid of. Don’t say “hurricanes” because that’s too obvious. Outliving your money? That you will pass away before your spouse? Your physical health giving out or losing your mobility or that your body will give out way before your mind? Are you afraid of losing your relationship with your children or grandchildren? Well, I don’t want to be the one to add to your list of fears, but are you afraid of God? Sure sounded like David was.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (139:1-5, ESV). Whoa. Think about that for a second. God knows exactly where you are, what you’re thinking, what you’re saying, and what you’re going to say 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How do you hold up to that kind of scrutiny? David continues. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me…If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me…even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (139:7-12, ESV). Hear that? God stands on each side of us, before and behind us. There is no way out. There is NOWHERE to run; NOWHERE to hide.
Then again, why would you want to run away? God is just an elderly man with a long white robe and a beard and a staff and He wears sandals and He just wants to hug everyone. So…why be afraid? Why try to escape like David wanted to? There is no reason to flee from a God who is nothing more than a benevolent old man, a father who guarantees our immortality and final happiness. Why try to escape from someone who serves us so well? Reality check folks! That’s not what God looks like. No, that is not so much an accurate image of God, but rather of US, trying to make God in our own image and for our own comfort. That way of thinking is a product of our imagination and our wishful thinking.
Who can stand to be known so thoroughly even in the darkest corners of his soul? We know and acknowledge it in our liturgy: “If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord…” (who could stand?) God knows what we are; and He knows what we do. Every moment of every day. Wow…doesn’t us being known like that make God extremely angry at our sinful rebellion and failure to do His will? Maybe so…and maybe that’s why David wanted to run. Maybe we should too…but where are we going to go? Let me ask you again…are you afraid of God?
Yes, God knows you and yes, God sees you and yes, God knows every single inch of your being…and He LOVES it because of the cross of Christ. God sees you through the filter of Calvary’s sacrifice, and what God sees through that filter – a filter of blood sacrifice and Baptismal washing – is something that He loves very much.
How does the best-known Bible verse in the world – John 3:16 – begin? “For God so LOVED the world.” Consider 1 John 4: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:9-10, ESV). John continues his thought. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (4:18-19, ESV).
And there it is. Because of love, we don’t need to fear or be afraid of God! God is not sitting in heaven with an itchy trigger finger just waiting to smite you at any given moment. When He looks at you He does so in love and that love, shown to us in Jesus, compels us to love others, forgive others, share the Gospel with others, and find a sense of calm, hope, and peace that only God provides in this chaotic world.
Are there things in life you should fear? Absolutely: sharks, Anthrax, etc. Is God one of them? Definitely, categorically, unquestionably not! Fear God’s wrath against sin, but know that His wrath was poured out on Christ Jesus and not you. Find comfort in that fact that God knows every inch of you, He loves every inch of you, and He has saved every inch of you by the loving sacrifice of Jesus our Lord.
John Jones, who played Dr. San Guinary, died in 1988 from cancer. I’m no longer a 7 year old…more like 47 (okay…I’m 48). I’m not afraid of late night television or monster movies anymore. I’m not afraid of cancer. And I’m not afraid of God because He loves me in Christ and I love Him in return. Face the fears of your life armed with the love of God in Christ and you’ll find that God’s love is bigger than any of your fears, including even an unnecessary fear of Him.