Friday, July 3, 2015
Do not be afraid.
Elisha had the call of the Lord on him; he could not plow nor sow any longer so the oxen were slaughtered and the pursued the Lord who had bidden in the still small voice to Elijah. The kingdom of God will not take second place in our lives – not for mighty prophets of old or old pastors today or a people gathered in the Lord’s house on a Thursday morning.
The disciples found it just this way on the Lake of Genneserat. The biggest catch of their lives was threatening to sink them and Peter says to Jesus “Get away from me.” To follow Jesus means to leave behind every fisherman's dream.
Who among us will not admit some fear in this call? Some of it is borne from the fear of not being up to what God is calling us to. Some of it is the fear of leaving behind the known and familiar in face of that we do not know and perhaps are rightly suspicious. Some of it is the surrender of control that lays its doubts at the foot of Jesus wondering if Jesus will do what He has promised. And some of it is just plain fear because we have learned that if you expect the worst, you will probably not be disappointed.
Don’t be afraid? But how can I not be afraid? Mothers who send their children out in to the world know the world is a dangerous place and it is still dangerous for those who are born in but not of it. Dads who struggle to protect and provide know that the older their children are, the harder to help and fix the hurts and wounds of this mortal life. And the children who stretch their wings know that while some fly high, all will crash and burn at some time or another. Life since the Fall of Eden is filled with fear. Our homes have become as much places of refuge as they are welcome stations for guests. Husband and wife, parent and child, neighbor and friend – we often prefer the misery we know to the fearful future we cannot predict.
Part of that fear is our suspicion of Christ and of His Kingdom. Elijah lamented that he had done all the Lord asked of him and not he alone was left to bow his knee before Him. Every pastor has felt that fear. The disciples knew how to fish but they did not know how to witness for the kingdom. They were rightfully fearful of a calling in which the primary vocation was trusting what you could not control or see or predict. Every pastor has felt that fear. And now we have a new pastor among us who will learn the sad truth that the shepherding of God’s people is a vocation fraught with fear and requiring trust.
I wake up every morning wishing to fulfill my sinful desire and control my destiny but the call of God is a call to faith -- especially for pastors. Elijah learned not to trust in what his eyes saw but to trust the Lord. Elisha learned to burn his bridge behind him and trust his future to the Lord. The disciples on Lake Genneserat learned to leave behind the familiar fishing for the uncertain calling fishing for men. The world rejects such call and will not trust unless the risk can be balanced by reward. But we are called to trust, to follow the Lord in ventures of which we know not the ending through paths as yet untrod. “Do not be afraid,” says Jesus. It is painful and awkward and unpopular and uncomfortable. The way of life in the Kingdom demands faith because there is nothing else.
The primary vocation of every Christian is trust. Leaving behind the tried and true for the unknown of God and His kingdom. Exchanging the familiar present with the promise of that which is to come. Leaving our sins into the hands of Him who can bear them and believing they are gone. Resting our weariness upon Him who promises a new body where disease and death no longer reign. Living not to grab what we think is our right but to give and serve in mercy even strangers and our enemies.
God is not watching to see if we fail, He walks with us in mercy. The baptized people of God live by faith. Fear meets faith, sin meets repentance, reason meets love, and justice is tempered with mercy. Do not be afraid. It is the sum of all Christ’s teaching. Fears for ourselves, for our pasts, for our futures, for our callings, for our success – all of these are met in Christ. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Faith is the greatest wisdom and trust the highest call. Do not be afraid.