Grace, Mercy and Peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
What are you afraid of?
I know for a fact that some of you here today are afraid of the monsters in your closet or under your bed. The ones that you think are going to grab your uncovered toes at the end of the bed!
Some of you are afraid of calamities of nature. Lack of rain or too much rain or blazing heat or bitter cold. Tornadoes and earthquakes. Things that cause us to put bags of supplies on the basement just in case.
Then there are the calamities of body. Car accidents and hunting accidents and my personal one, falling off a ladder. We fear debilitating diseases that change everything about who we think we are. Things that cause us to be limited or slowed down.
We fear calamities of family.
To lose your loved ones either by sudden or slow death or for them to look at you and say I have had enough I am leaving. This leads to the fear of leading a life that has no legacy. No one who will talk about us when we have passed on.
This is the fear of Abraham.
He has no child to carry on. He has no one to give his possessions to. He thinks he is as good as dead. And so he sits down own day and is afraid of the future.
So God comes to Abraham and says to him;
FEAR NOT FOR I AM YOUR SHIELD.
Abram was now about 75 years old. He was well past the time when he would be having children and certainly Sarai was as good as dead in terms of child bearing. Abram has been exceedingly prosperous, in fact in chapter 14 Abram has an army at his disposal of 318 men! That is just the men in the camp then there are the women and the children and the infirm and the old. Probably a number well north of 1000 people were encamped with and working for Abram.
Abram then uses these 318 to go and defeat the kings of the area and he is able to take back the possessions of these kings. He is now rich beyond measure.
Yet he still knows it only has happened because of God’s blessings and so he gives a full tithe to the priest who comes out of Salem, Melchizedek. He is a great man of integrity and honor and respect.
Yet here he is after all this and he is despondent. He has no heir. He has no son. He sees all around him going to another man who is not related to him.
Abram begins to doubt the very promises of God. The promise that he will have a child. That his descendants would number as the sand on the seashore.
Except that the circumstance in his life would say that this is now impossible. God said he would and Abram believed and now it was all just a lie. No son. No heir. No line of Abram. All done. Eliezer will be the great and mighty man of Canaan. Abram is afraid that he is to die alone and without purpose.
So God gives to Abram his Word. FEAR NOT FOR I AM YOUR SHIELD.
Abram hears this and immediately scoffs at this suggestion and in effect says “No you’re not.” I have heard this all before, I am not buying it any more. I am making plans for this man from Damascus to get my stuff!”
How often is that us?
We know that we should fear, love and trust in God above all things. We know that there is nothing to be afraid of, that God is in control. And yet we look at how others are leading a care free life and we covet it. We see how they have nice things and we covet them because we think if our house was nice enough we wouldn’t have to be afraid. We see how they have access to the best doctors and we covet it because we think that will mean we won’t have to be afraid of disease. We see how other churches are growing by leaps and bounds and we covet that also and we think if we were just less strident about our doctrine or our service style then our church would grow and we wouldn’t have to be afraid about their being enough people in the pews each Sunday and we wouldn’t have to be afraid about their not being enough in the offering plate or enough volunteers.
All of this at its heart is us saying “look God I don’t think you are really able to deliver on your promise. I am worried and anxious and fearful of so many things. I look around myself and I see calamity and danger and problems and I don’t see you do anything about it and I think it is because you just aren’t capable of fulfilling your promise to provide and protect.”
Yes, we become just like Abraham and we argue and yell at God and in that we become distrusting fearful sinners. When we lose heart and faith and everything just seems to have no purpose in it and there seems to be no good solution? How often do we try to peer into the future and have concrete evidence that things will be okay? How often do we get sick of waiting for an answer and we just through up our hands and give up. We say to God sure I heard that you would be protecting me but I don’t see it happening. Sure you healed all of those blind and lame beggars but you just don’t seem to care about me. Sure you were there to raise Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter and the widows of Nain son but my husband or wife or child is dead or dying and I don’t think you really care about me anymore.
Sure I tried it your way God, I stood up for you and proclaimed you and did what you said I should do and all I got was my friends turning their back on me and my children disowning me. Now here I am all alone and I don’t know what to do.
“FEAR NOT, FOR I AM YOUR SHIELD.”
Abram was right there. Disbelieving God. Breaking the first commandment. Angry with God for seemingly nor doing what he said he was going to do.
And God listened and then acted for Abram.
He took Abram outside and showed him the sky and asked Abram to number all of them if he could. That seems like a daunting task. We have visions of billions of stars in the sky and Abram thinking again okay I see all of them it will be okay.
Except that it wasn’t night! It was the middle of the day. Verse 12 says that after this the sun was going down and then verse 17 says that is when the sun was fully down.
The sky that Abram looked up to was bright and big and blue. Count the stars? How could he possibly even start? He couldn’t see any of them! Except one.
He saw one star. The bright morning star that rises in the east.
Essentially Abram is reminded that the descendant that matters is the Messiah. The promised one who would come and restore us in righteousness. The thing truly is God working all things out for good for those that love him is the coming of the Messiah. Nothing else matters.
That bright morning star is talking to His disciples in our Gospel lesson for today. He sees men whom he loves and He sees them afraid of what is going to happen to them. Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die and they are not sure of what will happen after that and so He tells them to
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
It is God’s good pleasure to give to Abraham the son who he needs in first Isaac and then Jesus. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give to the disciples the kingdom of God in the incarnate Jesus Christ. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give to you the relief from your fears by forgiving you and cleansing you and restoring you.
If you think that it is not God’s good pleasure to forgive you of your sins and alleviate your sins then look at the cross and see the almighty awesomeness of God on display. Look at the bright morning son dying on the cross to defeat all of the things that cause us to be afraid. Look to Jesus as He hangs in between you and the wrath of God so that you may not receive your due punishment for your sins but so that you would receive what is God’s good pleasure to give to you. Forgiveness seventy times seven, Life, abundantly, salvation for your souls, eternity in heaven, a family that will last forever, a life that will have a blessed end.
Abram saw that he had been foolish for doubting and he repented and he believed. He had the word of God preached into his ears and this true Law/ Gospel sermon created faith in Abram. This faith in the coming Messiah is what is credited to Abram as righteousness.
This same word of God is being preached to you today, repent of your sins of fear and lack of trust and turning your back on God. Receive forgiveness, be cleansed of your sins. Have your heart cleansed by God Almighty for the salvation of your souls.
Jesus Christ promised us that He would never let go of you. He promised to you that He would be your shepherd and that he would send you a shepherd to keep you in His green pastures where the enemy has no power. He promised to send to you a helper who would comfort you and keep you strong.
He keeps His promise in the Sacraments. In your Baptism you have something that can never be taken away. You can rise every morning and remember that you were baptized into Jesus Christ and all of your sins were washed away. You can thank God for drawing you the cleansing flood of the waters that made you alive in Christ.
He also gives to you His supper where the same Jesus Christ who was promised to Adam and Eve and Abram and who told the disciples to not be anxious comes to you in His very body and blood in order to forgive you and restore you and to abide with you and to live in you and dwell in you. There truly is nothing to be afraid of.
The monster in the night are nothing compared to the Son of God who courses through your veins. The fear of being alone? Can’t happen – you will always have Jesus with you in Body and Blood. The fear of not having a blessed end? No way - Christ will call you home to be with Him. It will happen. He has promised it and He never fails to keep a promise!
Now be alleviated of our fear we carry that confidence out into the world where everyone is afraid of everything and we show our confidence in good works that help our neighbor. We carry that trust in God into all things that we do that the world may see our good works and wonder “what is this trust and hope that we have inside of us”. We display in acts of charity and kindness the truth that show forth the love and kindness that God has for us.