Sermon by the Rev. Tony Whatmough, 11 August 2019

 Notes from the Sermon Preached by Tony Whatmough

Readings

  • Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16
  • Luke 12:32-40

 

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells his followers. “Do not be afraid.”

Easier said than done!

If not fear, then anxiety seems to be characteristic of our age.

And it’s not something that only affects adults. It affects children and teenagers too.

When I go into our church school, Shire Oak, I talk to the teachers and a constant theme of these conversations is fear and anxiety amongst the children:

  • What will happen when they sit their SATS?
  • What will happen if they don’t make their grade?
  • What will happen if they don’t get into the secondary school they want, and will be leaving their mates behind?

And it’s something that affects Catherine and me.

  • What will happen when I retire?
  • Where will we live,
  • Will we have enough to live on?
  • What will I do with all this time on my hands?

I suspect it is something that has affected humanity as long as we’ve been on this earth.

The Bible, and Jesus in particular, repeatedly says, ‘Do not be afraid.’

And what is Jesus’ antidote to this fear?

God will give you the kingdom, so sell all you have and give to the poor.

That also rings bells with us as well!

We look around at our home and see all the stuff we’ve accumulated, and wonder what we are going to do with it all!

My particular problem is the number of books that I’ve acquired. I know very well if I give a book away, I shall want it again next week!

If I read a few verses later on in our gospel reading, I would find again the instruction: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear…Instead, strive for God’s kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.”

Anyone who has had dealings with people who are anxious and afraid, know that to say, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ only makes matters worse.

But that is what Jesus says: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Jesus is not just saying, ‘There, there, don’t be afraid.’

He is giving us a promise: this is not the end, but the beginning.

This is part of God’s plan for you, and the reward is God himself.

And this is where giving away all your possessions comes in.

What Jesus is commending is faith, a faith that gives us a future not based on our own achievements, but based on God himself, which is far more than anxiety about money, the future, and food to eat or shelter from the storms of life.

This is where the letter to the Hebrews comes in.

The writer gives us a wonderful litany of faith, of all those people who had set things aside to journey on with God.

Someone once wrote, that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty, and I think the writer of the letter would agree with that.

As we look back over our lives, I suspect that we can see that to be true.

Nothing ever really works out how we thought it would. Those who have a map of their lives usually end up where they least expect themselves to be.

And that is true of the kingdom of God as well.

Jesus continues to teach us that the Kingdom of God is very different from anything we might imagine, and that must have been so for all the heroes of faith that the letter to the Hebrews describes, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Samson, David, Samuel and all the rest.

Where they started from and where they ended up are totally different.

But getting back to preparing to move on, strangely to us, Catherine and I have found it easier to get rid of stuff than we first thought.

In fact we wonder why we accumulated all these things in the first place.

Did we collect it out of fear, the fear that one day we might need it?

We’ve noticed that those things we’ve stored away for that reason have very rarely seen the light of day!

It reminds us of another saying of Jesus: “Your Father in Heaven knows what you need.”

And if we take that on board, we can indeed let go of our fear.

Ironically last Tuesday we had a visit from our financial advisor, who incidentally works for a Christian Company, and our lot of our questions were based around fear.

And one of the questions was, where should we invest our money!

According to today’s Gospel, our investment should be in people, not in things:

Store up treasure in heaven.

Get rid of your fear – give to the poor.

Get rid of your need to be in control – let God be in control of your life.

Instead, deposit your treasure into the bank of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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