June 25th Sermon: Do not be afraid (Rev. Zollfrank)

Matthew 10

Bethesda Lutheran Church

Rev. Angelika Zollfrank

June 25, 2017

 

 

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O God, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

 

“Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 31So do not be afraid.” 

Brenda Lira, 21, wondered whether her closest friends would turn their backs on her. – “It was awkward revealing the truth to them,” she said. Filled with embarrassment and shame, Brenda confessed to those closest her real identity.

In every society, – whether we are talking about the times of Matthew’s gospel or our country today, shame is a powerful social emotion that was invented to keep people in compliance with the rules of engagement of the dominant culture. Shame can lead persons to hate the aspects of their identity and story that seem unacceptable. Shame can alienate people deeply from the communities they belong to. Estrangement, self-hatred, endless loops of fearful thoughts, and real precautions are the daily bread of those who feel alienated by the powerful messages designed to keep them in their place. Shame is the opposite of what Christian communities, who promote belonging, are about.

 

Brenda Lira took the risk of coming out of the shadows. She shared with her friends and with CNN who she really is – one of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. A good portion of undocumented immigrants pay social security taxes without ever being able to reap the benefits. Brenda is a person who lives with the daily fear of everything she worked for collapsing. She took the courageous step to tell her story. “I am a Tennessee resident who crossed the border from Mexico illegally with my parents when I was 2 years old. This is who I really am and I cannot live a fake identity any longer. My biggest fear, though, was (my friends) not wanting to know me anymore.” Luckily Brenda experienced the love of her friends and their support. They are witnesses to God who loves all of creation.

 

“Have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 31So do not be afraid.” 

 

Mindy was sitting up in her hospital bed. She was surrounded by loved ones. Cards pinned to the wall, flowers on the bedside table, a forced smile on her face. I walked in and introduced myself. Quickly the people jumped in, “Mindy is doing so much better today.” – “We had a rough day yesterday, but all is well.” – “We love her very much, you know?” Mindy was silent through all of this. And the conversation went on about Mindy without her. Who she was, what she had been through, how joyful everyone was to see her sitting up. Mindy’s wig was just the slightest bit tilted on her head. Noticing this her daughter went over to try and adjust it. In that moment, Mindy made a quick, impulsive movement. She ripped her wig off her head and threw it in the corner of the hospital room. “This is who I am. Deal with it, everybody! Don’t you see what’s happening?” In the silence that followed shock, sorrow, and alienation slowly made way for compassion, kindness, and love. “Mom, we love you. We love you so much. I promise you we will try our best to be with you in this. Please, you must know we love you.” And the tears.

 

“Have no fear; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 31So do not be afraid.” 

 

“When he came out to me”, George says about his 35 year old son now, “I was praying all the time to say the right thing. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t ok with it, but I love him and so I had to figure out how to love him and be ok with it. Now, five years later, I can shout it from the rooftops: I love him. Not just because I try. I truly do. And I know the Lord does, too.” This year George is walking in the Pride parade in Boston with his son. “I am not ashamed of him and he shouldn’t be either. What can I say? I walk with him. He is my son and I want him to know he is loved. And I believe with all my heart God loves him, too. I’m not saying I didn’t have to have long talks with God. But he and I are good now. That’s all that matters. I have to tell you when he came to church with me one day last fall, and he meant it, I kind of lost it. I stood there at the altar rail and lost it. I don’t know much, but I do know that God is love. When you get that, you lose it and you come to your senses.”

 

“Have no fear; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 31So do not be afraid.” 

 

I will never forget my orientation to the hospital. New Employee orientation is such a wonderful equalizer. Doctors, cafeteria workers, staff assistants, and high tech lab workers, nurses, are in one room learning about how to extinguish fires and patient safety. But then one of the HR people asked us to write down in three sentences, our personal mission statement for the job that we were hired to do. I thought to myself, nothing easier than that. I knew why I was there. I had a vocation! I had prayed about it, too. – But when we were asked to share our personal mission statement in the large group my blood pressure was rising and I decided to hang back and listen. Thank God! – Several people shared eloquent statements that tied the hospital’s mission to their own. It sounded politically correct and quite sincere. Just as the HR person was ready to move on, someone said to a Hispanic woman. “Please, you have to share this. Its so amazing.” Everyone’s attention drawn to her, the woman took a deep breath and gathered her courage to speak up in a large crowd. “I did not write much, but I can tell you the story. My son was sick and we spent weeks at the Children’s Hospital. Every day we were there, my husband and I. It was very hard… The most important thing to my son was what was on the menu. Even when he was sicker and weaker, the meals were the most important thing to him. After a long struggle my son died. But now I am here in the hospital again. I will be working in food and nutrition and my mission is to make sure that families get the food they want. My mission is that the person asking them for their food choices is kind and patient, and compassionate. Food is important. I am here because of my son.”

 

“Have no fear; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 31So do not be afraid.” 

 

Living our values is a daily mission for all of us. And human as we are, we sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. Living our values is easy when there is no struggle involved. But living our Christian values can also be difficult, too. God knows that. And God knows that if we don’t compartmentalize our faith and try to live it daily in all we do, we can encounter real struggles and some anguish. That’s why we get these little 24-hour packages of time to focus on. And each day, whether we have done well or whether we fail, we can take comfort in the fact that daily we have been buried with Christ by baptism into death. And daily, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too walk in newness of life…. So you also must consider yourselves dead to shame and sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Do not be afraid. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.