Grace and Peace to you from God, our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: Amen!
In his inaugural address in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his famous statement that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” I think it is important to know what was going on then. The country was in a deep depression. Some of us were born or have knowledge of that time and many of us don’t. It was not an easy time. People who were able to buy these new fangled items like toasters and washing machines, suddenly, did not have them. Jobs were lost, life savings were gone. Meaning, everyone was told that they could “have it all!” Herbert Hoover suggested that the “scourge of poverty will be erased from the world.” I can tell you that my Grandmother…my mother’s mother; the last person I would have ever thought of was jarring and canning vegetables from her garden. I was surprised when I found that out and that would explain the many mason jars, she had in her basement.
Fear. It is a pretty powerful word, isn’t it? Fear will make us do things that we would never have thought of if it weren’t for FEAR. Lutheran Theologian, David Lose, writes that fear Drives wedges of distrust into our lives. It can make us cut off cars when we are in line because we might not get that perfect parking spot. It can make us speak out in fear that we won’t get (insert item here). Fear can put us in a state of anxiety and worry. Sometimes, to the point where it is difficult to get anything done because of fear. It can cause us OR be a good excuse not to do things. Meaning, we might not tend to take care of ourselves because of the fear of a Doctor’s diagnosis.
Fear does drive a wedge into every aspect of out lives. It affects how we look at economics, our community, opportunities, limitations. Fear affects how we look at each other. Meaning, “why does this one get and I don’t? Why does this one get all the breaks?” And the list of questions goes on. Fear can cause resentment and can sometimes lead to reactions of anger and, sometimes, violence.
So, in verse 26 in our Gospel reading today we see the word “fear.” Jesus tells of signs of the earth’s distress in the “Sun, Moon, stars, and there will be confusion. So much so that people will faint from fear for what is coming upon the world. I don’t know about you, nut when I saw the first verse of signs, I am thinking, “how can I get past these signs that might seem like the end of the world?” this is one of those passages where it looks like “doom and gloom” and how are we supposed to see through that?! Jesus continues on to tell us all to be alert when the “Son of Man” will come!
When I read this scripture at the beginning of the week, I wanted to hide. I mean, I had a little fear going through me. My mind got stuck on this chaos that is the very first part of our reading. I prayed and wondered how this text fits in with the first Sunday in Advent? When we are now in a time that is supposed to filled with hope, how is it that we have this reading from Luke that talks about being alert, that something big is about to happen amid this chaos early in the reading.
It is because this reading is about hope. While we might get stuck in the bad stuff, there is a command of hope that Jesus issues. In verse 28, Jesus says that “when all these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your head, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus tells us that when all this chaos begins, not to hide in fear. Jesus is telling us not to let fear rule over our actions and guide our reactions.
When Jesus tells us to raise our heads, he is telling us to stand strong. We don’t need to continue to let fear drive a wedge between our relationships with one another. We don’t need to let fear drive that wedge that might cause us to act out or harbor anger towards one another because someone got something and we didn’t.
Because when we raise our heads, we will see the coming of the one who will redeem us! When we see the Son of Man coming down upon us, we know that Jesus is the one who is coming to save us from Sin, Death, and evil! When we raise our heads we will see the one who has come to forgive us through sacrifice on the cross for our sake. And, maybe most importantly, when we see the Son of Man come into the world we know (as Jesus says) that heaven and earth will “pass away but my words will not pass away.” We know those words: “father forgive them for they know not what they do. This is my body and blood given and shed for you. Today you will be with me in paradise.” And the list goes on.
Those are words that you don’t want to miss. Those are words that when we are in fear, we might not want to OR Cannot hear all the time. When we raise our heads we can hear them; hopefully, loud and clear.
In FDR’s speech, he proclaimed that day in 1933 as a day of “National Consecration.” Because, despite the fear and the only thing we fear IS fear, he went on to say that despite all that was going on in the world there was still much to be thankful for. His words ring true today. It is true that there are things going on in the world that seem scary, or might seem like the world is either ending or coming to an end. There is enough fear out there to keep anyone awake at night or scared. I am sure that we have all felt that at some point.
Today is a day of Biblical Consecration! As we gather every Sunday, same time and place Jesus consecrates God’s love for us through the sacraments. God marks this time as sacred to receive the body and blood of Jesus in the gift that will never pass away: the giving of himself for our sins. There are many things to be thankful for; The ministries that we do here at church and all the things that God calls us to in the community. And, one another. So, let us raise our heads as we prepare to sing our hymn of the day: Hark a Thrilling Voice is Sounding! Amen!