Matthew 10:24-39

Dr. Robert J. Anderson

June 22, 2014

 

Fear is a primary emotion.  Few of us will truly acknowledge the things or situations we fear; until one of them shows up on our doorstep or on the gateway to our soul.  Then we will tremble and then either engage our fear and overcome it or recognize the wisdom of a tactical withdrawal in the face of an overwhelming adversary.  Such a withdrawal may be so that we can gather more resources and develop an acceptable plan of response.  Or such a change in direction can be a wholesale retreat when we encounter a person who means to do us significant harm or a condition we recognize we cannot endure.

Diane and I had some interesting moments one night while living in our home in Pennsylvania.  Our home was a story and a half with two bedrooms upstairs.  The only windows were a dormer that looked out on the backyard and windows at either end of the house—you couldn’t see out the front from the upstairs.  In the middle of the night, we heard loud pops and people talking.  We couldn’t see anything outside the back or sides—and we had no chance of looking out front.  Then everything was silent!  Then it started again—POP!  POP!  POP! followed by talking but we couldn’t make out what was said or where it came from.  Then there was silence.  We thought it was safe to go downstairs where we could see out the front windows.  We did but saw nothing.  Then we heard it again—POP!  POP!  POP! followed by talking but we couldn’t make out what was said—and it came from our basement!  Then silence again.  No one was home except Diane and me and Amy who was asleep!  Nothing to do but go downstairs!  Diane stood at the top of the stairs with a phone in hand to call the police if necessary!  I slowly walked downstairs amid the silence.  Then —POP!  POP!  POP! followed by talking.  When I got to where I could see, I saw an old console TV we had gotten from someone.  The on/off switch was apparently bad.  It was one of those TV’s that had to warm up.  When it did, it would turn off and on a series of times—hence the POP!  POP!  POP!  Then it would stay on and the people on whatever show was on would start talking; then it would turn off and start the process all over again.  I unplugged the TV and we went back to bed!

 

There are some fears we learn to address and overcome with skill and a measure of courage.  We learn the tractor-trailer riding on our bumper will most likely not run us over but we can move out of its way.  We learn we can apply ourselves with more diligence to learn a difficult subject in school or a task at work; we can even find assistance to do so, having faced our fear of asking for help.

 

There are some fears we learn will beat us every time.  Phobias of various kinds yield very slowly to therapy.  The fear others will find out a family secret such as addiction or hoarding can prompt us to overwork so that no one will think we are inadequate.  The fear that an abusive spouse will bankrupt us or continue harassing us even after the divorce is final.

It is certainly true that fear sells.  And, Garrison Keillor capitalizes on this with “The Fear Monger’s Shoppe.”

 

GK: Coming up after this message from the Fearmonger's Shop — serving all your phobia needs since 1953. (OMINOUS CHORDS, SPARSE) 

It's almost November — and as the weather turns cold, animals will be trying to get into your house. (SCRATCHING). Spiders….. hornets —(HORNETS), mice darting under the refrigerator--(MICE); squirrels in the attic (SQUIRRELS RUSTLE AROUND); one morning a raccoon is sleeping in your laundry pile (RACCOON SNORING, STARTLE), snakes come up your shower drain (RATTLE)-cougars move into your garage (COUGAR); you come home from work one day to find a deer crashing around in your living room. (DEER CRASHES AROUND). But what can you do? All the old methods of keeping them away no longer work. The animals have adapted to poisons (SPRAY)-raccoons laugh at live traps (SNAP, RACCOON LAUGHTER)—they can easily disarm your home security system (BEEPING, DOOR UNLOCKS, RACCOON LAUGHTER)-deer can open sliding doors with their antlers (DEER), so your home is wide open. If you want to run an all-you-can eat buffet for wildlife all winter (BEAR SNUFFLING), it's up to you, but the Fearmongers' Shoppe has a new product guaranteed to keep all pests away, and that is our stuffed buzzard. (STING) 

GK: Looks like a real buzzard and attaches to the eaves of your home and emits a realistic buzzard shriek programmed to go off whenever triggered by a motion detector in the eyeballs (BUZZARD SHRIEK, THING MOVES OFF). Place four stuffed buzzards in front, and four in the back, and you'll have all the home protection you need when the cold winds blow. (BUZZARD CRY) Tell the neighbors to get earplugs. Or get their own buzzards. (BUZZARD CRY). 

From the Fearmonger's Shoppe. 

 

Jesus acknowledges that there are things we fear and warns about the One we should fear.  We face threats daily—things we are afraid of.  There is a list of 7 deadly sins (wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony) that we are warned about, because we can become enslaved to them.  There the terrors we face in addictions to substance, alcohol, etc. where are spirits are in the grips of forces beyond our control.  We should acknowledge our fears and be ready to address them.

 

Some of the fears we face can be faced with a combination of faith and practical steps.  “I’m afraid of running out of money in retirement.”  The practical antidote to such fear is to have a conversation with a financial planner, earlier rather than later.  The spiritual issue, however, is more insidious. It points to a troubled soul asking, “Will there be anyone who will care for me when I am the most vulnerable?”  This is not just a challenge to the person’s immediate family. It is also a challenge to the community of faith: will we assist those families and individuals with care for one who has most likely devoted their life to the church?

 

Many of the ordinary fears that erode our faith and hope spawn a mood of depression.  Fear distorts our perception of reality, seeing the world around us as hopeless and our own efforts as inevitably doomed to failure.

 

Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy, has cataloged these distortions.  Among the most common are black-and-white thinking; “In polarized thinking, things are either black-or-white. We have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground.”  Another is called filtering; “We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.” (http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/0002153).

 

Jesus warns his disciples not to betray God.  Those who do, according to Dante, wind up in the lowest level of Hell, along with those who betray country, family and those who tried to help them.  Here is who also dwells in Level Nine: “Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.  This place is furthest removed from the source of all light and warmth. Sinners here are frozen deep in the ice, faces out, eyes and mouths frozen shut.  Traitors against God, country, family, and benefactors lament their sins in this frigid pit of despair.” (http://www.4degreez.com/misc/dante-inferno-information.html on April 29, 2014).

 

Another person describes hell as a place where we have all of our senses—and each one tells us we are alone---totally alone---no other humans or God.

 

Our sense of smell tells us we are alone.

Our sense of sight tells us we are alone.

Our sense of hearing tells us we are alone.

Our sense of touch tells us we are alone.

Our sense of taste tells us we are alone.

           

            In Robin Roberts’ book Everybody’s God Something she repeats over and over again, “When fear knocks, let faith answer the door!”  Robin has had a lot to fear in her life.  Breast Cancer – battled and won.  A blood disease that resulted from the treatment for the breast cancer was her next challenge.  She almost died and required a bone marrow transplant.  Just before this last battle, her mother died—she couldn’t even mourn her mother’s death because she was in the fight of her life—a fight for her life.  When fear knocks, let faith answer the door!

 

            In the face of our fears, let faith respond!  Acknowledge your fears and invite God’s Holy Spirit to enfold you and build you up; let the people of faith rally around you and hold you up—let them be your strength when you are weak!  (Robin repeatedly tells of people who were strong for her when she couldn’t be.)  Face the fear of those things we’ve done, said, or thought as we approach God’s judgment believing, knowing that perfect love casts out fear.  God loves you perfectly—seeing your whole life laid out before him---you past, present, and future---God says I love you and forgive your sins---those things that have hurt me and others and yourself.

 

When fear knocks—whether it be the things of life or of God—let faith answer the door!