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March 22, 2020 Fear our Monsters?

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There are two things we know as true. #1, we live in a fallen world with trouble, evil, disease & death. And #2, nothing in this creation can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. Christians -God’s people- face their monsters with confidence.
7 yr old Michelle was very much afraid of the dark. She was afraid there were things lurking; monsters waiting for her to make a foolish move so they could attack. That’s why she was anxious when her mother asked her to fetch the broom from the dark back porch.

“I can’t,” she said, “it’s too dark.” Her mother understood, and said, “Honey, Jesus is out there; so there’s nothing to be frightened of. Jesus is everywhere, He knows how to protect you.” That helped a bit, but little Michelle was still unsure. “Are you sure Jesus is out there?” Mom said, “Of course, I’m sure.” The girl opened the door just a crack, and said into the darkness, “Jesus, would You please hand me the broom?”

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On January 1st , the year 2020 was looking pretty good, and just a couple of months in, we might not be so sure. Like every little girl & boy, we are reminded that there might be monsters ‘out there’, unseen things waiting for us in the dark that pose a danger to our health, or a threat to our economics. Sometimes I think our media & politicians want us to be stirred up & fearful for their own gain. They don’t have to work that hard, because fear is always just a little below the surface of our lives.

Years ago the company called ‘Sharper Image’, was selling a product called ‘The Life Clock.’ It was triangle-shaped; you enter your birth date, and a computer chip would calculate how much time -on average- you would expect to live. Then the clock would start counting down the days & minutes you had left. You could actually watch the seconds of your life tick down to zero. As it turns out, not many people wanted a clock like that, & it went off the market.

However, I just saw an ‘app’ for the Apple Watch with the same feature; & no doubt there’s some website that will do the same thing. But, do you really want to know that, even as a curiosity, or as a joke? Every Christian ought to know -firmly & fully- that no computer can know what only your Creator Himself knows.

The claim of these products is that they want you to live your life to the full with the time you have left; but their disclaimer is that they don’t really know how much time you actually have left. That unknown factor is what tempts us to be ‘afraid of the dark.’ We all still hope the year 2020 is going to be a good year, overall; but we still have 284 days to go, and we’re not sure what other monsters -besides Covid-19- are out there.

St. Paul was well acquainted with the threat of fear from life’s monsters. But having his relationship with His Creator cemented in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior & Lord of life, made him full of courage, and peace. It’s the same thing that gives us courage, and peace. It’s not a worn-out cliché to use the end of Romans chapter 8 in times of /distress, /fear, /worry, /anxiety, /or sorrow. Those verses give us exactly what the Lord wants us to hear in those times.
So, the Spirit has Paul write that “nothing,” =no—thing= no height or depth, or anything in all creation; no darkness, no monster, real or imagined, “can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
Paul doesn’t say there aren’t monsters out there; because there are. Writing to the church in Rome, he gave a partial list of those monsters. He observes that there was: /tribulation, /distress, /famine, /nakedness, /perils, /& violent persecution. He goes on: /earthly powers and spiritual powers, /things both present and things to come. All these will do their best to use fear to separate you & me from the love of God; but our Savior Jesus is stronger.

He’s the answer. That’s why news of Jesus, the Promised One, was given immediately after the chief monster-of-darkness, Satan, attacked our first parents in Eden. When Adam & Eve should’ve been walking & communing with the Lord in the Garden in the ‘cool of the day,’ they were hiding in fear; fear of their own Creator. That wasn’t the way it should be.

By disobedience they had become helpless to their fear, and hopeless, terrified of what would come next. The Lord God did not give up on them, or hide Himself from them. He came looking, found them, & gave them His promise. That The Son would be the Light mankind needed to chase away the fear of the dark, and expose the truth about all the monsters = they are not stronger than Jesus. Even on the darkest day this world has ever seen, Jesus was at work against all our enemies.
And even when it looked like the whole world gained the upper-hand by capturing Him, falsely convicting Him, beating & flogging Him, and then crucifying Him, His work was not defeated. He rested; and on the third day, He overcame even death & the grave, and every known enemy which swore to separate us from God’s eternal love. After Jesus showed Himself alive to His disciples, and later to Paul, they were sent out with the message that all fear and worry have been pushed aside. No created thing is stronger than our Creator-Savior.
The Spirit had Paul use different words, but the faith of little Michelle’s mom is still the same: “Don’t be afraid of the monsters or the dark. Don’t be afraid of the things which are unknown; things that might or might-not happen. Jesus will be there; He’s with you everywhere.”

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Critics of the Bible will try to point out that -somehow- those words were much easier for Paul to say & believe than for us; that life was simpler back then, less complicated and easier. They say that now we have more problems, because we have more people, more nations & cultures, more technology leads to trickier ethics & morality, more taxes & weapons & wars, & more strains of diseases, & more widespread financial problems of world banks, identity fraud, & on & on. Paul wouldn’t understand our problems (they say) because our monsters are bigger now.

But, are they? Let’s consider a couple of things. In our day, when a baby or younger child is baptized, we have sponsors; mostly we treat ‘god-parents’ as a nice honorary position. But that’s not why sponsors were started. In the very church Paul was writing to in Rome, baptismal sponsors were a real need.
Back then no one knew if a father or mother would come home from work; in the Roman Empire among the Christians no one knew if their house would be broken into, and various members of the family carted away, only to be seen one last time in the arena waiting for the hungry lions to come out, or covered with tree sap to become living torches in the emperor’s garden. In Paul’s day, sponsors were necessary as a spare set of parents who would raise the orphaned in the faith, with hope of Christ. Paul’s day had plenty of ruthless monsters lurking.

In our day, we do worry about money, finances, mortgages & taxes. In the city of Rome, Christians did not have to pay taxes. At first, that’s sounds great. But Christians didn’t pay taxes because they were not allowed to own businesses. If you were a business owner and you became a believer in Christ, you now had a problem. If the government found out about you, they would take everything, & you would be left penniless, or be sold into slavery.

There was no social security, unemployment insurance, or welfare & food stamp programs. *Would you or I be tempted to leave the Church if those kinds of monsters were prowling around us? Those Paul was writing to had many reasons to be afraid of the dark & unknown; some of their troubles were worse than ours, even if ours seem more advanced or diverse.

It is good to know what Paul and those believers were facing back then; because it raises our confidence that the Holy Spirit has known how to speak to God’s people in any & every time & circumstance. It’s not whether we live in the first century, or in the 21st century that matters; because the truth stands forever. We are more than conquerors thru Him who loved us all the way to the cross. Neither demons nor death, no matter what kind of powers, neither the past nor future, can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. God’s love is large enough to conquer the problems of His people in Rome, and His people in the United States, and His people in Walker. Of that, our faith is certain.

The God who was willing to give His only Son to die on a cross to win our salvation will never leave us abandoned & forsaken in the year 2020. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any /pandemics, /or tornadoes, /or floods, /or economic down turns, /or hardships, /or accidents. But it does mean that there is no darkness that the Light of the world can’t break. The presence of Jesus chases away our fears. The monsters can’t win when our place in heaven is reserved, and He has written our names in His Book of Life.

This is what our Lord wants us to hear and know for the weeks & month ahead.
He wants you to see Him with eyes of faith, to trust in Him, to rely on Him, to listen to Him, and bring to Him all of your worries & fears, confident that He sees, He knows, & He cares. He is our daily peace.

Pastor Klaus of the Lutheran Hour has used this illustration: when he was a boy,
he had a friend -Herman- who loved to build sandcastles. I mean, this kid was good; he would build whole little cities on the beach, with some surprising detail. One day some other kids wandered thru the area. One of them held Herman to the ground while the others acted as bullies, and with their bare feet, kicked & stamped & destroyed all his sandcastles. All his patient & meticulous work was ruined, and they left laughing & laughing.

The next time Herman was at the beach and doing his favorite thing, he changed things a little bit. He worked just as hard and carefully, and made just as beautiful his little city of sand, especially the large center castle. And then the bullies showed up again.

Oh, how they laughed & jeered with anticipation of running in and repeating their destruction. They all ran in at once and kicked with their bare feet that large castle; … and there discovered that Herman had put large stones & chunks of concrete underneath! That was the last time those boys came to that beach.

This is our confidence. Jesus is the solid rock under the shifting sand of our life. Your Lord can stop anyone & anything from kicking your life apart. No darkness and no monster can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord.
Amen.