The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Second Sunday in Lent
You’ve heard the old line: “Do you wake up grumpy in the mornings?” “No, I let him sleep.” Not so funny, if it’s true. Have you ever walked on eggshells trying to keep peace – not upset the applecart, please everybody? Wears you out, doesn’t it?
Some eggshell walking Pharisees come to warn Jesus, “Get away from here. Herod wants to kill you.” Actually, they probably are more concerned to protect their turf than Jesus’ well being. Jesus is proclaiming a new kingdom. That kingdom is coming right under Herod’s nose. A paranoid, fear-filled Herod would not be good for these Pharisees who need to appease him – keep peace at any cost. Herod has the power to take away freedom to practice their faith. They truly are in a spot. Can you hear all that crunching? That’s eggshells.
“Go tell that fox for me – I cast out demons, perform cures today and tomorrow.” Jesus doesn’t walk on eggshells. He’s clear about his mission. He fears no human being, and no threats silence him. Peace won by threat is no peace at all. For Jesus, peace comes by being at one with God. Herod’s not even on his radar screen and fear is not in his vocabulary.
Jesus is fearless – confrontational. He’s a serious threat to Herod and his toadies. Jesus’ star is rising; his popularity is growing by leaps and bounds. If he can raise an army for his kingdom, Herod and the religious establishment will be standing in the unemployment lines. Jesus isn’t worried. He knows who is in charge – and it is not Herod or these Pharisees, nor is North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Congress or lobbyists. God is in charge – not Wall Street, Tea Parties, or any other party. God is in charge – and when the church will believe it, and will live as fearlessly and freely as Jesus, the powers of this world will tremble and take us seriously, too. God’s reign upturns this world’s values, topples the social and power order, and renders fear and oppression toothless. Jesus is a real threat to the way things are.
And if you don’t like that, you’ll fight it – even kill to keep it from happening.
Honestly, God’s strategy is hard to trust. It doesn’t make sense in this world. We don’t see it working much. God’s strategy is counter intuitive. It sounds about as effective as a hen trying to protect her chicks from the fox. We know who wins that fight. God comes to reveal divine love, mercy and forgiveness. He welcomes any who repent, as well as we who struggle as hard as we can to be faithful. In this world, we know power controls others, and fear keeps people on their toes – that usually worked well for my mama. People place their bets on the Herod’s, Rome’s, and armies of this world – not on love and forgiveness to get things done. You capture the fox before he gets you. God’s strategy is too idealistic. People just won’t get it. But then G. K. Chesterton once said, “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It’s been tried and found difficult.”
Jesus will walk on water, but not on eggshells. He’s more interested in making disciples than winning friends. We’d better learn who takes life, and who gives life. Fear will shackle us. If fear dominates us, we will constantly be walking on eggshells – anxious – with no energy and no life left to act with love, generosity, mercy, and forgiveness. Fear might be in control for awhile – but in the long term, love finally transforms and wins our hearts. Maybe we’d do well to shift our bets God’s direction.
If you choose Jesus’ way of life, accepting God’s reign in ours – what does it mean to live fearlessly and free? Living fearlessly means we let go of our egos, drawing life to ourselves – and fearlessly trusting the new life God raises up in us, a life for God and a life counter to the world. Living fearlessly means we detach from any earthly thing that separates us from God. Living fearlessly means we embrace uncertainty, living with more questions than answers, humbly and open – because we are certain about the Father’s unending faithfulness. We fearlessly love our enemies, and those who are different, shut out, those who seem too dangerous and too risky to embrace. Living fearlessly gives us a voice to challenge the status quo when it oppresses and won’t listen, especially to those who live at the bottom. We live as Jesus – free to show mercy, free to love others rather than judge them, free to love, free to give and serve. Fearless living is not reckless living – it is the life we live when we choose God’s. And Jesus dies for living fearlessly.
Today African Heritage month ends in our parish life – a celebration of our diversity and an opportunity to sing, learn, and become fearlessly involved in issues in our community. Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when God’s love frees us from fear, and then we can help create a different world. That world is a day when all God’s children, children of former slaves and off-spring slave owners – a day when, regardless of where we’ve come from and what we have done – all will work together, pray together, struggle together. One day all will be free – black and white, Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic – and gay and straight, the poor and the wealthy. And all will be able to join hands and sing, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last.” And we cannot be individually free, until all are free.
When we will finally wake up, we’ll realize we need to transfer to another dominion, to be cut loose from our old certainties. Then in God’s kingdom, none of us will fear the foxes and institutions that threaten and kill the spirit. We will fearlessly love, forgive and give our lives to embody God’s dream – not just for ourselves, but for others. Are you ready to embody Jesus’ life? He asks that the old self, the old ego dies so that God will have room to grow us into new beings of love. We don’t just do love. We become love – the love of God living fearlessly in this world.