August 7, 2022
Over the summer, we had our daughter going to gymnastics class. It was mostly about moving her body and getting comfortable with things like tumbling and jumping and balancing, but she had fun. One thing that would happen pretty frequently, though, was when she was up high somewhere. She was, as we all would be, afraid of falling. But, it didn’t seem to matter how high up she was as long as she was holding my hand. She would walk like a champ along the five foot high balance beams or hang on the six foot bars as long as I was there to catch her! Having that safety net let her be brave.
And that’s the case any time we do something that’s scary, right? Trapeze artists do their crazy flips and jumps and twirls twenty, thirty feet in the air—but they can do it with confidence because they know there’s a net below them in case anything goes wrong. Skydivers, who are some of the craziest kinds of people I think, still only jump out of planes when they know there’s a second parachute in case the first doesn’t work. When we know there is something there to keep us safe, to support us in case something goes wrong, it’s pretty amazing the stuff we end up being able to do.
It frees us up to be bold. It frees us from fear of what will happen. And it’s not just dangerous things like walking along a balance beam or jumping out of a plane. We are freed from fear of failure when we know there is something or someone who will support us if we fail. If things go sideways. If the results we were hoping for just don’t happen.
Like when Jesus commanded us to give away all our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Like, that is a crazy thing to suggest! What will happen when we don’t have anything left? Who will take care of us if we have given away all we have to care for others? And what about living our lives ready for the end, when Christ returns like a master at the end of a long night or a thief breaking into a home at an unexpected hour? The things Jesus suggests to us are scary, when you take the time to think about them. Jesus is calling on us to upend our lives, to shuffle our priorities in such a way that we don’t seem to have anything to fall back on.
“Have no fear, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
“Do not fear.” “Be not afraid.” “Don’t be afraid.” Some version of that line is said roughly 365 times throughout scripture, depending on how it’s translated. God is constantly reminding us not to be afraid. And why? Why shouldn’t we be afraid? The world is terrifying.
Because we have been given the kingdom.
When Jesus told the people gathered around that “it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” the original text is in past tense. It’s already happened. God has already given you the kingdom. God is already by your side, already holding your hand, already guiding you through those challenging and frightening ways that the kingdom will change the world forever. And because God has already done the hard part, what we’re called to do now is to have faith. To trust God. To believe that God is that hand holding us on the balance beam, that God is the net under our kingdom-bringing trapeze act, that God is the parachute to our skydiving ministries.
God’s promise is the reason we can do the risky things with our faith. We know we have the hope of eternal life, the hope of reconciliation with all people, the hope of a heavenly city where God will make all things new. And because we know that, because we can trust in that, we can be bold in our faith. We can step outside of our comfort zones and do scary, frightening things for the sake of others.
We can sink our time and energy and money into a ballfield because we trust that God will do something spectacular with it. God will bring people together, forge new bonds, deepen forgiveness, and grow hope through this ministry. We trust God enough to be bold here.
We can blindly trust, each year, that we will have enough volunteers, enough supplies, and enough support to share God’s love in the food we sell at the fair stand. Each year there is the possibility it just won’t work out, but we keep believing that God will deliver. We trust God enough to be bold in our ministry.
We can enter uncomfortable conversations about how injustice harms our sisters and brothers who are different from us, whether by skin color or creed or nationality or orientation. We can step fearlessly into those spaces because we trust that God is still holding our hand, still giving us the kingdom, still leading us to the place we are called to be. We trust God enough to be bold.
We can enter into that faith, that trust, because we have the example of saints of the past who put their trust in God, saints that the writer of Hebrews lists in the great “Hall of Fame.” Abraham, who left his home in Ur of the Chaldeans to wander aimlessly for a homeland and father a nation that he never got to finally see. Isaac and Jacob, who kept holding onto that promise, and who also didn’t get to see it come to fruition but trusted that God would not break a solemn promise. The countless saints over time who trusted that God was with them, giving them the kingdom, and because of that belief they were able to do amazing things.
So do not fear, little flock. When God calls you to go, trust that God will keep you. God will watch over you and guide your footsteps. When the times get challenging, when you’re not sure if the work God is calling you to do is going to work out, remember the saints who saw the promise only from a distance. Let your trust in God blossom into a boldness that makes a softball field into a ministry; let your trust in God create foolhardiness that seeks to really make the world a better place; let your trust in God embolden and empower you to do the impossible, seek and give forgiveness, change the world toward hope, and never leave you the same again.
Trust God, and do goodness boldly.
Thanks be to God. Amen.