St Francis, Terriers - Trinity 6 (23.07.2017)

Tony Dickinson

Zara Elizabeth June, I have a special message for you this morning. It’s a special message from God, so I hope that your mum and dad are taking careful note of what it says. It comes from near the end of today’s first reading from the prophecies of Isaiah.

The message is this:

“Do not fear, or be afraid.”

“Do not fear, or be afraid”. Those words, or something very like them, occur about a hundred and twenty times in the Bible. Very often they are spoken by God to people who are about to begin something new, as you are, Zara. Today you are going to begin your journey with Jesus. I can’t tell you exactly what will happen to you on that journey. I can tell you that it will be exciting sometimes. It may be dull sometimes. It will be fun sometimes. And sometimes it will be sad, or even scary – maybe even very scary. When it is, just remember those words from today’s first reading, “Do not fear, or be afraid.” Remember them and repeat them to yourself. As you repeat them, remember that they’re words from God – and God is totally reliable. As the prophet understood, “there is no other rock”. Even if life takes you through dark and dangerous places, even if you experience deep sadness, God will be there for you through it all, like a rock. Even if you do not feel him there, his arms will be underneath, ready to catch you. “Do not fear, or be afraid”.

God will be there for you, always. “There is no other rock”, no other rock on which to build your life, no other place of rest. God is the first and God is the last, the beginning of all life and the end of all our exploring. But when we reach the end, we find that it is only another beginning. When we come to “the end of the age”, when God sorts out the good from the bad, and finally peels away all the “causes of sin”, as Jesus called them, the things that have kept us from being the people God made us to be, then we shall fully reflect his glory. As Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Now, “the righteous” aren’t necessarily the people who take pride in being always “in the right”. They certainly aren’t the people who delight in telling others that they are wrong. “The righteous” are the people who try to do what God wants, who reflect in their own lives, so far as they can, something of the joy and the love and the peace of God’s kingdom. They don’t wear haloes and even if they did they wouldn’t spend all their time polishing them. They get on with the job of loving God – and loving all the people that God sends their way, however unlovable and unlovely they may appear.

If you want to be truly righteous, Zara, you won’t waste time telling other people how bad they are, or preening yourself on how good you are. If you want to be truly righteous, you will spend time each day listening to God, thinking about the riddles life sets you and seeking to solve them with God’s help. If you want to be truly righteous, you will look to the stories about how God dealt with his people in the past and see what guidance you can gain from them. Rest in God’s love. Rest on God as your rock. When you get up in the morning, ask God to guide you through the day that lies ahead; and when you go to bed, thank God for everything that has happened during that day – even the things that were difficult or hard to bear – and ask him to keep you in safety through the night. And whatever happens, remember that special message you were given this morning, the morning of your baptism, the day when you first set out on your journey with Jesus.

So, “do not fear, or be afraid,” Zara Elizabeth June. Live in the courage and compassion of Jesus our Lord. Then, at the end of the age when time comes to a stop, you too will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father”.

And now to God the Father who first loved us...