[Jesus said:] “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Some of you may be old enough to remembers the hit song, “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer,” sung by the late Nat King Cole in 1963.
The way this year has gone, I would put the emphasis on “Crazy.” The polarization that appears to drive our society and the world – especially when it comes to politics – has risen to a distressing level. The shooting of legislators at a baseball practice last Wednesday is the latest example of the numerous violent outbursts that have proliferated recently. All one has to do is read the local paper, the news online, watch television, or log in to social media to see the litany of divided opinion.
In the midst of all this anger and anxiety, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all children of God and loved by God in equal measure. And that is important to remember especially in these tense times in which we find ourselves.
Relationships matter. Yet we often let our temper get in the way of our better judgment. If we’re not careful, our mouths and our actions will offend someone at one point or another. When that happens, our first reaction is usually to justify our behavior, unwilling to repent, and thereby failing to let the love of Christ influence how we regard other people.
Jesus’ words this week in the Gospel of Matthew, remind us that not even his message was universally welcomed in the world that he came to save. Likewise, before sending out his disciples, he cautioned them of the perils that lay ahead. They would most often be greeted with contempt, not contentment.
Nevertheless, God cares for us. In fact, God cares so much that God came down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and lived among all the fears, doubts, frustrations, worries and tensions. He did this so that he could set us free. Jesus died and rose again to lift the worry and fear from us, and clearly show us the beauty and the glory of God’s love and forgiveness and tender care. He even forgives us for our lack of trust!
No matter what is happening in our life, God has an intimate knowledge of every detail. It may be that we are suffering in silence, or that our friends and family do not appreciate the depth of our anguish and pain, however, in the end God knows everything. God knows in detail everything and everybody who give us some reason to be afraid.
Jesus points that out in the illustration of the sparrows. We are more valuable than any sparrow. Our lives are in God’s hands and God is the one who provides, who protects, who enriches our lives, who works things for good. For that reason, we are confident that God will never leave us in the lurch and will always be right beside us as we seek to give expression to our oneness with Christ in our every day relationships.
In the afternoon at 2:00 p.m., I will be at Good Shepherd, Brooklyn, as they hold their final worship service in that building. We will gather together with so many good and treasured memories, but with a strong sense of grief at saying farewell to a hallowed place. As with all earthly things, whether people or institutions, they eventually come to an end and pass away.
The closing of a congregation is always painful, like a death. But sometimes closing is the most faithful decision a congregation can make. I invite you to attend, if possible, and to hold the congregation in prayer as they find new worship communities in other area churches.
And my prayer for you is that God guide your hearts, guard your steps, and give us all the courage to witness to the power of God in our lives this week and always.
+Bishop Abraham Allende