Why Are We Afraid?

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

June 7, 2020
Trinity Sunday
Scripture reading – Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a

Long, long ago in a city far, far away…about 20 miles or so, there lived a kid named Sammy.  Sammy was what just about anyone would call a “good kid.”  He had tons of friends.  He was polite and respectful and funny and completely normal.  He was loved at home.  In other words, Sammy had a lot going for him…especially three things I am about to describe:

First of all, Sammy had to parents who loved him.  In that love, they didn’t baby him or overly protect him – even though they worried about him (like all parents do).  He was a year younger than his classmates in school, and he was small and scrawny.  But his parents raised him to speak out for himself, to be confident without being cocky and annoying, and to be a good and moral person.  They were proud of him without being unrealistic about it.  They supported his quest to become the best person he could be, and they didn’t push him into any career choice – preferring for him to discover that for himself.  

In this category, Sammy was truly blessed.

Second, Sammy had two gigantic older brothers who adored him.  I didn’t have brothers when I was growing up, so I can’t really relate to this, but his brothers gave Sammy an advantage over many other kids.  They didn’t baby him, but they didn’t belittle or pick on him like some older brothers will do.  Instead, they genuinely seemed to love and care for him.  They even visited him at his elementary school and brought him lunch on occasion.  On those days, it was like Sammy had two smiling, hulking bodyguards.  The other kids were impressed – and maybe even a little envious.  The best thing about Sammy’s two big brothers is that they had his back 100% of every single day. No trouble was going to come their little brother’s way if they could help it because his two older brothers loved him.  

In this category, Sammy was also truly blessed.

Third, Sammy was a really smart kid.  We’ve all known kids who were smart but they couldn’t seem to use that gift properly.  Either they were constantly in trouble, or their brains took them to places where a smart kid could get into a serious amount of trouble.  Also, Sammy was a smart kid who never, NEVER showed off or made any of his classmates feel dumb.  He was always ready to help anyone learn anything, so lots of the kids in his class asked him for help.  Sammy was also smart enough not to be taken advantage of.  And because of those two bodyguard brothers, Sammy was never bullied by anyone, especially anyone who resented how smart and how successful he was in school.  

In this third category, Sammy was once again truly blessed.

So, it should come to no one’s surprise that Sammy grew up to be a successful man.  He had his choice of professional careers once he graduated with a double major from a prestigious college.  He married wisely and had wonderful children – who I suspect were a lot like him.  And the three blessings that I spoke of continue to take Sammy far in his life and continue to form him into a wonderful young man.

And it should also come as no surprise that Sammy had very little fear in his young life.  Instead, he had the confidence that comes with blessings and advantages and opportunities fully realized.

And no one should be surprised.

Sammy had specific advantages that many of us don’t get, but Sammy has the same “God-In-Three-Persons” that we have.

In examining the major theme for today – Trinity Sunday – it is always the temptation of many preachers to explain clearly exactly what the Trinity is and how it works.  I am going to avoid that particular topic because I have felt for years that it is above my pay grade.  However, I am pretty good at explaining fear, and how it can drive us away from realizing our daily blessings.  I am pretty good at identifying how fear can change us.  I am pretty good at reminding myself and anyone else who cares to listen that we have no real reason to fear anything.

The presence of God-In-Three-Persons is always with us, and there is literally nothing we should fear.

Like any good three point sermon, let’s examine the three parts of the Trinity and how this can be.

First, God the Father, the Creator.  Many people visualize an old man with a long flowing white beard who created the universe and everything in it long ago, and then sat back on the seventh day to rest.  It was a common theology to compare God the Father to an expert clockmaker; he creates the clock, winds it up, and then sits back and lets it run.  Occasionally, he will take the clock, clean and repair it, wind it again, return it to its rightful place, and sit back again.

Nothing in this description is accurate, and nothing in it would remove even a trace of fear from anyone.

No, God the Father had a purpose and a will for creation.  Indeed, creation only exists because of it.  The Creator continues to address the creation.  Creation has not been turned loose on its own.  Creation has not been abandoned and will never be abandoned.  Creation is given free will – not free rein.  And most of all, creation is loved and cherished by the Creator. And all of creation is truly blessed by that Creator.

Therefore, creation and all that is in it should have nothing to fear.  And yet, we do anyway.

Next, Jesus Christ, the Lord, the Son of God.  The Bible tells us so wonderfully that “God so loved the world that He sent his only Son that whoever believes in Him will never die, but will have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  Many who examine Jesus of Nazareth refer to him as an historical figure or as a unique and gifted prophet or as an amazing healer or as a teacher unlike any the world has ever seen or heard.  Even 2000 years after his appearance, his words and his lessons continue to resonate with people throughout history and around the world.  

Yet, most believers today hold the person of Jesus as a personal Lord and Savior.  He is not some remote idol that can only be thought of on bended knee or in high, holy churches.  He is not some mystical, mythical figure like Robin Hood or King Arthur who may or may not have existed – but whom we can admire and learn from today (there are SO many good stories!).

The Lord Jesus Christ is the one we have all been told to look for on the last day.  It is he who died to redeem and save every single person who ever lived, not just an advantaged, privileged few.  It is he who holds the permanent power over sin and death.  It is he who inspires Christian martyrs to go to their deaths confidently and without fear.  Of all the three parts of the Trinity, the God-In-Three-Persons, Jesus Christ is the part that most human beings can relate to and love the easiest; this is because Jesus knew exactly what it was live to live as a human being and not just as part of the God-In-Three-Persons.

Therefore, the followers of Jesus Christ and all who believe in him as their personal Savior should have nothing to fear.  And yet, we do anyway.

Finally, the most unusual and least understood part of the God-In-Three-Persons is the Holy Spirit.  From just a cursory look in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit first showed up in a major way on the Day of Pentecost when it appeared to the Twelve Apostles.  This was what Jesus called “the appearance of the Advocate” who would help them speak on his behalf.  With the Holy Spirit, holy human inspiration was given full voice to lead the people beyond what ordinary humans could accomplish.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians stood before death and destruction and were completely calm, knowing their earthly death was only temporary.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians were led and Christians followed doing the will of the Lord in ways that were not usually possible.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God on earth became something tangible that humans could see, touch, and give praise to God.

In other words, the final piece of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, gave human new ideas and the will to make them happen to the glory of the Lord.  No fear was necessary when the Holy Spirit was present.  And yet Christians fear anyway.

Why does this happen?  We have the three mightiest forces in all of recorded history on our side.  We know that we cannot have anything we want – no part of the God-In-Three-Persons is a magic genie granting our three special wishes.  We don’t get to decide what that will does or chooses to do with us.

We only get to live and follow and serve.  And yet we fear.  Why?

It must be because we forget.  We don’t leave our hearts open to the guidance of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer.  We save those pretty words for church, but they are no good in our daily lives.

And as soon as we do that, fear creeps in and tells us we can’t do that, or we mustn’t do that, or why on earth do we think we can achieve that?  Being realistic and cautious is one thing; being too afraid to take a chance and to count on the guidance of God is quite another.

But in the end, think of what can be accomplished if we just try.

Think of the possibilities if we believe.

Think of how good life could be if we face our fears and go forth anyway.

We are as protected as Sammy was in his childhood – and much, much more.  He achieved great things, but he had the same number of hours in the day as the rest of us.  He had a great family to support him, but many of us have the same thing.  He had brains and knew how to use them.  But even Sammy would be the first to acknowledge that brains aren’t everything in life; hard work and stubborn courage count too.

So does faith.

I will close with one of my favorite phrases in all of Scripture:  “Fear not.”

If we can do that, God-In-Three-Persons will help us do great things.