Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

The Thing Called Fear

July 28, 2019

28 July 2019                                      The Thing Called Fear Martin Baker

Psalm 27:1-6

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh — my adversaries and foes — they shall stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

6 Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

In our first week looking at the psalms, we heard a psalm of praise.  A hallelujah Psalm. We heard of God, awesome, wonderful, creator the heavens and the earth and also mindful of not only us, but mindful of those who the Psalmist said,  live on the dust heaps, the marginal,  those of no account. A God who raises up the poor. For those who follow Jesus this is a God who we know in him. Word becoming flesh. Full of glory and truth. And we praise God whose power is shown not though grand almightiness, but  through service and sacrifice.  Forgiveness on the cross that restores our relationship with the Father.

So there is a place for praising God. That is a starting place.  With all the challenges troubles difficulties, with all of our lists of things that are wrong, the psalmist starts with praising God.

And then last week a Psalm of lamentation. I am sinking and the waters have overcome me and I have lost my foot hold. And there is no one to save me. A time when there seems no hope. And we find ourselves caught up in Jesus’ words on the cross where he cries out my God why have you abandoned me.  So we affirm Jesus with us in time of utmost disappear and a faith in God who brings forth new creation even when the waters of chaos seem to overcome everything. A realisation that there comes a point for all of us when we realise we can’t save ourselves. Where all we can do is cry out to the God who leads us through these dark places and to the still waters.

This week is a psalm of restoration and hope.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Last Saturday  a friend of mine, Kevin Ward, a minister a lecturer,  was on a flight from Wellington to Tauranga. And everyone on board that flight heard a loud bang and then smoke. The cabin rattled and it was clear to everyone that one of the engines on this Q300 aircraft  had stopped working. In fact it was reported later that the pilots had closed down the engine as standard procedure when some sort of warning light had come on in the cockpit. Kevin noted that passengers around him, one he seemed to know was not particularly religious, had started praying.  

Whoever we are, whatever we believe whatever ever we have done in the past. We can all pray. Jeremiah the prophet said

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Here are some of the most wonderful words in scripture, aren’t they?

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Another plane story. And I acknowledge this morning there are pilots among us who will have much better plane stories that mine.  A while back I was on a plane sitting alongside a woman with, I guess, her three year old son. And the little boy looked out the aircraft window and said the word ‘fire’. And he didn’t even say it in a very loud voice. Just a 3 year old voice. But the effect was immediate. That quiet murmur you hear on flights around the cabin just stopped. That little boy with that one word -  it played perhaps into the background consciousness, that background fear,  of all on the plane. A trigger word we would perhaps say today.

I followed the little boys gaze out the airplane, as probably many did. And he was looking at the flashing light on the end of the wing. It was bright but it wasn’t on fire.

A fear that sits just below the surface.

I wonder for how many of our most vivid imaginations come to play with the things about which we are most fearful?

The squeal of breaks outside and for a moment you don’t know where your toddler is and for a split second your think what has happened out on the street. The phone rings at a strange time and you have built up a whole scenario of the disaster that has happened.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

One of the first things for us to think about today as we hear these wonderful words from our scriptures, is that deeply personal thing. To think about our fears.

That growth on my arm. I worried and worried about it. I had my whole brief future existence all imagined. Made sure I had set up the auto payments for the rates and insurance. And finally got to the doctor and she looked at it said I’d better get that sorted out - and a few seconds with that special pain of liquid nitrogen. Gone. All that time that energy spent worrying imagining.

So, think about your fears. A fear that you had a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. And think how you overcame that fear.

Running through these Psalms  is that internal conversation. But it is not so different from that conversation that we have all had with ourselves maybe many times. Think of the words you spoke to yourself. The things you learned,  the people who helped you.   Somehow you did gain the confidence necessary to face the source of our fear. We are people today who have got this far.

Right through these psalms we have this impression of building self-confidence that comes from our faith, reminding ourselves on the basis of prior experience that in this time of trouble God will deliver.  Everyone one of us in or life journeys bears some testimony to the answer to this first question. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?

So there is a simply realisation in this Psalm. We give thanks  this morning  for what we have already gotten through. With the support of people around us, with the help of our faith in God, we have come this far. We have faced some tough things and we have survived. We talked a bit about this at our Parish Council meeting on Tuesday. At the heart of overcoming fear is trust.  

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.

And then look at the jump that is made in the Psalm. There is every good reason to be afraid. Evil doers. Armies . People who seek my downfall and destruction.

When we think about a time when fear has been such a presence in our lives. The psalmist knows how fear can utterly diminish our world. How fear can close down our relationships, fear can stop us seeing the beauty about us, even the love which is present.  We can be utterly consumed by these fears.

And then in verse 4 with all these very real reasonable fears, we find this very surprising shift in attention.

4 One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

It is a fascinating couple of verses.

When the army encamps against the psalmist's people, the psalmist prays not for victory, not for a slaughter of the enemy, but to "live in the house of the Lord … to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in God's temple." With the threat of violence and defeat looming, the psalmist asks only for God.

For the psalmist, the worst-case scenario is not defeat, but alienation, but separation  from God. To behold beauty, wisdom.

Later in the Psalm we are told “be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord"

Right through our bibles from Genesis to Revelation from the announcement to Mary that she is to bear a child called Jesus, to the discovery of the empty tomb the words are repeated by prophets, people of faith angels, Jesus, repeated again and again, do not be afraid. In fact what we find in scripture is that the opposite to love, is not so much hate, but the opposite to love is fear. Paul said perfect love casts out fear.

One of the most important questions to ask of ourselves, to ask others, is what are you afraid of?

I looked on the internet to find out what people are afraid of, and I’ve got to say the list is very long. Death, loneliness, public speaking, global warming, sickness, failure. All those things have in common is that they are powerful, they can make us feel helpless, they can take away our sense of freedom, our ability to make choices.

To each one we say, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? So let’s make our own list.  Our fear list, and this going to be a bit different for each of us, and then say, The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? What wonderful things we can do and be, when we act from a point of fearlessness.

The starting point of our faith is what we heard Paul saying to us last week. We are more than conquers.

My worries and your worries will be there . But let’s today recognize again the source of our strength.    These words are the central part of our ancient faith:  For thousands of years this has been found to be true. God is my light and my salvation. God is the stronghold of my life. I will not be afraid

Amen