No Worries Mate, Treasure Threatened
Decades ago a friend lost his credit card so he phoned to get a new one. After putting him on hold the man on the phone came back in his Aussie accent, “No worries mate. We have you covered.” Which made my friend start to worry. Did he miss something? What did they have covered? If the card was maxed out it’d take years to pay it off.
When something threatens our treasure, pulses quicken, blood pressure rises and worries multiply.
Do Not Be Afraid: powerful words
God comes to Abram and starts with, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus speaks to his disciples and often starts with, “Do not be afraid….” These are not like the Aussie, ‘no worries mate’. These are powerful, life-changing words.
Imaginary, Real, Abuse of Fears
Life is full of imaginary worries: a man reacts with that ancient instinct from back when threats to our lives were around every tree. He worries about his next meal even though his fridge, freezer and bank account are quite full. Or the middle-aged woman who as a child witnessed her mom being repeatedly abused by soldiers, and now suffers a form of PTSD. She fears everyone who tries to care for her, projecting her terror on to them and blaming them for anything bad that happens, even if she is the one at fault.
Yet, besides Fear of God, which begins every journey with God for us sinners, too often fear is real. Everywhere people die from the lack of life’s basics: clean air and water, nourishing food, adequate clothing, or sufficient shelter. War threatens lives. Refugees flea only to be at the mercy of other countries. A few weeks ago, the earth came close to being hit by an asteroid big enough to have the effect of many nuclear bombs, landing us in a dark age, literally, with the sun blocked by the fallout. If that’s not enough the effects of climate change could make coastal cities uninhabitable by 2075 or earlier. Think Vancouver, Montreal, NYC, Miami, most of Micro Indonesia and more!
And then corrupt would-be-leaders drum up fear in order to manipulate more and more power from us until we have none left. Too often we fall for it all and do senseless things to make ourselves feel safe, as if we could get out of life alive.
Story: no bomb shelter needed
A pastor remembers fondly when their next door neighbours built a bomb shelter … in 1959. She asked her Dad if they were getting one. He was a military man and he said, “Believe me, you don’t need one.” Back then that assurance meant to her that nothing bad would happen. Years later she realized it meant that if the bombs fell, a shelter was so inadequate it wouldn’t do her any good. (Ann Brezendine Sermonshop 08)
Do Not be Afraid, Pleasure to give KoG
Jesus comes with a fuller response: Do not be afraid! For it is God’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom! Here on earth we do not need a bomb shelter. But in this world’s kingdoms our expectations of our leaders often net us what we deserve, both good and bad. From that there is no shelter, either.
3 am Fears
Kamala Harris, running her 3am Agenda, hopes to be the next US President. In the face of fear politics gone amok, she tells people she will work on those things that they worry about at 3 am.
The thing about 3 am fears is that they can be real or imagined, but they almost always are exaggerated and amplified so that they demand we deal with them; or else they eat away at what’s left of our souls.
God comes to Abram in a vision. And it may as well have been 3 am in his tent, for Abram is consumed by worry that he has no son to be his heir.
Do not Fear: shield and reward
Yet God comes with a promise: Do not be afraid. [Even at 3 am.] For God is your shield and your reward will be great.
Abram and Sara’s Story: God’s work, timeline, not ours
Abram and Sara have cause for real fear. They left their home in Ur, traveled great distances not knowing where to go, lived in tents, and struggled to survive. Despite God’s Promises they still have no son or land! Both are way too old to have a child. Is God against Abram and Sara?
Even so: God says again, “Do not be afraid.”
We may think we know where our life is going. We only notice our error when our plans tumble into the dust. Then, lost in the chaos, we can listen, for God speaks right to us: “Do not be afraid.” And there is MORE!
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Yet for Abram and Sara to trust God’s Word, given and so many times not fulfilled, now requires more than any human can muster on their own.
Do Not be Afraid and More
God comes and says, “Do not be afraid.” And then God creates faith in their hearts, so they do not need to be afraid. As we listen we will know these words and faith are also for us. And there is still MORE!
God Reckons Righteousness
God does one more remarkable thing in this passage. God reckons this gift of faith as righteousness for Abram. This is the same reckoning that God does for us in our baptisms.
What is this reckoning? It is as though God has a spreadsheet.
Under each person’s name there is a bookkeeping of the events in that person’s life with their positive and negative values and in another column the value of that person’s relationship with God. Because math can represent the entirety of creation, God totals it all up into one number.
If that number is anything less than infinity, that person is not acceptable to God. After a useless life on earth, God strokes the Smote Key on the keyboard of eternity and they no longer exist (or something like that. You get the idea.)
Surprise! God deals with Abram differently. Even though God has placed faith in Abram, God decides to ‘cheat’ with Abram’s values and call it more than good enough. God places God’s own infinite value, the infinity symbol (the lazy 8 laying on its side, ∞ ), as Abram’s total.
What is most remarkable is there is then NO event that can possibly subtract enough from his value to God to change the end result: it will remain, no matter what Abram does, as an infinite value. ∞
What does this mean for us?
What does this mean for us?
What it means is that for each of us at our baptisms God provides Jesus’ infinite value ∞ on our reckoning sheet as our value to God.
It does not mean that God gives us everything we think we would want. God does not give us an easy and comfortable life. Rather the opposite. God keeps placing new challenges in front of us all through our lives.
It does not mean that God gives us success, respect, or admiration. Rather God lets us live rejected, as were the early Christians, and dishonoured as was Jesus. The world sees us as fools working to bring life abundant to others.
Fools’ Project Zinga
There is a fools’ project, for instance, in Zinga north of Dar Es Salaam. A few people started with a bare piece of ground, with bare bank accounts. In a few years they want to turn that place into the first Children’s Hospital in Tanzania. They trust that a 91 year old doctor and his nurse wife, on fund raising tours in North America 6 months of every year, will raise enough interest and personal commitment from enough people willing to provide enough money, materials and skills and expertise of all kinds to make it a reality. All with no promise of success.
Promise, Not as we imagine, not on our deadline
God does not promise us that God will provide what we think God’s will for us is. Just because we once thrived, or because others still thrive, does it mean that God promises we will thrive again, as we imagine. God promises to be with us through our successes and our failures. God promises to send us new visions of what God intends for us. But God may not fulfill God’s promises to us on our timeline, maybe not even for generations.
Challenge, Treasure, Hearts, Delight, City or Woods
The challenge for us, our whole lives, is not to make ourselves good for God. Jesus steps in for us, gives us infinite value ∞ to God and says, “Do not be afraid.” And there is MORE.
God delights that we live now and for eternity in God’s kingdom. We can live well. All things can be well. All manner of things are well. And there is still MORE.
God prepares a city for us, or maybe a retreat beside pristine water. City or retreat, God prepares a perfect home for us in the future, for eternity.
We can listen and hear these words and know that they are for us: God plans for our futures, and for eternity. We do not need to be afraid!
Practice: Delight, Reckoning, & Service
We can respond, by practicing being who we aspire to be, who God wants us to be, putting our treasure in God, the only place where it is safe. These are not the treasures of wealth, earthly security, power, position, skills or abilities. Instead our treasure is to practice reckoning to others infinite value ∞ and sharing God’s delight that others live in God’s kingdom. Our treasure is to practice serving others, giving them the same grace and love God first gives us.
We do not need to be afraid, for our treasure from God cannot be taken from us, nor subtracted from, not even at 3 am. Our treasure goes on to infinity ∞, like the stars in the sky.