Jeremiah 20:10-13. Romans 5:12-15 Matthew 10:26-33
In the Gospel passage today, Jesus was speaking very personally, and very seriously to the apostles. He warned them that, for apostles to take up the mission, they must be strong and courageous. He emphasized this by commanding three times: “Do not be afraid!” This same message is meant for us – today; and what an appropriate message it is.
Our world is in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Here in New York, everyone knows someone who has had the virus, and many of us know individuals who have not survived the virus. New York, the financial capital of the nation is slowly and painfully falling to its knees. 40% of the residents of Manhattan have fled the city. The city of restaurants and theaters has shuttered their doors and shut off their lights. We’re nervously anticipating the real estate market to crash. Millions of us are unemployed. The deep inequalities choking the ideals our republic are painfully evident. We’re in crisis. No one knows what the world, our nation or our city will look like in a year or two. When the virus is gone, when the protests cease, what will be left who will we be? We’re all fearful because we can’t answer that question.
We have to remember that Jesus’ command, “Do not be afraid,” is backed up by his promise of the Spirit. It’s imperative that we rely on that Spirit now. We’re walking into uncharted territory. We need wisdom and fortitude. Our scriptures promise us “a new heaven and a new earth.” If we look back now, with the hope of returning to the old, imperfect world that we’ve known so well, we’ll meet the same fate as Lot’s wife who turned back to watch the destruction of Sodom.
We, you and I, must be strong and courageous. Each step we take will be a step into this new, unchartered territory. We’ll experience pain. We’ll struggle. We must rely on the Spirit of light and truth that has been gifted to us for guidance. We need to invite and welcome the inspiration of the Spirit. But most of all – most of all, we must not be afraid!
Heavenly Father, author and giver of peace, in whose image and likeness each of us have been created with a dignity worthy of respect on earth and destined for eternal glory, listen to our prayer. Grant us the wisdom to see beyond the boundaries of race, religion and nation so that each of us may claim our heritage as your children, brothers and sisters to one another. May your Spirit strengthen us and lift our fear, so that united we may work with you in building the new earth you promised us. Amen.