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Stronger Than Fear

Matthew 10:24-39

The Rev. Jon Roberts

29 September


The St. Michael's Conference

The Passionist Retreat Center, W. Hartford, CT (Virtual)

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant[a] above his master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant[b] like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el′zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 And 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.[c] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

Stronger Than Fear

The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by Luca Giordano, 1666

Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.[1]

When most people think of angels, they probably think of Christmas. An angel came to Joseph who was considering whether to abandon Mary when he heard she was pregnant. What did the angel tell them? “Fear not.” When the angel came to Mary, telling her she was going to have a child, what did he tell her? “Fear not.” When Jesus was born an angel came to the shepherds in the field and what did he tell them? “Fear not.” This angel, goes by the name of Gabriel and is one of the dominant Archangels who gives wonderful announcements to God’s people. He gives us a message of hope, and hope is stronger than fear. Jesus, himself said to his disciples, terrified on the lake, thinking they were seeing a ghost, ,”Fear not.”[2] But there is an interesting twist to this message; another saying by Christ, that he made, earlier when he 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.”[3

This is where we introduce another angel, Michael who is the chief Archangel over all the angels in heaven and earth. Yes, as in heaven, there are angels on earth. On the feast day of Michael and All Angels, you may be asking, “How many angels are there?” Amply attested, are angels in both the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture, but it is safe to say they are innumerable. Many have tried to count them and give each a classification.[4] Some are in heaven and some on earth. Interestingly, there are those on earth, we refer to as the “Fallen” angels. These are the ones that aligned themselves with the Satan, the Devil. No doubt you have read literature, or watched something on TV, much of which is fantastic, imaginative, scary and fearful. Our culture is fascinated with the fallen angels much moreso than Michael and All the good angels, who bring a message of hope. Why is this? Why are so many drawn to a fallen nature that is corrupt, devious, sinister and plain evil? It goes back to Jesus’ saying, “Fear those who kill the body and soul in hell.” At that place, where heaven and hell is like a crossroad for our soul, should we not be more entertained, more captivated and drawn towards what is full of peace, hope, promise and love?

Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.

Everyone loves a good apocalypse. We would like to think we could survive one. There is certain to be war, pestilence and a lot of death. There is an insatiable appetite for what fuels our greatest fears. Maybe we imaginer ourselves in need of a hero, someone to win the day. We may need to call out to an angel or two to help us out. Michael would be a good one. In fact, every time there is a moment of the feeling of the end times, Michael appears in the Bible. The reading from Daniel is a good example. The King wanted to have full dominion over the people and if they did not submit to his authority, they would perish. For Daniel, he would be thrown into a den of lions, but he lived. An angel, in the form of a “Prince” whose name was “Michael” would wage war with the king of Persia and win. Here we see Michael on earth.

John the Evangelist, while exiled on the island of Patmos, had a similar vision, where Michael fought and threw down the great dragon, who was the Devil. He says that God revealed this event to him. Seven other angels would be seen, looking after the seven churches scattered in that region of current day Greece and Turkey. Michael is always found where there is war and destruction. He is always seen in the midst of an apocalypse. This occurrence shows that it is not the actual end of all time but rather the feeling one has in the middle of it.

Have you ever lived or heard about a time where people thought the end was near? Maybe now. In 2020 we have pandemic and we have a bit of a civil war being rumored, that anxiety, that fear may be entering once more. Maybe you think we are heading for the final showdown. That is most common for those who are young and old alike. Whether you have your first taste of the sense of finality or you’ve lived long enough to see the writing on the wall, you have to wonder, what is stronger? Hope or fear? The saying, “Hope. It is much stronger than fear,” is followed by these words, “If you can contain it.” Does anyone recall where you may have heard or read this? It is from one of many imaginative, apocalyptic fiction novels that many of you have watched. Here is a clue. It related to people who were being controlled by the government and used for the purpose of entertaining a blood thirsty, privileged few. From an unlikely place of heroism, a lone female mocked the advances of an evil dictatorship from one called, “President Snow.”[5]

What do you hunger for? Are you looking for a moment of courage and purpose? Are you wondering whether you are to be part of a movement where courage is required? It is an interesting dilemma for the Christian. We watch these fiction narratives and see our place as one of the characters called to fight; to lead the revolution; to throw down the rulers from their thrones but there is one interesting observation. There are not many Christian witnesses to speak of who were called by God to do any of these things. We could argue Joan of Arc, but can you think of others who may be a past or present day christian version of Catniss? What does God call us to do? He calls us to love and to obey. He calls us to care and to pray. Let the Michael and All the angels of God’s kingdom do the rest. Time and time again, God demonstrates how people of faith will be delivered from certain doom. We need more prayer activists coming from our Christian communities. Where the tongue can be like a two-edged sword, let it be the word of God that cuts through darkness and the power of evil and death. Too many people seeking martyrdom. Too many people confuse courage for self-gratification.

This is what Jesus cautioned us about. Once you go down that road, not only can you lose your life, you can lose your soul. What does God want from you? To answer, here is a famous quote by one of your favorite contemporary scholars, the great Michael Scott who asked, “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”[6]

Be of good heart and if you have any fear, fear the power of God moving mightily in this world, against the powers of evil, using the full arsenal of Michael and All angels, proclaiming Jesus as Lord, and bringing us hope; which is much stronger than fear.

[1] Robert Ludlom, American author, 1927-2001
[2] Matthew 14:27
[3] Matthew 10:28
[5] Robert Ludlom, The Jason Bourne series; borrowed by Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games.
[6] The Office TV series, Michael Scott character

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