Don’t Fear, instead Rejoice, and tell God Stories!
Raw notes from my little homily today: why not share it here also, as this is like the outer courts of the temple where the people gather to discuss what’s up. And Jeremiah always hung out in that space. And I like that guy! Anyway…if you don’t believe in Jesus, or if you like Jesus but don’t like religion, just skip to the parts about Love versus fear!
Today i watched a father show his son a bullet hole in a wall. The son grew afraid and the father already was.
I was on the way to talk to a small group of people on Henri Nouwen’s idea of moving from the house of fear to the house of love (from his book, “Spiritual formation” published posthumously), and living from that place where we hear the tone of Love in our hearts as a necessary spiritual practice in our times of fear and shaking externally. I had felt impressed to meditate on Isaiah 41 today, and was going to teach from that passage which is set in the end times.
I was thinking, that we as friends of the Prince of Peace, if we take that friendship seriously, not just religiously, are meant to according to Isaiah, move in the opposite spirit than fear if we are His Friends, and not just religious acquaintances. We are to actively come out from the ways of fear into the ways of Love. Take off fear daily, and put on Love’s ways. That’s the practice. Put on Love, before assisting others.
If we simply react to fear, we will be in the current of the ways of fear. We must instead actively put on the ways of Love, and abide in them.
For ideology (or even our best ideas) won’t make us safe or a safe place, “the shelter of the Presence of the Most High” and friendship or close proximity with Him, will. We have to actually walk around as friends of God.
That in Him, we are safe havens of love and kindness, His presence is Peace, and we are carriers of that Presence; especially as darkness increases, and true light of His Presence (not just ideologies) must come in higher contrast, as we tell the stories past and present of His kindnesses to us.
Isaiah is the most erudite and articulate of the prophets, expressing most of his content in fluid symbols which tap into the Reality of his message.
So you see three directives in this chapter towards God’s friends, which is set in “end times”: don’t fear, rejoice, tell stories of God’s kindnesses so people can know Him, and see the high contrast with the shaking turbulences around them. We get to be living signs in the story.
There are three characters in this passage: those busy building idols (who have a certain unity of evil), the friends of God (who are challenged to have real unity in Love), and God Himself. The setting is the end of the world! Pretty grand narrative here. Similar to chapter 63.
That’s the opportunity now, in our times. So, we discipline ourselves to not live in fear. We hold fear captive in our hearts, so to the degree it doesn’t rule over us, we can bring that fearlessness to others. That’s the practice of daily overcoming fear. For perfect Love, which is God, cast out fear. So our job is to be in and near God—friends. We pray, we travel often to the Cross, to throw out fear in our minds and hearts. We move in the opposite spirit.
I see increasing fear, anxiety, and confusion everywhere these days. But we are called to do three things: don’t live in fear, instead rejoice, and tell stories of His kindnesses to us. Telling the stories, also keeps us in Peace as we remember His faithfulness across the years of our own narratives.
So, we are to be clinging to His command to not be afraid (Isaiah 41), to actively, hourly find the Voice of Love, to listen for that tone of His Presence, as Nouwen would put it. Not to fear, instead to actually rejoice, resonate in, and tell His Stories of life through ours! Express well, His “kindnesses” to you—past and present.
That ushers in healing and the safest place on earth-His Presence. It brings a space of love and safety for others around us, and for ourselves for that matter.
There’s lots more in this passage and how it relates to chapter 63 as well. Like the type of unity (being unified around a common fear is not true or higher unity) that evil has in building idols, how that type of unity is meant to intimidate and distract us from true unity in Love; and the contrasting unity His people have in love. But to hear that part you would have to come to the group.
Henri Nouwen wrote: “When we begin to understand at a deep, spiritual level that we live surrounded by love and in communion with God no matter what the external circumstances, we can let go of the fear that lurks on the outskirts of our minds. We can move from the house of fear to the house of Love where the Voice and Presence of God is.”
So, don’t fear, instead rejoice and find His Presence, and tell stories about it, through whatever creative mediums you tell stories. That was my sermon in a nutshell.
Interesting always how “real life” brings scriptures to life. Turns out they still apply. I promise i compressed this into seven mixtures at the gathering! Not easy to do when preaching from da prophets!
Hope I get to see that man and his son again to tell them they don’t have to live in fear. In the meantime, i’ll say it here.
There is also these sub points about the unity of evil, and the church and jews and their unique roles in the end times Isaiah 41. It’s a rich prophetic passage.
But the keys for those who are friends of God, is stop focusing on the demonic, instead, develop a practice of Peace within yourself. He is Perfect Love, so stay in Him! Then actually rejoice, and tell the stories of His kindness to you personally and then collectively—all He has done in the past. This will allow us to be helpful now.
What I see from Isaiah is also a warning about not entering false unity which is actually building idols. There is a type of unity which is not in or of God. It is the unity of the broken human nature trying to build it’s own ideology of safety. This is the tree of knowledge rather than the Reality in the Tree of Life.
We can have knowledge of what justice is, but not be moving in the Reality of His Justice.
We have to be able to discern between what seems good, but is not in Him, and the good that is in Him. Discernment is His Spirit in things and issues is essential now. The devil can say nice things, which aren’t in truth. We need to know who is actually speaking. That requires the sheep to know His True Voice. We learn to discern the heart of an issue, or what is being said. Jesus warned of many imitators of Christ, who were moving in the opposite of His Spirit. The Tone of Love is essential in discerning the difference. Is this like The Father? The idea seems true, but is He in it. Elijah had to discern where God’s voice actually was—which form was He taking, which medium was He speaking through that day. We need the same keenness this season as we learn to not live in fear, to rejoice and tell His Stories!