By The Rev. Sherry Crompton
July 4, 2010
Read: Luke 10:1-22, 16-20
Happy Independence Day! This is the date on which we celebrate our declaration of independence from Great Britain. It was a unanimous declaration of the 13 united states of America. The most familiar part of the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
I’d like to point out that that statement declares that our fundamental rights emanate from our Creator, from God, not from our government. The declaration ends with this statement: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Let me repeat that…”And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor”. This follows with the unanimous signing from all 13 of the existing United States. I put several copies of the declaration in the pews for those who might be interested in recalling the reasons we made the serious split from Great Britain.
That last statement shows a leadership that recognizes a Divine guidance when in in the pursuit of honoring our God-given lives. It had to be somewhat frightening to separate from what was known and figure out how to live into a new way of being. It had to be scary to be those first immigrants embarking on that journey across the ocean to find a new way of living in America. Exciting, but scary, because of the unknown. What is it that causes a person to be willing, in spite of the very real risks, in this case deadly risks, to move. To go.
Which takes us to our gospel reading for today. The 70 that were sent on ahead of Jesus, in pairs, to every town and place where he himself intended to go. “go on your way, he says. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”
Lambs into the midst of wolves. Scary stuff. Wolves are invariably portrayed as evil in our folklore. They are not nice. They are to be feared. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about “Peter and the Wolf” or “Little Red Riding Hood” or “The Three Little Pigs”. When we read about wolves, they are the enemy.
(I do want to point out that it isn’t necessarily true in Native American culture. It may be because Native Americans didn’t raise sheep.)
But the “Big Bad Wolf” in Western culture is almost always a metaphor for the fears we have. In some stories, the “Big Bad Wolf” is really the fear of darkness. In others it’s the fear of failure or the fear of death or the fear of loneliness.
The Big Bad Wolf is symbolic of the things we fear. And we all have fears. I don’t know what your fears are, but I do know some of mine. One way to help identify your fears is to ask the question, “What keeps you awake at night?” What are the dreams and fears that make your heart race and your palms sweat?
That’s your Big Bad Wolf.
A young man and his daughter visit a local café for breakfast on a Saturday morning. It has become a Saturday ritual for the two of them. Mom sleeps in, while dad and daughter eat out. They usually get coffee and pastry to take home for mom before they leave.
On one particular morning, dad and daughter are deep in conversation. As they talk about schoolwork, best friends and an upcoming birthday party, the daughter becomes very excited. She waves her arms as she describes some event that took place at school recently. Suddenly, her arm catches the edge of a glass of orange juice sending liquid spilling everywhere.
The daughter immediately throws her hands over her face and begins crying.
“Oh, Daddy. I am so sorry. I did not mean for that to happen.”
Very calmly and softy the dad pulls her hands from her face and looks warmly into her eyes. “It’s okay,” the dad says. “You don’t have to be sorry. It was just an accident. Anyone can have an accident. Let’s get a towel from our server and clean this up. You don’t need to cry. This could happen to anyone.”
The relief is evident on the daughter’s face. The tears give way to a slight grin as they work together cleaning up the juice. Later as they are about to leave the café, the daughter goes to the counter to get the coffee and pastry for mom. While she is there, the owner of the café stops by the table and leans toward the dad.
“That was a good thing you did today,” the owner says in a low voice. “What’s that?” the dad asks. “Teaching your daughter that it’s all right to fail,” the owner replies. “Helping her understand that will free her from a world of frustration and guilt in the future…
So what are we afraid of? Whether we are talking about American Independence Day or our faith life, let’s ask the question: Independence FROM what? Independence FOR what? We are free to join the 70 in preparing the way for the Kingdom or to stay where we are – what do we do with that freedom? Does fear of failure keep us from doing? From being? What fears may be keeping us right where we are?
Notice that Jesus does not announce that success is all that matters. It is reassuring that while God does expect us to be faithful, our success is not ours to claim but it is God’s own doing. Our gospel passage even redefines what success means to Christians: When the seventy returned they rejoiced in their achievements – “Even the demons submit to us!”—the seventy said.
Jesus scolded them. He said that more important than authority to tread on snakes and scorpions or even power over demonic forces, is that their names are written in heaven. The chief goal for Christians is not perfection but salvation, not success but faithfulness. After all, the public ministry of Jesus does not look like it comes to a successful end. What greater failure can there be than to be left alone on a cross to die?
Yet he rises from this disgrace, he rises from this disgrace, because there is nothing stronger than his faithfulness to his Father. So Easter frees us from the fear of failure. Our concern is no longer success, but faithfulness.
Jesus sends us out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Jesus is with us on our journey and will guide us through our greatest fears. This spiritual strength is the source that kept and keeps disciples going. I would venture to say that it is the strength our ancestors tapped in to and declared in that last sentence of our Declaration of Independence, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace. Amen.
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