Sermon: Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.

 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” [John 14:1]

When I was a little boy – I believe I was in second grade – I remember talking with my friends about the end of the world.  Now, for many of you, it may seem odd that an eight year old would be discussing such matters, but you have to remember the times.  The Cuban Missile Crises had just passed; nuclear war was still a real possibility; the Berlin wall was fairly new; and President Kennedy had been assassinated only two years prior.  Plus, I went to Parochial School, and such discussions were not uncommon.

In our naiveté, we thought the end would be in the year 2000.  I remember doing the math and realizing I would only be 42 so, most likely, I would be alive.  Then I did something I will never forget – I prayed that I would be alive for the end of the world.

Well now it is the year 2011 and, according to Harold Camping, the Rapture should have occurred last night at 6:00 p.m.  Of course, a host of questions cross my mind.  Which 6:00 p.m.?  Is that Eastern or Pacific time?  Is that Greenwich Mean time?  He also said it would start with an earthquake in New Zealand and spread throughout the world, but that the actual end of the world would not occur for another 5 months, when the world would be destroyed by fire.

Now I must admit, when I first heard this prediction in September of 2010, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard.  Then all the pundit, newspapers, and comedians started making fun of Mr. Camping.  And then a terrible thought occurred to me.  Didn’t they do the same thing to Noah?

I am sorry but this whole thing reminds me of Chaucer and the Miller’s Tale.  In that story, a carpenter is hoodwinked by a young boarder who convinces the carpenter that another flood like Noah’s was coming.  This boarder convinces the carpenter to build another ark. If this poor carpenter had remembered his Bible, he would have known that God promised never to flood the world again.

I believe that Mr. Camping has more in common with the young boarder than he does with Noah.  Noah was following God’s command; Mr. Camping is following his own hubris or pride. 

But it may have been an honest mistake.  It may be that he just read things wrong, like the little boy who asked his Sunday School teacher, “Is it true that shepherds have dirty socks?”  “What do you mean?” asked the teacher. “I had heard that the shepherds washed their socks by night.”

Christ Himself has told us that we will never know the exact time for the Second Coming, only the season:

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

But we are NOT out of the woods yet.  Now we will have to deal with those who think the world will end on December 22, 2012 because the Mayan Calendar ends on that date.  And I am sure Harold Camping or some other person of his ilk will also come up with another date after the world fails to end  in 2012.

The truth is that there are a lot of people out there whose only goal is to create fear.  Fear makes people do things they would normally never do. Remember Y2K?  And fear enables these people to manipulate those in fear.

Christ NEVER preached fear.  Let me repeat that, Christ never preached fear!  He preached love; He preached reform; He preached that we should be prepared for His Second Coming because we will never know when we will meet our Maker.  But Jesus never tried to convince people to live their lives in fear. 

Quite the contrary, Jesus has taught us that it is more important to live brave, authentic lives.  We are to live without fear and in assurance that what we believe is true.  And this precisely is the crux of our lessons for today.  We are to live without fear:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”

In the Acts of the Apostles, we have Paul and Silas living out precisely how God wants us to live.  Notice, they are preaching what they believe, but there is more.  They have reasons for why they believe what they believe.  And they have evidence to help others see as they believe.  I know we often use the term “blind faith,” but theirs is not blind.  They have legitimate reasons to believe what they believe:

And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead: and that “This Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.”

The people in Berea did the same thing.  They did not take Saint Paul and Silas’ statements at face value. They used their reason AND their Scripture to see if what Saint Paul and Silas was telling them was true.  And this, more than anything else, convinced them that Jesus is the Christ:

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed: also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

These are important lessons for all us Christians.  Many of us may think that faith is a matter of “feeling.”  We feel it is true; we sense God’s existence, and we use our intuition to tell us what we should do.  But God has never intended our faith to be blind or just a matter of feeling. 

Our faith is based on three things.  It is based on evidence; it is based on Scripture; and it is based on testing that which we are told.

The evidence we have is the testimony of the Apostles and saints.  This is important, but it is also subject to falsity.  Charlatans can also claim experiences that seem true but are not.  So, testimony is important, but it must be tested by reason.  As miracles are tested for their veracity, so must these testimonies.  Was there something that makes these statements trustworthy? 

In the case of the Apostles, it was their martyrdom.  Very few people would go to their deaths embracing a lie.  Many who believe the truth of what they say will recant just to save their lives; very few would die knowing what they said was a lie and knowing that if they recant, they would save their lives. 

The second is that we must test what these people say against what Scripture tells us.  For Mr. Camping, this proves he is false.  God Himself, through His only begotten Son tells us that NO ONE knows precisely when the end will occur. We will know the season, and we know it will happen; but to pinpoint a precise date is actually absolutely scripturally unsound.

For the Apostles, it was the opposite.  Scripture clearly shows that Jesus IS the Christ.  He is our Savior and our Sacrificial Lamb.  And He came to save each and every one of us.  With that in mind, then how can we fear?

Finally, we are to test what we are told.  Christ has told us many things which go against our nature and seem to be untrue.  We are to forgive our enemies.  We are to lead by being the servant of others.  And we are to humble ourselves.  The veracity of these statements cannot be tested by Scripture alone; they must be lived out.  And when they are lived, we soon find that they are, in fact, true.  Our lives become better.  Our churches become more holy and spirit-filled.  And we move closer to God.

So our lesson for today is “Do not fear,”  or as FDR once put it, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  Fear cripples us and makes us powerless.  The assurances of God makes us strong and powerful – not in the sense that the world uses these terms, but much deeper and spiritual.  Knowing that Christ is our Savior and that we have nothing more to fear is liberating.  If the end comes, let us be prepared, but let us NOT fear.    And if we can do this, our hearts will be free to love and worship God and to do His will here on earth.

Amen.

 

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