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Belmont United Methodist Church in Belmont Massachusetts

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Fear Not Little Flock - Rev Wimmer - November 22, 2009 - Joel 2.21-17; Mathew 6.25-33


Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix it.
Dillard was right about all that must be considered but she was kidding when she said we are in charge. We only think we are in charge. We have never been in charge. That was her way of saying what is wrong with us. We think we have to be in charge but pretending we are in charge is worse than not being in charge at all because we are trusting what will not save us from anything. We trust ourselves exclusively with our own lives even while most of us know that what we know is not enough. What we know is just not enough (even if we know a lot.)

What we do have enough of is stuff. That is the technical term for the glorious bounty of having all the good things of life or so we think until it dawns on us that all of this stuff is not making us less anxious but more anxious and what is missing is peace. It is peace, after all, that Jesus is talking about when he says we worry too much. We worry too much because we don’t have peace. Not really. And I think we know that. That is not a big surprise to us, is it?
Now peace we learned a long time ago is not the absence of anything but rather is a presence. It is not, in other words, nothing but something. Unfortunately however it is not something in the usual way of stuff because it is not something we can see or lock away or stack on shelves so much as it is something we cannot see but can know in the same way we know we are not hungry anymore after having eaten our fill. Peace fills us too. What peace does as it fills us is leaves less and less room for fear. Fear not little flock.
Sometimes I think we wouldn’t mind being somebody’s little flock but we are very skeptical about ever losing the fear. Now the Bible says that love casts out fear but then the Bible says we need not worry about what we will eat either and besides we are still like those who wanted to know what we are really afraid of and were told that the thing we fear is the very thing that casts out fear and that is love.
And why would we fear love? Because it would mean we would have to trust someone other than ourselves. We have enough trouble doing that with other people let alone with this mysterious thing we call God. How ironic is it that we remain fearful because we fear what will set us free of fear? We are afraid to love God and therefore to trust our lives to God.
It should be pointed out at this point that Jesus was not completely delusionary. Trusting God does not mean we stop taking care of ourselves and each other. It simply means that we can do these things with a confidence that when we do what is needed it will be enough. Just because we are helpless to save ourselves or even to fix most things does not mean that we are not still responsible to do what we can do.
I was moved at the school for congregational development when Bart Campolo affirmed what I have been thinking for a while now and that is that it is not our task to save the world or even to fix it. It is our task to love the world and sometimes love will fix it and someday love will save the world but we get ahead of ourselves when we think that we have failed when all we do is fail to succeed at saving the world or even changing the world very much. When we get up in the morning and love somebody we have not failed even if we have no success at all. Love is something anybody can do.
Perhaps we are afraid of love because we think we have to be successful, that we have to get it right. Love is not something we get right by sheer force of will. It is what we surrender our will to. It is what we give up when we give up running the world we have made.
The wonderful thing about love is that we can get all we want by just doing it. We cannot will ourselves to be filled with peace but we can love anybody anytime, randomly, irrationaly, even recklessly?consider the lilies, indeed, and I’ll let you in on what I think Jesus knew and what we could know too if we pay attention. Peace is a presence and the presence is love. As we love more and more, peace abides in us more and more. Oh, and by the way, neither peace or love are the absence of trouble. Love is not motivated by achieving something even the end of trouble. Love is what we do for another without regard for any other result than the love itself. Even love rejected is love worth doing because it is what we can do. (Someone once told CS Lewis when his wife was sick with cancer that his prayers were not going to change anything to which old CS said, not so, they have already changed me.) Indeed love is what we are here to do and when we do it, and are filled with doing it we wake up one day and are surprised to find that we are no longer afraid. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we no longer afraid of fear. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. It is just something to be overcome. Most people who have been recognized for doing something brave in the face of fear will tell you that they never stopped being afraid, they just didn’t let the fear stop them from doing what they had to do. I think this is why love is more powerful than fear because it is love that moves us, literally empowers us to do the right thing in the face of fear and it is love that reveals when we do it that what we feared can indeed be overcome because we just overcame it.
Anyway, all I am saying is that this complex and frightening life can be overcome and more. It can be lived in peace if we dare to love. I like what Paul is supposed to have written in one of his letters: Let us pray for everyone so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. God desires that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And then he writes (I am telling the truth, I am not lying.) (Now this is a word that we preachers could use because sometimes the good news is too good to be true unless you are a lunatic (in the best possible way) like Buechner who says that the good news is too good NOT to be true.)Anyway, Paul was definitely on to something. He was the one who described love as if he knew what he was talking about: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (These words are written by someone whose heart is so full of love that the words speak themselves. )
The prophet Joel cannot contain the joy in his words either as he comes pretty darn close to considering the lilies himself: Do not fear, O soil, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield. O children of God, be glad and rejoice forod has done great things for us.
Even the ground and the trees and the animals are included in the bounty of God’s mercy and grace, the sweetness of the fig and the fruit of the vine. We are talking about the world God has made and that has made all the difference for the world we have made that Dillard was talking about for that complex and busy and confusing and troubled world simply cannot keep hidden forever the true beauty of our reality for this is God’s world we inhabit and even what we have made of it can be redeemed by the love of God that takes otherwise completely serious people like the apostle Paul and the prophet Joel and the writers Buechner and Dillard and makes them crazy with joy with words that literally sing the truth from the very heart of God. (Maybe we all hae to be a little crazy if this world we have made is what passes for sanity.)
Well, now, it is our time to rejoice. The news is often bad but God is still faithful and love is still possible and life is still ours to live. Be a little crazy. Consider the lilies. Trust God and fear not, little flock! (I am telling the truth. I am not lying.)

Fear Not, Little Flock Thanksgiving 2009
Annie Dillard said it. Her response to this radical word that says in Luke’s version, “fear not little flock” and in Matthew, “don’t worry about your life” is still the best I have seen. Do you remember what she wrote? She wrote: “Our lives are complex. There are many things we must consider before we go considering any lilies. There are many things we must fear. We are in charge. We are running things in a world we made; we are nobody’s little flock.”
And so it is. If there is one thing I do know it is that life in our context is complex. I am pretty sure I am not the only one who is overwhelmed by the fact that so much of what I depend on for my life is beyond my comprehension of it. I not only don’t know how anything works. I do not know why. From my car to my health care to my bank account to my computer to my house to my government, I do not really understand what is happening. I do my best to scrape the surface and pretend that I can do this but the truth is that if anything goes wrong in any of those places I have no idea how to fix


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Belmont United Methodist Church is a Certified Welcoming Congregation


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