Sylvania United Church of Christ
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The sermon for week December 16, 2012

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Here we go again.

A shooting at a high school.
Then at a college.
Then at a movie theater.
Then at a place of worship.
Then at a mall.
Now at an elementary school.

REALLY?

And what will happen? Same old bull-hockey of "It's the guns!" with the response of "Time to get your concealed carry!"

Give it a rest. Guns are the symptom. The root cause is fear.

Fear spewed by the talking heads. By asinine movies like Innocence of Muslims and 2016. Fear is everywhere.

You'll buy this product cause if you don't, you won't be good enough: Fear.

This cologne will help you get the girl, 'cause without it you're not man enough: Fear.

Buy this weapon for home defense cause you know THEY (whoever they are) are out to get you: Fear.

Vote for this candidate because the other has no good traits and will only bring us ruin: Fear.

We have just come out of a nasty political season filled with lies and fear. And now we're seeing the fruits of our fear. Not just because of the political season, but our culture in general.

Yet every time God shows up in the Bible, or sends an angel on God's behalf, the first words out of God's mouth are "FEAR NOT." Fear not.

That's hard in times like these. We are devastated as the news rolls in, as more information is released about the victims and their families and this causes us to fear for our children: for their future, of getting a call like this one, of it only getting worse and more senseless violence like this happening. But that is making this about us. And it's not about us.

It's about those parents who lost children.
It's about those out there whose fear drives them to get guns to use on others.
It's about our children and the world we're building and leaving for them.

Paul writes to the early Christian church in Corinth: "For there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love and the greatest of these is Love." And the 1st letter of John states, "...perfect love drives out fear."

What does Jesus have to say about this? Al Palmer recently asked me about a church sign that read “Go and buy a sword. -Jesus” This is from Luke 22:36 where Jesus gathers his disciples just before the last supper and states “... if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’;and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough.” he replied.

Yes, Jesus did tell his disciples to buy swords, but it's a set up for his last sermon. And note that the disciples don't go anywhere! They already had two swords! This is a set up job by Jesus. A few verses later, in the same chapter, where Jesus was getting arrested, we see this scene: When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?”And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

The Gospel of Matthew goes one step further. In Chapter 26:52, Jesus goes on to say “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

This was Jesus' last sermon. His last teaching point to his disciples. The early church interpreted this as Jesus calling his disciples not to defend themselves violently and thus the early church was nonviolent and peaceful in the face of serious persecution.

So if all this fear has you feeling like you should go buy a gun, and you don't know anything about guns, don't. Engage people. Engage your neighbor. Avoidance solves nothing. Revenge is cheap and a never ending trap. Scapegoating people with mental disabilities or behavioral problems is lazy. Thinking everyone who owns a gun is paranoid is also a trap to be wary of. Guns are tools, like knives or shovels; their task is to do a job. What gun you have and what it is designed for should be a consideration in our minds and a discussion worth having. But we won't have that if we avoid the conversation.

Engage one another. Engage your neighbors, your friends, those whom you fear. Jesus also said, “Love your enemy, do good to those who harm you.” An incredibly hard thing to do, but we are disciples and that is what we're commanded and called to do.

So let us engage one another with compassion and let's love on our children this day. Send your love out. May THEY (whoever they are) hear our response is profound and fearless LOVE, not fear. Not revenge. Not political leverage.

For perfect love drives out fear and is the greatest thing we have. Fear not. And love.

Further Reading:
Original Blogpost: Lindon, Luke. Fear Not. And Love.

Dahl, Julia. Mass Shootings in 2012: Crimesider reports on this year's public shootings

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