#ThursdayThoughts “Be Not Afraid” Sermon

Please enjoy Guest Minister, Rev. Julie Conaron’s selected readings and sermon from Sunday, August 4, 219, at the New Church of Montgomery.

“BE NOT AFRAID”

Fear runs a large part of our lives, and there’s much fear in the Word. How do we cope with this debilitating feeling in our lives?

CONTEXT

Fear/being afraid/frightened is a common thread for many of us in our lives, from childhood up to old age.

 

Be thinking of the many ways fear seems a part of our lives.

 

READINGS

Genesis 50:15-21 When Joseph’s brothers saw their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us and will certainly pay us back for all the wrong we did to him.” So, they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “I beg you, forgive the transgressions of your brothers and their sin. For they did evil to you.”’ Now please forgive the transgressions of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

 

Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face and said, “We are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?But as for you, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many lives. So now, do not fear. I will provide for you and your little ones.” So, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

 

(Despite what Joseph’s brothers did to him he bore them no ill will. He had so much faith and trust in God he was not afraid. However, his brothers were very fearful, thinking he would pay them back for treating him so badly.)

 

A similar story happened with Esau and Jacob:

Genesis 33: 1-17 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming and four hundred men with him. So, he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female servants.  He put the female servants and their children in front, then Leah and her children next, and then Rachel and Joseph last.  He went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

 

But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, he said, “Who are those with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the female servants came near, they and their children, and they bowed down. Leah also with her children came near and bowed themselves. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed themselves.

 

Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” Esau said, “I have enough, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” Jacob said, “No, I pray you, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my gift from my hand. For I have seen your face, and it is as though I have seen the face of God, with you having received me favorably. Please take my blessing that has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” So, he urged him, and he took it.

 

Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.” But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds with young are with me. If they are driven too hard one day, all the flock will die. Please let my lord pass over before his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the livestock that goes before me and the pace the children will be able to endure, until I come to my lord at Seir.”

 

So, Esau said, “Let me leave some of the people that are with me with you.”

But Jacob said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.”

So, Esau returned that day making his way back to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Sukkoth and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. 

 

(Of course Jacob was afraid. He had done bad things to his brother Esau: pretending to be him and stealing his birthright. However, Esau bore him no ill will: he was just happy to see him again.)

 

MESSAGE

 

So, both Esau and Jacob and Joseph and his brothers had had issues with each other. Yet the characters who were afraid were those who had done their sibling wrong, not the wronged sibling. And these stories are different: the brothers who did wrong behave differently

 

Here are some definitions of fear:

 

feeling fear; filled with apprehension: afraid to go. 

 

(feeling regret, unhappiness, or the like: I’m afraid we can’t go on Monday. 

feeling reluctance, unwillingness, distaste, or the like: He seemed afraid to show his own children a little kindness.)

 

WHAT DO THE HEAVENLY DOCTRINES SAY?

In the spiritual world the Writings tell us that those in evil and falsity are afraid, but there are other fears as we progress on our spiritual journey

 

AC 4249. And Jacob feared exceedingly, and was distressed. That this signifies the state when it is being changed, is evident from the fact that fear and distress are what are first in temptations, and that when the state is being inverted or changed these take precedence. The arcana which lie hidden in what is here said that Esau went to meet Jacob with four hundred men, and that Jacob therefore feared and was distressed can’t easily be set forth, for they are too interior. 

 

When good is taking the prior place and is subordinating truths to itself, which takes place when we’re undergoing spiritual temptations, the good that then flows in from within is accompanied by very many truths which have been stored up in our interiorperson. These can’t come to our mental view and understanding until good acts the first part, for then our natural begins to be enlightened by good, when it becomes apparent what things in it are in accord, and what are discordant, from which come the fear and distress that precede spiritual temptation. For spiritual temptation acts upon the conscience, which is in our interior person; and therefore when we enter into this temptation we don’t know where such fear and distress come from, although the angels with us know this well; for the temptation comes from the angels holding us in goods and truths while evil spirits are holding us in evils and falsities. ** (like Jacob wrestling with the angel?)

 

[2] For the things that come forth with the spirits and angels who are with us are perceived by us exactly as if they were in us; for while were living in the body, and if we don’t believe all things flow in, we suppose the things which come forth interiorly are not produced by causes outside of us, but that all the causes are within us, and are our very own; yet such is not the case. For whatever we think or will (our every thought and affection) are either from hell or heaven. When we think and will evils, and aredelighted with the consequent falsities, we may know our thoughts and affections are from hell; and while we are thinking and willing goods, and are delighted with the derivative truths, we may know they are from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord. the combat of evil spirits with angels appear as fear and distress, and of temptation, in us.

 

AE 80 (talking about John’s fear). Saying unto me, Fear not, signifies renewal of life. This is evident from the series of things in the internal sense. For John lay as dead, and the Lord, seen as the Son of man, laid His right hand upon him, and said to him, “Fear not.” His “lying as dead” signified failure of his self-life; the Lord’s “laying His right hand upon him” signified life from Him; therefore His saying to him “Fear not” signified renewal of life; for all who come suddenly from self-life into any spiritual life are at first afraid, but their life is renewed by the Lord. 

 

This renewal is effected in this way that the Divine presence, and fear on account of it, are accommodated to reception. The Lord is present, indeed, with all in the universe, but more nearly or remotely according to the reception of good by means of truths with them from Him (as when we take the Holy Supper). For good is that in which the Lord is present with angel, spirits and people; therefore the extent and quality of good from the Lord with them are what determine the extent and quality of the Divinepresence; if the presence goes beyond this, there is anguish and tremor; but by accommodation to reception there is renewal of life. This renewal is what is signified by “Fear not;” also in other places, where it is said by the Lord or by the angel of the Lord when seen: Renewal of life, that comes by accommodation to reception, appears in the spiritual world, when it is presented to view, as a cloud. All societies there are encompassed by such a cloud, denser or rarer according to reception. (Fears come between us and the Lord, heavens)

Note several different fears here: fear of losing what we had/fear on taking a new journey

 

SOLUTION

 

So, what do we do when those fears attack us? How do we cope with that unpleasant feeling?PRAYERS TO GOD

 

Are we in spiritual temptation, or are we allowing hell to attack us?

 

Stories: fear of loss by families/can lead to denial of situation/fear of the unknown.

 

How does fear affect your life?

 

Here are some nurturing passages from the Word:

 

Jos 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Isa 44: 1- 8 Yet now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen. Thus says the Lord who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you:
Do not fea
r, O Jacob, My servant, and you Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour
 water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground;
I will pour ou
t My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring;
and they shall spring up as among the grass,
 as willows by the water courses.
One will say, “I am the Lord’s”;
 another will call himself by the name of Jacob;
and another will write on his hand, “Belonging to the Lord,”
 and name himself by the name of Israel.

 

Thus says the Lord the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; besides Me there is no God. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it, and recount it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And let them declare to them the things that are coming, and shall come. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old, and declared it? You are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.

 

Amen

Photo by Maggie Panyko 2019, Outer Banks, North Carolina

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