Old Testament Reading- Psalms 27:1-14
New Testament Reading- 2 Corinthians 11:12-15
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -October 30, 2022
Last week’s sermon dealt with being cleaned and filled, by Jesus Christ. That we must empty our hearts of sinful natures and fill them with the attributes of Christ, goodness, kindness, patience, humility, mercy, compassion, tenderness, love, etc. This is a process, we don’t just wake up one morning, go to church, hear a sermon on changing oneself from the inside and then just do it. Oh, you might want it to happen that way, but it would be doubtful that change would really happen that way. Real change takes time, it is a marathon, not a sprint, but first we must do some work before that change can begin.
Fear is a powerful feeling. It can be used defensively, it can be used as a weapon, it can be used as a stumbling block, and it may even be used to completely incapacitate us. We are all capable of fearing something, phobias are nothing new to the human condition. This is definitely a time of year when we talk about fear. As we come closer to our observance of All Saint’s Day, we must face our mortality and our fear of dying. What are we afraid of, but that which we do not know. I sometimes wonder if before we were born, whether our souls were afraid to be born, or whether fear is just a condition of this world. During Halloween we make a mockery of our fears, the bogeyman, what lies underneath our beds and, in our closets, monsters, and death itself.
Yes, we make a mockery of our fears, but it is not quite that simple, is it? Fear is not that easy to beat, at least not completely. What we really fear, we build unassailable walls around to protect ourselves. In the Harry Potter series, Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin, introduced the students to what was known as a Boggart. Boggarts lived inside chests, closets, and wardrobes and were common to Harry’s world. No one really knew what a Boggart really looked like because it was a shapeshifter. It took on the identity of the greatest fear of whomever was looking at it. For example, if you were afraid of spiders, then it may appear as a giant spider, or if it was clowns you were afraid of, it may appear as a clown, but sometimes it would appear as something you least expected, especially if you had a deep-seated fear that was not as easy as spiders and snakes.
In our lives, we may have much worse fears than what goes bump in the night. Some of us may be afraid of loneliness, sickness, a recurrence of cancer, bankruptcy, divorce, losing loved ones, or losing our memories. I wonder what our Boggart would look like if they really existed? Interestingly enough, the counter spell to defeat a Boggart was to think of something that was not scary at all, then to point your wand at it and shout, Riddikulus, which then caused the Boggart to shapeshift into that which you did not fear. Just like in real life, sometimes facing our fears and naming them shows us that often those fears are just plain ridiculous and not to be feared at all.
"...we are in need of the cleansing and filling that only Jesus can provide. These fears and our reactions to the fears leave us with emptiness inside of ourselves that cannot be filled with anything but God. God is the only true medicine, therapy, and counseling that has a lasting effect on our lives." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Another Halloween tradition is to wear a mask, to become something that you are not, to make believe, or to act a part. Unfortunately, wearing masks is not just something we do to Trick or Treat. We face our fears with masks that we make for ourselves every day. A small boy in school is bullied by the bigger, more aggressive boys. His reaction, or mask then becomes one of the comic, who learns to make people laugh to cover his real emotions of fear and insufficiency. The same with the overweight girl, who is ridiculed by boys and girls. She goes home every night and cries because she just wants to be liked and treated right. Later in life she uses her feelings of wanting to fit in and grows out of her weight problem and becomes one of the most beautiful young women in the world, but this is a mask too because inside, she is still the same overweight young girl getting bullied and now she has a drinking problem because she is trying to self-medicate.
Just like last week’s message, we are in need of the cleansing and filling that only Jesus can provide. These fears and our reactions to the fears leave us with emptiness inside of ourselves that cannot be filled with anything but God. God is the only true medicine, therapy, and counseling that has a lasting effect on our lives. Psalm 27:1 tells us,
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?”
God does not want us to live our lives in fear, but to truly live our lives unburdened by unnecessary fears. Luke 12:22-26 tells us,
“Then Jesus said to His disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"
I know you may be saying to yourself, that adding a single hour to your life is not a little thing, and when we are talking about ourselves, it isn’t, but to God it really is a very little thing, He who can make life from nothing. The point is that when we go to God for help, nothing is too big for Him, and nothing is too small for Him to listen.
We have a tradition at Halloween to carve pumpkins into Jack-O-Lanterns. I am
talking about the old-fashioned kind of carvings like faces, not elaborate art carvings. We carve some that are scary, with pointed teeth, and jagged eyes. Others are happy, with smiling mouths and triangular eyes. Still others are sad, with a frowning mouth and eyes almost closed. If this Jack-O-Lantern was your mask, what face would you carve for yourself? How do you feel about yourself on a normal basis? Would it be sad, angry, happy, afraid, terrifying, bashful, funny, silly, simple, traditional, scary, or jolly? Now, what face would others carve to describe you? Would it be the same as what you carved for yourself? Now, what do you wish your face to be carved like? How do you want God to cleanse and fill your heart so that you no longer need to wear a mask but will be brave enough to show your true face?
Resolve to put your past behind you where it belongs and don’t keep looking back at it, or like Lot’s wife, you might just get stuck there. Throw away your masks and tear down your walls, allow Jesus to show you a new way of living. He tells us in Luke 12:32-34,
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
God always wants the best for us, in fact, some form of the phrase “Fear not” is one of the most heard phrases throughout the Bible, we would be wise to listen.
Fear may be the fun of the season, but real fear is no picnic and no way to live our lives. Always remember God’s Words from Isaiah,
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine,”
...and if God is for you, then who can be against you? You have nothing to fear. Praise, honor, and glory be to God forever more. Amen.