Sometimes a little fear is a good thing. We teach our children to have a healthy fear of electricity…or crossing the street…or putting little fingers on a hot stove. A little fear is healthy. Now that my nieces are teenagers, I wouldn’t mind if they had a little more of it!
Sometimes the Bible talks about this kind of fear, too…the kind of fear that actually means “respect.” The Psalmist tells us to fear the Lord. As part of each commandment’s explanation, Luther says “We are to fear and love God, so that…” A little fear (meaning respect) is a good thing.
But then again there’s the sort of fear that isn’t very helpful…the sort of fear that holds us back. Everyone has a slightly different list of their biggest fears, but the ones I’ve heard most often are cancer, the unknown, and death itself. In the face of these sorts of things, is it even possible to take Jesus’ words to heart and “have no fear?”
The only way I think it’s even possible is in light of today’s first reading. There’s a reason Jesus’ words about having no fear in Matthew’s Gospel are paired in our lectionary with Romans chapter 6 which says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
I know this is a deep topic for the end of June, but it’s what the lectionary gave us today…maybe because one of you needs to hear it. So here we go: After you’ve been dead and come back to life, what else is there to fear?
Today we’ll hear stories of people who have intimate experience with these verses. We’ll also be reminded that, even without a near death experience, every one of us has been “buried with [Christ] by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” And after you’ve been dead and come back to life, what else is there to fear?