Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sermon 12/17

Fear can be utterly crippling. I have found myself overwhelmed by fears of late, and I know it is the season for many of us to come face to face with some difficult problems.

Some of the fears I have had to confront this week:

-Not having enough money, especially as I consider how to pay for Christmas gifts, pay off student loans, credit cards, and all the regular bills.

-death. I have been to visit with Scott Baker and with Richard Camp this week. Scott had some rough infections to fight off this week, and it took a toll on him. Richard has been fighting his cancer for several years now, and this go round seems to be likely to be the last.

-As I confronted my mortality I also confronted those things that I additionally fear like the loss of my mind/memory or as I have struggled through a strained hamstring the loss of my body in one form or another.

-I have had to face those who did not like me or decisions I made. I have to say that continues to be a fear of mine, I want to be liked, and I want to do what is right and best for God’s kingdom. Sometimes I realize that will take me into the face of others, and cause dislike and regret.

-Speaking of regret I fear my regrets will come back to haunt me. Like the girl I broke up with that stalked me for 6 months after we broke up will walk back into my life.

-As a pastor I am constantly aware of the teaching I need to do, and I fear I may lead someone too far off the path (I suspect I already lead some off the track from time to time, but pray for grace to see me and them through). What’s more when those fears start to creep in, it isn’t too long before I start to fear for my own salvation. Did I really get it right with Jesus, or am I just a loony in the bin with so many others?

-When all that piles up I begin to fear that I am a failure, in the church, in my marriage, in my family relationships, and even in my friendships finding regret for the friend I haven’t called in ages.

Those are my internal fears, and they pale in comparison to the ones that so many others want to foist on me…

-My money will be worthless because there is no retirement security for my generation.

-That the Muslims are going to take over the world, and crucify me, even me, especially if we don’t keep on in Iraq. Or that the Communists are on the rise again starting with China and the Muslims won’t matter because China is big enough and bad enough to take on all comers.

-That the fires will come tearing through the neighborhood again. Or the “big one” will strike and we’ll have no food or water. Or that the global warming will generate enough heat to fry me just by walking outside.

-What about the nightly fears about our food, that this food or that drink is tainted and we need to stop eating or drinking that item.

-Or the high crime rates in San Bernardino, and the Del Rosa area, that we ought to be afraid of the drug dealers, the pimps/prostitutes, and gang bangers, let alone the petty thieves and taggers.

We are taught there are four responses to fear. Most of us know of the first two fight or flight. The other two are also out there, and some of you probably know about the freeze response, or the sex drive response.

These all have to deal with giving in to the tension of the fears, by letting them overwhelm us, or taking over.

I have to say that I learned something entirely new this week. In the church, we hope to have different responses to natural occurrences because of the transformational being of Jesus Christ, and I have had to try to learn this new response this week. Strangely I found it in our texts for this week, in Zephaniah and Luke. The response is joy.

I want to share with you how to get Joy, but first we ought to discover what Joy is.

1. The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or
      expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions
      caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a
      rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire;
      gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight.
      [1913 Webster]

joy (joi) pronunciation

    1. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
    2. The expression or manifestation of such feeling.
  1. A source or an object of pleasure or satisfaction: their only child, their pride and joy.

v., joyed, joy·ing, joys.


To take great pleasure; rejoice. Archaic.

  1. To fill with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction.
  2. To enjoy.

[Middle English joie, from Old French, from Latin gaudia, pl. of gaudium, joy, from gaudēre, to rejoice.




  1. A feeling of extreme gratification aroused by something good or desired: delectation, delight, enjoyment, pleasure. See happy/unhappy, like/dislike.
  2. A condition of supreme well-being and good spirits: beatitude, blessedness, bliss, cheer, cheerfulness, felicity, gladness, happiness, joyfulness. See happy/unhappy.


  1. To feel or take joy or pleasure: delight, exult, pleasure, rejoice. See happy/unhappy.
  2. To give great or keen pleasure to: cheer, delight, enchant, gladden, gratify, overjoy, please, pleasure, tickle. See happy/unhappy, like/dislike.

Zephaniah speaks of all the wrath of God in all the text leading to our text from this morning, and then we have this responsive. Luke begins the passage with the statement from John about running from the wrath…a very fear-filled response to the dangers of the world, and the world to come.

The better part is to realize that both Zephaniah and Luke offer us ways to turn our fear into Joy.

-First, recognize God in our midst (Zeph. 3:17) The very claim of John the Baptist in Luke. God in turn rejoices in us and renews us.

-Our shame can turn to praise. (Zeph. 3:19, Luke 3:14)

*cf. Kirk Franklin and his struggle with Pornography

*cf. The Pursuit of Happyness and Chris Gardner

-Come home and do what you were intended to do. (Zeph 3:20, Luke 3:12)

-Don’t rely on your past accomplishments. (Zephaniah, Luke 3:8)

*corollary: Don’t dwell on past failures as they lead to fear.

*Do good today if you have two coats, give one away, and likewise if you have food.

* Do not instill fear in others. (Luke 3:12-14)

- Expect baptism to change you, to run through your spirit like fire, to cleanse and purify you. (Luke 3:16)

*Joy comes in the morning, and we need to face our fears and be transformed by God.

There is nothing that says that doing these things immediately ensures joy, but it will counter fear. In destroying fear we can find true joy.


    1. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.
    2. The expression or manifestation of such feeling.


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