Friday, May 23, 2014

Lords and Victors

“Can any of you by worrying add
  a single hour to the span of your life?"
                                 — Luke 12:25
So this packet arrives in the mail from our new new insurance company.  That’s not a typo: they are the second new insurance company we’ve had since State Farm decided not to continue homeowners’ policies in Florida.  The first one was Citizens’ Insurance, the state’s catch-all company for people who can’t get insurance elsewhere.  When our premium switched over to Citizens’ we saw a significant increase for the same coverage, something we were expecting since we figured there had to be some reason all these companies were pulling out.  But when Citizens’ began dumping people like us when smaller insurers began writing policies again, we expected our premium would go down and thing things would get better.

So we open the packet and take a look at this new policy and not only is it higher than Citizens’, it’s way higher — like over $8000.  We double check the paperwork and see that over $6000 of that is simply sinkhole coverage.  Wow—imagine the panic we were feeling thinking that it was going to cost us that much a year just for the insurance on our house.  Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not looking at moving any time soon, but the momentary thought that jumped into my head when I saw that was: “If that’s the way it’s going to be, we can’t stay here.  There’s no way.”    When the heartbeat got back to normal and the adrenaline subsided, it became clear that we’d just have to call our agent and get this straightened out...that this was surely a mistake we could easily remedy simply by changing our coverage and dumping that special sinkhole clause.  No need to panic—everything is going to be all right.  And it is.

But it’s that moment of panic that sticks with me.  That horrible sickening feeling of impending doom and disaster that jumps out at us can not only ruin your day, it can make your whole life unstable and insecure.  Whether it’s a crazy bill, a list of maladies your doctor tells you that you might have, concern about something not so flattering that someone’s been saying about you, or not getting that inheritance you’ve been thinking would be yours — foiled expectations and unpleasant surprises can change our attitude in an instant from “Everything’s fine” to “My life is over.”

How we handle those moments of panic is a key spiritual issue for us as God’s people.  We all have anxieties of one sort of another.  If it’s not ourselves we’re worried about, it’s a loved one.  If it’s not our health or careers, it’s a relationship.  We also know that all we are and all we have is in God’s hands.  Martin Luther reminded the people of his land who were being persecuted for believing in the gospel how powerful faith is in combating these anxieties.  At a time and place where  people were being executed for preaching God’s Word, he wrote to his friend Cronberg:
Wherever Christ is, Judas, Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, and Annas will inevitably be also, so also his cross.  If not, he is not the true Christ.  Therefore we are not concerned with our woes, but with the wretchedness of our persecutors; for we ourselves are well provided for.  We are certain that they cannot distract from that; rather, the more they rage against us, the more they destroy themselves and prosper us, as St. Paul states in Philippians 1:18.  “Who can harm us since we have a Lord who holds the death and life of all our adversaries in his hand?” (Romans 14:9), and who addresses our heart so comfortingly in John 16:33, saying “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  They threaten us with death.  If they were as smart as they are stupid, they would threaten us with life.  It is a shame and disgrace to try to threaten and terrify Christ and his Christians with death for, after all, they are lords and victors over death.  It is just like trying to frighten a man by bridling and saddling his horse and bidding him to ride it!”
 Lords and victors over death — this is what we are thanks to Christ and his cross and his body and his blood, thanks to our faith, thanks to our baptism.  If death is no more a threat than a horse we might ride — a walk in the park, so to speak — why is it that we still feel those pangs of fear when we are caught offguard by unexpected news?  When we are reminded of our limitations and the challenges we face in this world, we tend to forget who it is doing all the heavy lifting in our lives — the one who does more than just watch over us, but protects and provides for us every moment of every day.  Is it really possible for us flesh and blood people to get beyond worry and fear for good?
Like many things in life, I think that is a perpetual struggle for us all.  By coming back again and again for worship, inviting God into our lives in prayer, in scripture reading, in serving others, we train ourselves more and more in the attitudes of God’s kingdom.  We breathe easier, love more freely and are more patient with each other when we know ourselves to be in God’s hands.  We forgive our neighbors more freely when we have confessed our own sins and confronted the reality about how much God has forgiven us.  And when we experience the “peace that passes all human understanding” and are freed from the worries about our own lives, we are suddenly freed up to help others and to love them in a way that does not expect anything back.
This summer as you simmer in the sun or visit your loved ones or finish those projects around the house, don’t forget to make room for the one who loves you most of all.  God loves you and blesses both your labor and leisure with grace.  I hope you experience a true getaway from all the burdens that keep you from being the person God is calling you to be — that you may enjoy God’s creation and the love of neighbors and free and spontaneous praise of his glory, mercy, and care.  Like we say every Sunday, “Go in peace, and serve the Lord!”
Pastor Scott