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Matthew 10:24-39

I still remember hearing the words “I am going to write a book with the title, “God Doesn’t Give a Rip about the Sparrows.” This statement was followed with silence as large group of us had been laughing and crying together as we sat around a table after a friend’s funeral. This happened a while ago and yet it still echoes in my mind. This was an acute expression of grief, of loss, and of expecting something else from God. It is similar to the words of the two walking the Emmaus Road who said; “But we had hoped….

Aside from the reality that this is an acute moment of grief, which frankly gives permission for people to cry out without theological checks, there is something fairly common to Christ followers revealed. Many of us fall into a transactional understanding of our commitment to discipleship. That is, if I fulfill my end of agreement; which can vary but often sounds like: give from my resources, attend church, pray, then God provides some basic protections. There is room for minor setbacks, but major catastrophes (like death) are out of order. I give you my life and you give me a good life. The assumed promise is that we will have all the components for a good life in our cultural context. In a North American context that can mean if I follow God I will have the resources for a certain size home, sense of security, meaningful work, spouse and children. When those things don’t happen we often ask; Why? What did I do wrong? or our own version of “But we had hoped…”.

Here is the difficult (and good) news; this transactional assumption is not the discipleship revealed in scriptures.

The passage we are diving into is a portion of the “missionary discourse” found in Matthew. The chapter begins with the sending of the twelve disciples with authority, offering healing in the name of Jesus and the proclamation that the kingdom of heaven is near. Sounds like a good life. And yet most of this chapter also offers a reality check. We are told that our journey as disciples will be like the journey of Christ. There will be rejection, distress, persecution and heartache. We get a pretty dire picture of local governments flogging, towns rejecting, families betraying . . . culminating in “All men will hate you because of me” (Matthew 10: 22). And then in a spot pretty central to the teaching in this discourse we fine verse 26: “So have no fear of them”. They can, and will, harm you, but fear not.

This is an interesting call. The disciples are being told that as you go forth these hard things will happen but fear not. I am not a fan of being scared. I don’t like scary movies, I don’t like feeling spooked. I made my husband promise me he would never intentionally scare me in our home. I don’t like the on edge feeling of being afraid. So how do I embody a fear not kind of life when it seems pretty clear that God is not offering human-type transaction with the assurance of safety and well-being?