Lectionary Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
Let us pray: Lord, speak to us this morning through your Word, we pray. Send your Holy Spirit to this place to remind us of your truth. Be with us. We pray together in your holy name, Amen.
Letting Go of Fear
I don’t know about all of you, but I am loving this trend where Netflix and Amazon and everyone else makes their own shows, so now I can watch their shows along with everyone else’s.
And the ones I’ve seen have been good shows. One of my favorite shows that I’ve seen recently, for instance, was the Netflix show The Dragon Prince, which is about a land full of magic and dragons and elves and all sorts of other creatures. In this land, most creatures have some kind of magical gift and abilities, but humans do not. Instead, if humans want to do magic, they have to kill some other creature and take its magic.
Not everyone is willing to do this. One of the human kings, for instance, King Harrow, strives to be a good king and a good man. He does not rely on magic. But then his neighboring kingdom’s queens come to him, begging for help: for they have had a famine for years, and their people are in danger of starving. King Harrow agrees to help them.
The king’s main advisor reminds the king that they barely have enough to feed their own people, that they certainly don’t have the resources to feed a hundred thousand more people. If they share their resources, they will only ensure that some of their people die as well. But King Harrow refuses to let people starve while he could do something about it.
The advisor Viren suggests a solution: if they can find and kill a titan, he can use its magic to grow food through the winter and feed everyone–not only this winter, but for years to come.
No one knows if titans are intelligent. Everyone knows that they live in enemy territory. But they go, and they find the titan and kill it by ripping out its heart, and the magic is done and the people are saved.
This storyline has stuck with me. It feels so relatable (other than the dragons and magic and whatnot, of course). How often do we say, ‘There isn’t enough right now, but if I just do this one thing, there will be enough? Not only enough, but more than enough, so that I will never have to worry again? I know it’s questionable–if I’m honest, what I’m doing doesn’t feel quite right–but it’s only the one time. Then I’ll have enough.” And how often do we fear not having enough, and act from that fear without thinking of what’s right?
And yet in our Scriptures, something else is happening. We have our text from Deuteronomy, a book mostly made up of the specifics of the Law, that is, the way that Israel should act when it came into the land of Israel. Our passage today is no different: it is an instruction about the first fruits, that is, the very first of the harvest each year. The people are instructed to go to the temple with their first fruits and dedicate it to God. A priest takes it, lays it before the altar as the farmer says a litany to remember the people’s history before the altar, and then the food is given to the priests and their families and anyone else who needs it.
The people do not take the extra, the excess, and sacrifice that. Instead, they are told to take the very first of the harvest, the best and most ripe and most tender, and give from that. Even if the harvest is poor, even if something happens during the harvest, the people are told to give, to trust in God and to care for one another.
That is, they shouldn’t worry if there will be enough.
And in Luke we read of Jesus’ temptation, of how Jesus goes into the wilderness to fast and pray, to prepare Himself for His upcoming ministry. And at the end of that time, when Jesus was “famished” after forty days without food, the devil comes to derail Him: ‘Surely you’re hungry,’ he says, ‘and if you are who you say you are, you can turn these stones into bread and have enough to eat.’ And, when that doesn’t work: ‘Worship me, and you will be secure in your power. I will give you all the lands; I will stop you from being hurt.’ The devil comes, assuming that Jesus will be afraid there won’t be enough: enough food, enough power, enough security. But Jesus is not interested. Jesus knows who God is, He knows who He is, and he knows that there is no need for the false security and prosperity that the devil offers.
Jesus isn’t worried that there won’t be enough.
He knows that God gives abundantly, that God’s gifts to us are free and generous. He knows that there are more important things than food or power, that God’s gifts are more valuable and pure than anything the devil can offer Him.
We so often don’t know that. We don’t remember that gathering enough is a never ending process, that there can never be enough to make us feel safe and secure–billionaires who feel the need to continue making money, making money prove that. Maybe we realize, if we’re honest, that money or relationships or whatever else can always fail. They can always fail.
We want to have enough, enough to feel secure–we are afraid that there is a limited amount of whatever it is, that we need our piece of the pie or we’ll be left behind. We forget that God’s abundance can more than make up for anything we lack, that in God we have enough. We forget that we don’t need these things the way that we need God.
That is the power of fasting, of giving up, even of decluttering: we give something up so that we can realize that we don’t need it. We give something up so that we can make space for God to come in and remind us that God is faithful, that God is bigger and better than whatever we’ve given up, that however much we may still crave whatever-it-is God is still with us. We remember that there is enough, even when we take things away.
For God is enough. God is enough for all our needs, all our fears and sorrows, griefs and joys, all our longings and hungers. God is enough.