My Heart Shall Not Fear - Sermon for Lent 2C (Psalm 27)

Psalm 27

Angelic and divine visitations in the biblical story often begin with the words: “Be not afraid.” That’s because heavenly visitations don’t happen every day, so they take us by surprise. The word we hear in Psalm 27 offers us a word of assurance in difficult times. The psalmist proclaims that God is our light and salvation. Therefore, “whom shall I fear?”

Now, if we’re honest, aren’t we afraid of at least a few things? It might be spiders or snakes or heights, but fear is part of life. The question is, what do we do with our fears?

  In my Christmas Eve meditation, I mentioned the story of Charlie Brown who pays a visit to Lucy’s psychiatrist booth because he’s feeling a bit depressed and doesn’t know why.  Lucy tries to diagnose Charlie Brown’s problem by naming a series of phobias that range from a fear of cats to climbing stairs. Finally, Lucy leans across the counter and asks Charlie Brown: “Do you have pantophobia?” After she defines, “pantophobia” as the “fear of everything,” he shouts “That’s it!” Yes, Charlie Brown is afraid of everything. 

Even if we don’t have pantophobia, I think we can sympathize with Charlie Brown. Whether it’s a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a job, getting older, or just the way things are going in the world, we have reasons to be afraid. 

When it comes to the way things are going in the world it’s difficult to escape the messaging of fear. We’ve become so connected to the world through social media and 24-hour news channels that we can easily become overwhelmed by everything we see and hear. Just when it seemed safe to go out after two years of COVID, there’s a war in Ukraine along with rising inflation that instills fear in us. It’s getting to the point where it seems as if Chicken Little might be on to something. Could it be that “the sky is falling?”  

Last Sunday we began our Lenten journey with a word of assurance from Psalm 91. It invites us to “abide in the shadow of the Almighty,” and say “to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust.” Now, we hear this word from Psalm 27:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

We don’t know who wrote the Psalm but it’s attributed to David. In this psalm, even though David’s enemies have encircled him, he’s confident that they will not overwhelm him. So, he’s not afraid. 

Though he exudes confidence, he does qualify this a bit because later in the Psalm he asks of God: “Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Ps. 27:9b). I appreciate how the Psalms give voice both to our faith and our doubts! 

This season of Lent gives us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to live faithfully in the presence of God. We can look to the stories of people like Abraham and Sarah who stood firmly on the promises of God, even though their situation looked dire. Nevertheless, as we read in the Book of Hebrews: 

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the summons to go out to a place which he would eventually possess, and he set out in complete ignorance of his destination. It was faith that kept him journeying like a foreigner through the land of promise, with no more home than the tents which he shared with Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs with him of the promise. For Abraham’s eyes were looking forward to that city with solid foundations of which God himself is both architect and builder.  (Heb. 11:8-10, J.B. Phillips)

This is the promise that sustained Abraham, even when he had his doubts and fears. The author of Hebrews shares this story to encourage us to stay on the path set for us by God. 

When it comes to the call of Abraham, we read in Genesis 15, that God appeared to Abraham and told him: “Do not be afraid.” That’s because God wanted to reaffirm the covenant God made with him. Now Abraham, who was still known as Abram, wasn’t sure how God was going to fulfill this promise. While God kept promising descendants, Abram and Sarai were getting older and still didn’t have any children. Nevertheless, God simply reaffirmed the promise that Abram’s descendants would be as uncountable as the stars in the heavens. So, it is said: “he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:1-6). 

As we ponder this word to Abraham, it’s good to remember the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). It’s this faith that helped Abraham stay true to God’s calling on his life.

While I’m just filling the pulpit while Pastor Dan is away, I’m starting to get to know this congregation. I believe First Presbyterian Church of Troy exists so that together we can honestly explore our doubts and fears, as we remain faithful to the promises of God. If we do this, then we can be agents of God’s grace and love in this community and beyond.

We can draw strength from the message of 1 John that God is love “and that those who abide in love abide in God.” Therefore, “there is no fear in love” (1 Jn. 4:16-18).

It’s this love that comes from God that provides the shelter spoken of here in Psalm 27. Yes, together, as a community of faith, we can find strength for the journey in the God who is love. This love of God is revealed to us in Jesus, and experienced by us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can live without fear even when it seems as if the sky is falling.

When the Psalmist speaks of living “in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,” it might seem as if this is an expression of someone who wants to hide from the world. But we don’t have to read it that way. We can follow St. Augustine’s lead, who wrote: “That as long as I am in this life, no adversities may exclude me from the number of them who hold the unity and truth of the Lord’s faith around the world.” (Exposition on the Book of Psalms).  In other words, nothing can separate us from the love of God we know in Christ Jesus! (Rom. 8:38-39).

So, when we gather in this space to “sing and make melody to the LORD,” we do so knowing there are challenges facing us that can lead us to sing songs of lament. We may find ourselves joining the Psalmist in begging God not to “hide your face from me.” We may find ourselves praying: “Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence” (Ps. 27:12). Nevertheless, we also hear in this Psalm an invitation to bring our fears and concerns into the house of the Lord so that by confessing our fears we can find strength in the presence of God, which is mediated to us through the people of God.  

With the Psalmist we have the opportunity to confess before the community of faith:  “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Like Abraham, we can make this declaration even though the evidence for this confidence might appear to be lacking. Therefore, this word of faith comes with a word of caution: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”  (Ps. 27:14). If we do this, then fear will not gain control over our lives. Because “the Lord is my light and my salvation,” I need not live in fear. So, as we gather together as God’s people to “sing and make melody to the Lord,” we can embrace God’s promise to Abraham, that his descendants would be a blessing to the world. In Christ, we are counted among Abraham’s descendants!

Preached by:

Dr. Robert D. Cornwall

Pulpit Supply

First Presbyterian Church

Troy, Michigan

March 13, 2022

Lent 2C


Popular Posts