I Will Be Confident
2nd Sunday in Lent
Jane Shelton, CRE; March 17, 2019 – First Valdosta
Have you ever had someone tell you, you need to have more confidence?
How do we respond to that statement, and do we really even know what the word “confidence” means?
Someone who has too much confidence, may be considered arrogant or boisterous, while someone with too little confidence may be considered timid or shy, or just insecure in what they know or believe about something.
So where is the balance?
The dictionary defines confidence as “full trust, or belief in the trustworthiness or reliability of a person or thing.”
So let’s think about this. Why is it hard for us to have “full” trust of something in our lives? Is it because we have been laughed at when we expressed an opinion or thought? Have we felt scorned, judged or wrongfully accused? Is it because we have been disappointed by someone or something that we fully trusted and that has now made us weary? Perhaps.
But in today’s scripture readings, both in Psalms and in Luke, we meet two people who are fully trusting in what they know and believe.
First, in our Old Testament scripture, the Psalmist, believed to be written by or for David during his early reign as King, lays out a remarkable profession of faith in God.
He recounts his adversarial encounters, and then states, “yet, will I be confident,” and then another statement of a rising of adversaries, followed by an affirmation of what he believes: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
It is important to note in this Psalm that we can see in David’s lament and exhortation of his faith in God, faith and trust do not come without difficulties as God’s servants, yet we are also equipped by God with hope and courage, despite these difficulties.
Will we have light or will we have darkness. Fear or faith? Trust or doubt?
Over and over again we see the blessings or saving presence of God as light. The psalmist affirms the desire and intention to live in God’s light…in God’s presence.
In his writing, “On Living in an Atomic Age,” Present Concerns, C. S. Lewis wrote:
“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
- S. Lewis was attempting to express upon his audience that when we surround ourselves with “Oh, the sky is falling” attitudes, we begin to believe that indeed it is, and everything around us becomes suspect.
These negative and fearful thoughts interfere with our Christ journey, causing us to look inward to ourselves rather than looking toward Christ for a new and positive direction.
Lent is a journey that causes us to look both inward and outward.
We look with deliberation at our spiritual lives. We ask ourselves:
– How can we further our relationship with God?
– How can we deepen our connection to God and grow the ministry of Jesus?
– Where do we find new direction to give our lives more meaning and hope in the promise of a risen Christ?
– How can we expect to grow Jesus’ ministry when we don’t take the time to grow our relationship with God?
– How can we find ways to grow spiritually?
It could be that while we are searching for new ways to bring new energy and direction to our lives, that we can participate in ways that God has set before us here at First Presbyterian Church Valdosta, such as Centering Prayer on Wednesday evenings, Generations of Faith Sunday School, a First Friday Contemplative Service, or a Christ Walk study during Lent.
These are ways we can learn to grow spiritually, both individually, and with one another, if we are only willing to risk a new way of life, a new experience with God.
We find it so hard to change our habits and learn new ways to explore our relationship with God, yet this is exactly what Jesus taught his disciples.
Jesus brought a new and exciting way of thinking about God, something beyond just the written law of the Old Testament. A new way of thinking that caused people to feel loved and accepted. Something experienced in the heart.
As we turn our attention to the Gospel of Luke, we see two pronouncements in our scripture: Jesus will not die out of season, and he will finish his divinely appointed mission in Jerusalem.
We see the Pharisees characterized as those who “rejected God’s purpose for themselves.”
In this scripture it is not made clear whether Herod and the Pharisees were working together to run Jesus out, but it is hard to believe that with all the other stories of the Pharisees’ dealings with Jesus that they were here to advise him of any favors.
I’m guessing they wanted Jesus to be gone as soon as possible from their sight so they could get back to things as normal. Their normal, with them in control rather than having Jesus teaching people to think for themselves, to think outside the norm of control by the law, as taught by the Pharisees. A norm to benefit their rule and the rule of Herod, not the kingdom of God.
Herod, the “fox”, as Jesus called him. Herod, the sly, cunning and destructive character on the scene along with the Pharisees certainly saw Jesus as a threat to their control over the people of Jerusalem.
However, in his divine faith and confidence in his mission given to him by God, Jesus does not let Herod deter him from completing the work set before him. Jesus continues to cast out demons and heal the sick – acts that show the divinity of Jesus and his connection to the kingdom of God.
Both Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and his death there will be controlled by his faithfulness to God’s redemptive purposes, not by Herod.
In Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, he remains obedient to God’s direction.
His reference to a prophet not being killed outside Jerusalem, is a direct statement of fact in how Jerusalem has consistently killed prophets sent to Jerusalem to save God’s people, yet they turn away from these prophets again and again. They turn away from growing their relationship with God.
In Jesus’ statement, “How often I have tried to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you are not willing!” shows his frustration with their ignorance; their inability to see the obvious. Their unwillingness to see the direction of God for their lives.
My mother used to use a phrase to emphasize how mad someone might be as, “they were as mad as an old, wet settin’ hen.”
Growing up with chickens at our home, I knew exactly what she meant, because you never wanted to disturb a hen that was setting upon her eggs, or one that was guarding her baby chicks under her wings!
It is the ultimate example of protection of the love of a mother over her young. Jesus uses this example to show the extent of his love and the love of God for his people.
Today, we ourselves, do not want to miss the efforts of those who are trying to gather us under their wings, to protect and save us from those who wait to devour, those who lurk behind the scenes with gossip and words that tear down rather than build up the kingdom of God for their own selfish gain. We must ask ourselves, do we want to be a Pharisee or a disciple of God?
We, too, must be careful who we allow in our hen house, in our Jerusalem. Do we want a fox, sly and cunning? Or the loving and protecting wings of God?
Jesus’ divine confidence leads us to look toward the one who loves us, the protector and savior, the one who covers and shields us from the ever present dangers of evil. Our adversaries lurk around us, sly and cunning like a fox working its way into the hen house, but we can be confident and obedient to God’s direction in our lives. We can have the same confidence as Jesus, not arrogant or boisterous about what we know, but committed and faithful to God’s direction in our lives.
Recently in our Generations of Faith Sunday School Study, we covered a chapter on Loving Self. In this study, the writer, Brian McLaren, wrote:
“You have this self. What you do with it matters a lot. You can be self-absorbed, self-contained, self-centered, selfish, self-consumed — and your closed-in self will stagnate, spoil and deteriorate over time. Or you can engage in Spirit-guided self-examinations, self-control, self-development, and self-giving — and your self will open and mature into a person of great beauty and Christ-like maturity.”
McLaren went on to say, “God isn’t a divine killjoy. God wants to love you the way God loves you, so you can join God in the one self-giving love that upholds you and all creation. If you trust your self to that love, you will become the best self you can be, thriving in aliveness, full of deep joy, part of the beautiful whole. That’s the kind of self-care and love of self that is good, right, wise and necessary. And that’s one more reason we walk this road together: to journey ever deeper into the beautiful mystery of the Spirit’s love. There we find God. There we find our neighbor. And there we find ourselves.”
When reading this, I couldn’t help but think about Jesus as he journeyed ever deeper into the beautiful mystery of the Spirit’s love. There, he knew he would find God.
Why do we find it difficult to journey there?
How do we find the confidence that that the Psalmist had, that Jesus had in knowing God’s divine purpose for their lives?
Risk taking is often difficult, yet often rewarding. If you haven’t been to Centering Prayer or First Friday Contemplative service, risk to be there to commune with God among friends. It may feel strange or odd at first, but God will be there to give you comfort.
The Psalmist knew how to get self out of the way so that he experienced God’s divine purpose. He was not deterred by adversaries and woes of life, not that he did not experience them, but he was so focused in knowing that God was ever present, confident that God would lead him, protect him, and love him no matter what life brought his way.
In his response to Herod and the Pharisees, Jesus teaches us to trust rather than fear. When we turn our attention in the direction of God, we find light, life, strength, and courage. We find confidence in one that never leaves us alone.
We find God in the presence of our lives.
The Psalmist told us “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” The Gospel of John (1:5) tells us “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
In the light of God, we find both faith and hope that give us life and peace.
Jesus displayed this in the confidence with which he walked and in what he taught his disciples and others around him.
Waiting for God is active, and the season of Lent is a reminder for us to be active in waiting for God. Active in our study of scripture, active in our time for prayer, and active in recognizing God’s path for us. Trust and not fear.
Jesus followed a “divine timetable,” and in so doing, he followed the will of God according to God’s schedule. Jesus had work to do, and he was confident in his journey with God.
Just as Jesus was confident in his mission, we are called to be confident in our relationship with God and to follow his will for our lives. Jesus has given us the example…..Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Shall we be confident in our journey?