Bible Readings and Devotion for May 14, 2020
Here are the references for the readings. Please look these up in your print Bible, your smartphone app Bible, or your online Bible:
Devotion for May 14, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
There is an entire movie and television genre about fear. One of the more popular television series in the past few years has been, “Stranger Things.” From the beginning there are scenes and situations which both exhibit fear in the characters and invoke fear in the audience. The series is described as follows: “When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief and his friends must confront terrifying supernatural forces in order to get him back.” I have watched all of this series, and it does have plenty of scary and intense moments. At one point in the story the character, Lucas Sinclair, notes the following: “We’re talking about the destruction of our world as we know it.”
In some ways we like fear. It can be entertaining. It can, “give us a rush,” as some say. In other ways, the idea of fear is miserable and overwhelming. When the idea of fear is noted, those who don’t like fear will sometimes respond negatively.
In today’s reading from Psalm 34 we look at verse 11. This reads, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Years ago, in Confirmation Class, I was taught by our pastor and teachers that this is a less common use of fear. It is not really about a thing which will cause us to faint or run away screaming, such as the young people in the television series, “Stranger Things.” The use in this context is that of, “a mixed feeling of dread and reverence.” This is how the Oxford English Dictionary noted this idea of, “fear.”
This mix of dread and reverence is part of how we relate with our God. We have dread, for God’s holiness and our sin do not mix. We dread that, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Reverence is a feeling of deep respect or admiration for God. Reverence is a good and positive thing. So, we dread the contrast between our sin and God, while living out respect for our Holy God.
This mention of fear is connected with how Martin Luther talks about our relationship with God in the Small Catechism. This teaching document of our church tells about the meaning of the Ten Commandments. In the explanation of each commandment there is mention of, “fear.” Here is an example of what Luther writes,
The Eighth Commandment
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
What is this?
We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.
“We are to fear and love God.” Here Luther is teachings us over and over that fear and love go together. Our relationship with the Lord is expressed and experienced as both fear and love. We fear the Lord, for we relate with him with dread or regret for our sins, and with reverence, for we respect our God. We also love God. We give thanks for his goodness. We honor him with our lives. We serve him and give back to him in response to what he has first done for us.
The complete statement in Romans 6:23 is a beautiful combination of both fear and love for God. St. Paul notes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God, through the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, has loved us. In receiving this love of God we are given what we need to respond with fear and love.
Both fear and love are appropriate for our relationship with God. The Lord is powerful and impressive. The Lord has created all that is. The Lord shows his love for us in Jesus. We respond to his action with both fear and love. The Lord is not a scary monster or situation. The Lord is good and holy and loving, and worthy of both our fear and our love.
Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen