12. So A: Mt 10, 26-33
They say that residents of the German North Sea Coast are sparse in their words and apparently this proverbial saying holds true. On the graveyard of Keitum, a town located on the island Sylt, you can find a gravestone with the following inscription in the old-Frisian language telling us what is really important in life:
- Obey God, do right, yield to no one.
The person who wanted to instruct us with this inscription might have had the words of today's Gospel in mind. In any case the few lines of this inscription summarize what Jesus wanted to teach to his disciples in his missionary discourse.
This missionary discourse is neither sublime nor ceremonial. On the contrary: It tells us about the risks involved for those who proclaim the Gospel. And it tells us about it in a simple, straightforward account. The disciples are frightened and wonder if they are going to find people who will listen to them, if the message, which was commissioned to them, is going to be received. And they fear for themselves, being perceived as troublemakers when spreading Jesus’ message about God and Life. Usually troublemakers are not tolerated. We destroy them personally to get rid of the message they stand for.
Jesus reassures his disciples against both fears. Don’t be frightened of the people! Don’t fear the Gospel! It will assert itself. Nothing is covered, which shall not be revealed, and nothing is hid, which shall not be made known. Even though there might only be few people listening to the Gospel at first, trust and expect that it is going to be received. The Word creates its listeners by its own selfpropagation, which also means that you do not have to worry so much about your own actions. The Word propagates and fulfills itself by its own will and power much more greatly than we can conceive or imagine.
Concerning the disciples’ fear for themselves: It marks out and exemplifies the trials and tribulations of faith. And Jesus tells them: Don’t fear those who kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul. This fearlessness in front of people depends on how much we trust God. If I have faith and trust that God is going to preserve and uphold me until the end of my earthly life, and if I believe that my life will never amount to nothing nor be lived in vain even if others might destroy me, then no one can frighten me.
To believe in this is hard for us. Nevertheless, it is the only way to be released from all the fear we feel in front of others and for ourselves. Those who take God in earnest – the Gospel describes this fear as fearing the one who can let our souls and bodies fall into mischief of hell –, those who take God entirely seriously, will not have to fear anything, not even death and the devil – as a proverb says.
What does “taking God seriously” mean? The Gospel explains it with a simple parable, which is characteristic of Jesus: Don’t we sell two sparrows for a penny and still not one of them falls to the earth without the Father’s will? Sparrows have very little market value, and yet they fall from heaven. Those who have sensitive souls will feel pity for such a small bird when it is dead. However, both are related to God, the creator: such creatures do not live and die insignificantly or randomly. The sparrow is meaningful to God and by the will of God the Father. We can think the same of ourselves. God’s thoughts and His concern apply also to us, lock, stock and barrel: again and again. That is the reason why we should not fear anything or anyone but one: God.
Fearing God, the fear of God – these are expressions that can be easily misunderstood. Because “to fear" means something different with regard to God than it does with regard to humans. To fear a person means as much as: to want to run away from him or her. But to fear God means to recognize and acknowledge God as God and to give Him praise. It means to take at face value what he says to us through his son Jesus Christ. It is in this fear of God that our contingent freedom is based. Believing that God is the one he tells us He is, I am then set free from other people’s expectations. This is why so much depends on taking God in earnest.
Obey, be attentive to God, do right out of this faith and yield to no one. Being Christian means to put into everyday practice the inscription’s message on the gravestone in Keitum, Sylt.