Over the Shoulder
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Luke 12: 32-40
August 5, 2022, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: Unknown
A friend of mine recently told me that when her brother learned to walk, he always looked back over his shoulder, watching where he’d been, never looking where he was going. Of course, since he was looking over his shoulder, he’d run into all sorts of things — coffee tables, stairs, trees, pets. He’d figured out how to walk, but he was focused on the wrong thing. He was so fixated on where he’d been, that he totally missed where he was going.
He has since learned to walk while facing forward, but you know, some of us spend our whole lives like this. I find I often pay attention to, or am even totally obsessed with, everything except what really matters.
In our text this week we pick up in the middle of a teaching from Jesus. He says, don’t be afraid. You know, saying don’t be afraid doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes when we say don’t be afraid, we’re talking about monsters in the closet — figments of our imagination that aren’t real. But sometimes there’s real stuff to be afraid of — losing work, not having enough to pay the bills, cancer and illness, random violence, senseless suffering. There’s plenty to be afraid of.
Jesus is not just talking about the monsters in the closet when he says, don’t be afraid. He’s also talking about all the stuff we have good reason to be scared of.
Which sounds like foolishness — a stupid head-in-the-sand approach to life. But Jesus isn’t saying the bad stuff will just go away or that it’s not real. It’s real, but it’s not everything. It’s not the full story. And like a toddler walking around only looking over his shoulder, if all we ever see are the moths and the thieves, we’re missing something.
Sometimes this very passage is used to attempt to scare us into constant hypervigilance. But I don’t think Jesus intends this image to scare us into becoming people who are always looking over our shoulder waiting for Jesus to come get us.
This is not an anxious, fretful watching. It’s the kind of watching that happens when your heart is so tuned to something or someone, that you can’t help but see them. It’s like when you buy a new car, and you begin to notice cars of that make and model all around you. Or, when you wait for your beloved at the airport, and you’re so eager to see them that it takes barely any effort at all to spot them in the crowd. What we pay attention to, what our heart longs to see, shapes what we notice, what we see, what we worship.
Jesus is inviting us here to turn away from the needless worry that can fill our day, and even the genuine fears, away from the pointless pursuits and true anxieties, away from all of that, to set down our fear, and turn our attention to him. The truth is, there’s more beauty and life surrounding us than we can ever know, and it’s God’s good pleasure to welcome us into the kingdom.
Dwelling Among Us
How do you look over your shoulder in your life, and what would it be like to turn and gaze ahead? How is God giving you the kingdom in your day-to-day experiences?