Sermon Series “Be Not Afraid”
“Be Not Afraid,” has sunk deep within me; I sing this hymn often in these hard, uncertain days. In the next three weeks, we’ll sing it and discuss it at our Sunday worship services. The chorus is:
Be not afraid,
The lyrics are not Christian pablum. There is no glib reassurance that God specially protects me or you. Neither is there a promise of “easy chair Christianity,” with my feet up and me reclining comfortably. If you know the Biblical passages from which the words are drawn or listen with care to the verses of the hymn, you’d never make that mistake. Instead, this hymn invites us to a “rest” and fearlessness that come only if we reject the “conventional wisdom” of America, and follow instead the alternative, subversive “wisdom” of Jesus. It’s what I crave. What about you? For the full lyrics, click here. To participate in the contest to identify sources of the lyrics, check this out.
“Be Not Afraid” is written like Handel’s libretto in the Messiah, taking its lyrics from many different sections of the Bible and weaving them together with music to tell a powerful truth; 81 Bible verses come from 14 different book. For example, Handel takes one clause from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, then later lines from Matthew, Luke and 1 Corinthians, in the New. Likewise, the 1970s hymn “Be not afraid” relies on central stories from all over the Bible.
How many sources can you find for each clause of “Be not afraid”? For example, “Be not afraid,” is the most used clause in the whole Bible – found from Old to New Testaments- because it’s what we humans most need to hear. Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, and Paul all hear, “Do not be afraid.”
“I go before you always,” is a phrase Jesus says to Mary in the Book of Matthew, after his resurrection (tell my friends I’ll go before them to Galilee); and in his final moments before the ascension (“I am with you always” ). It’s also said by God during the Exodus, when the pillar of cloud and of fire leads the people to the promised land.
“Come follow me,” is the great invitation Jesus makes early in his ministry – “Follow me, and I’ll help you fish for people,” but sheep also follow their shepherd in the 23rd psalm.
“I will give you rest” echoes from that psalm, and from the scripture we read this week, in Matthew, that begins, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” But it continues with the thought of wearing a yoke! “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Can you identify the source of different lines of the verses?
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Messages from King's Chapel's Ministers
The Reverend Joy Fallon
Minister for Education & Membership
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