There aren’t really any monsters under the bed!
A sermon given August 2022 on Blessing of the Backpacks Sunday
By Kate Fields
Picture this! It’s night time and all the lights have been turned off. The bedtime story has already been read, and you’re supposed to be going to sleep. But sleep is totally impossible because, you’re absolutely sure that at that very moment there is a very scary monster directly under your bed who will at any moment grab you! So you pull the covers completely over your head and do your best to stay very still so it doesn’t realize you are there. And then eventually as minutes pass, you gain a little courage to peep out one eye from the blanket. Nothing there. Then, a bit more courage to pull the blankets down. You know what you have to do. You have to face the monster and vanquish it!
So, you grab the game controller by your bed just in case you need something hard to throw quickly. And then you get a final surge of courage to do it. You leap from the bed down onto your knees and pull up the covers under the bed to deal with this monster who is a mortal threat. And then… you see it…. all that’s actually under the bed is a missing sock, a candy wrapper and some dust bunnies.
It turns out that there aren’t really monsters under your bed. All that fear was for naught.
Isn’t that so real though? Maybe you are a full blown adult and you can actually fall asleep without looking under the bed. But life can be hard and sometimes scary and we all still have monsters who we are sure are under the bed. Fear can be a good controller of our minds, our bodies, and it can direct our paths.
I think this is why in scripture, Jesus talks about fear so much. Jesus says some version of “do not fear” over and over and over in the gospels. It almost seems as if “do not fear” is actually a part of the gospel, which means good news.
It’s everywhere— today we have three instances where we see some variation of: “do not fear” in scripture.
In our lectionary Gospel text today in Luke 12:
Jesus says: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Creator’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In this context, we are not supposed to let fear keep us from living lives poured out in service to others. Why does Jesus say this? Because fear of not having enough— can be a deeply embedded fear in our lives and it can keep us hoarding what we have because our eyes can only see scarcity. There’s not enough and there never will be enough. We can’t see the bounty, the plenty, the beauty, and the opportunities around us.
Our next text is Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, or teachings he gave his disciples right before his death. Flag these as really important teachings that Jesus wanted to be sure his followers understood before he left them. I think of these teachings as I think of a spouse or a parent hollering at you as you’re late and running out the door: “Remember this….. ”
In this passage, the disciples couldn’t believe Jesus was about to leave them… and furthermore, they didn’t want to see him go. He was their teacher, mentor, rabbi, Savior, and their friend. But he tells them essentially in this verbose passage that he has to go so that he can prepare a place for them in paradise, and also that he has to go on, so that the Holy Spirit, the very third part of God, their Advocate could be given to them.
Jesus says in John 14,
25 “I have spoken these things to you while I am with you. 26 The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Creator will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.”
I am giving you my powerful Spirit to go and do the work of love in the world. In fact, just a few verses prior to this, Jesus says: the world will know you are my disciples by how you love each other. Do not be troubled or afraid. I leave my peace with you.
Then lastly, our Psalm text— from Psalm 56:3-4 reads:
3 whenever I’m afraid,
I put my trust in you—
4 in God, whose word I praise.
I trust in God; I won’t be afraid.
What can mere flesh do to me?
You may know this Psalm from learning it in song format in a children’s song — my mom taught me this to try to give me the courage to face my fears as a kid.
When I am afraid, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, I will trust in you.
When I am afraid, I will trust in you, in God whose word I praise.”
Anyone know that? Am I completely dating myself?
Do not fear. Don’t not be afraid. Have no fear of them. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. These are ALL over scripture. We could be here all day exegeting verses which talk about not fearing. All of these different ways of saying:
whatever is to come will not be waded through if you let fear drown you
We know that fear can be downright paralyzing. And I’m not talking about the helpful and necessary kind of fear that helps us create healthy boundaries, like say, not sticking our hands on a hot stove or attempting to merge onto the busy interstate without checking the mirrors first. Or like, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber says:
“The only time fear isn’t a liar is when you are actually about to be attacked by a bear or asked to do the chicken dance at a wedding or some other imminent threat.”
The kind of fear that we are talking about today is fear that attaches our worth to our successes and failures and loves it when we build walls of shame around those insecurities. It steals sleep, and joy and in return, and replaces honest smiles with fake ones. It’s a fear that keeps us scared of ourselves and others, and thus, unable to love with the kind of love that Jesus would model even through this death.
This fear does not co-exist well with gratitude and humility, so it keeps us entangled with scarcity, pride, and arrogance.
Jesus said: do not fear. That is not to say that fear won’t be around you and in you, but part of the Gospel’s Good News is that fear does not have to drive your bus anymore. It does not have to control your life. So when those frequent flyer thoughts of fear come up, remember these words of Jesus. Remember there is a powerful, divine peace given to you. Remember God’s Spirit is with you. Remember that you are so loved by the God who created you. Remember that you are part of a strong church who loves you and has your back. Do not be afraid.
So kids, especially as you begin a new school year and have all kinds of new things that you aren’t sure about and maybe even scared of… remember that God is with you. And remember that monster under the bed. It’s not even real.
I’d like to close with a brief story. My spouse and I went to a concert a few months back where Kathy Matthea and Suzy Bogguss sang together. They are good friends so it was a lot of fun to see them go back and forth. In between songs, Kathy shared a story about her mom. She and her mom were very close and apparently Kathy loved singing basically ever since she could talk (are any of us surprised?). Anyway, as Kathy grew up, she really wanted her mom to sing with her, but her mom never would. She thought she had a terrible voice and was too afraid to sing in front of other people, even her family. So Kathy never heard her singing voice. As Kathy’s mom entered her final years of life, she developed severe dementia and to everyone’s surprise… she sang all the time. Kathy said simply: “My mom forgot that she couldn’t sing.” And she sang and sang and sang and sang.
My prayer is that if you have perceived monsters under your bed that are keeping you from singing — from living— that you would pull up those covers and realize they aren’t even real. Forget them. Forget that you don’t think your voice is good enough. Forget that you can’t do something because you’re scared of putting yourself out there. Forget that you think you aren’t smart enough or good looking enough.
There aren’t really any monsters under the bed.
We need you to be you. We need your gifts. We need your courage. We need you to show up and show us your heart.
Do not be troubled or afraid. May it ever be so.