From Fear to Compassion

Like a mother hen chases her chicks to gather them under her wing, God is always moving toward to the world in love.  Knowing this helps us to not let being scared stop us from doing what love and compassion requires of us.   As Shane Claiborne says “the promise of scripture is that perfect love drives out fear.  Fear doesn’t stand a chance against love.”

Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Main Bible Passage: Luke 13:31-35, Philippians 3:17-4:1


There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18a)  

But if you’re like me, there are times when fear has gotten the best of you, and paralyzed you from showing love and compassion.

If you’re like me, there have been times when you hold back from showing compassion to others because you’re afraid of criticism, or embarrassment, or rejection, or of being taken advantage of.

Or maybe we’re afraid to show love because of the risks involved, to our reputation or to our safety.

I heard a story this week of someone who showed incredible courage and compassion in a very risky situation.

Last Sunday there was a 10 K race in St. Petersburg, FL with 7000 runners participating.  The police had set up barriers and checkpoints in front of a bridge along the route of the runners.

A drunk driver went barreling like a freight train through all the barriers, and was heading straight for the runners.  The only thing that could stop the car now was a Florida state trooper, Toni Schuck, who was in her patrol car less than ½ mile from the runners.

Schuck drove her car to the middle of the road and faced the drunk driver head on.  She was hoping that the driver would stop, but didn’t know what would happen.  But the driver kept going and plowed right into Schuck’s patrol car.

Schuck as well as the drunk driver miraculously survived the crash and are recovering in the hospital.  Schuck is rightly being called a hero for literally putting herself in harm’s way and risking her life in order to protect the runners.

She didn’t let fear stop her from showing a concrete act of love to save others.

This week at our men’s group we were talking about the war in Ukraine and the stories and images that have moved us.  I shared that I have been so inspired by President Zolensky’s courage,

He could have taken the easy and safe way out and could have escaped the country to save his own life, but instead he has chosen to stay and risk his life, because of his love for his people and his country.

He is standing up to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the war he has started in Ukraine, facing him head on.

In our gospel story today, Jesus is also facing a ruthless dictator head on, knowing that it could well cost him his life.

When the Pharisees come to Jesus to warn him that Herod is targeting Jesus, he doesn’t back down in fear.  Jesus says to them, “tell that ‘fox’ Herod that I’m going to keep showing compassion by healing and liberating people from their demons,  no matter what Herod thinks of me.

This is the same Herod who tried to murder the magi, who ordered the killing of male babies in Bethlehem, and who had John the Baptist beheaded.  Herod was a force to be feared, but it didn’t stop Jesus from loving people who were in need of a healing touch.

Here, and in so many other times in Jesus’ ministry, he speaks truth to power, knowing that it could be risky and dangerous.

This passage shows us just how much Jesus loved the city of Jerusalem and its people, both in his actions to minister to people and also in the passion in his voice.  He grieves, he laments what has happened in this beloved city,

The violence that has been shown to prophets before him, who spoke truth to power, and the suffering that so many have experienced at the hands of Herod and the Roman Empire.

There’s another passage later on in Luke chapter 19, where it says that Jesus is weeping over Jerusalem, and pleads “if you, even you, had only recognized the things that make for peace, but now they are hidden from your eyes.”

And here in Luke 13, here compares his love for the people of Jerusalem with a mother hen’s love for her chicks:

 How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

What a great picture of what God’s love is like.  How many of you have raised some chickens at some point in your life?  When we lived in Bolivia, we had some ducks and some chickens in our backyard,

And I can remember how when after the chicks were born, how they ran around the yard in all directions, and if the mother hen sensed some danger, she would scamper after them to round them up under her wings, which could be a challenge.

The image of the hen and her chicks reminds me of something that I read not long ago.  It said that God is always moving toward the world in love.  God is always moving toward the world in love.

That’s what a good and a loving God does.  Moves toward us to touch us with His love, matter what obstacles there are between God and us. And when we experience that love, we will never be the same again.

But sometimes, like the people around Jesus, we reject his love.  You know some people flock to Jesus because his love just attracts them like a magnet, but other people keep a distance from him, maybe because his way of compassion for those on the margins, and his message of peace and forgiveness are so countercultural to the ways the world operates— he’s not tough enough for them, so they look elsewhere for a savior who fits more of their idea as a “strong man.”

Casting our lot with Jesus can be hard because its not always popular, we will find ourselves swimming against the stream.  And sometimes it involves speaking truth to power, which can be risky.

Or maybe we keep a distance from Jesus because we’re afraid of what might happen to us if we allow him to get close to us.  We might need to face things about us that are painful but need to come out so they can be healed,

Like taking a needle to a splinter in your finger in order to get it out and the finger can heal.

But when we choose to not run away when God moves toward us in love, and let God hide us under the shelter of his wings, we will experience a love that is stronger than any of our fears.

We will experience this security, this peace, this courage, this intimacy that can impact our lives in ways we can’t even fully comprehend.

Psalm 27 is written by David, and it gives us a beautiful glimpse of what it’s like to have a close and life-giving relationship with God,

and what it’s like to live in his loving embrace and trust him, even in the midst of danger and hardships.  We heard it earlier and we sang it as well:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid. 

For he will hide me in the shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent.  

David has this confidence that he will see God at work in the land of the living, that during his life he will experience God’s goodness.

And then David closes with this encouragement to his people to put their trust in God, “Wait for the Lord, be strong, have courage; wait for the Lord.

We know that David showed incredible courage in leading his people.  We also know that there were times when he stumbled, and failed.  And during those times he didn’t run away from God in fear but he met him face to face, knowing that he would be accepted in the embrace of God’s loving arms.

We also can surmise that David knew that even though God was with him, that he wouldn’t be completely shielded from harm; there were no guarantees that he wouldn’t get hurt,

There were times that he was afraid for his life, but that fear didn’t stop him from following in God’ way, from showing love and doing the work that God had called him to, because God was the stronghold of his life.

One modern-day person of faith I admire is Shane Claiborne.  Shane is a tireless and passionate disciple of Jesus who is involved in prophetic witness for life and for those who are marginalized in our society.

Shane is one of those people whose life and ministry is sometimes seen as political, but who knows deep inside that as a follower of Jesus his ultimate citizenship is in heaven, as we heard in the Philippians passage.  Shane is constantly speaking truth to power.  We could say that he’s a modern-day prophet.

Shane says that “the true test of our faith is how it moves us in compassion for the most vulnerable people in our world.”

Two specific areas that he speaks prophetically about are witnessing against the death penalty and also working to reduce gun violence in our society.

I’m excited because Shane is going to be HERE at Daniels Run Peace Church next month, on the weekend of April 23-24.  On the 23rd he will lead a Beating Guns workshop, where he and a blacksmith will take a gun and turn it into a garden tool, in the spirit of the prophet Isaiah’s vision that they shall beat their swords into pruning hooks.

And on April 24, Shane will preach here at our worship service.  So mark your calendars and do everything you can to be here that weekend—more details will be coming soon.

Shane has co-authored this recent book Beating Guns, Hope for People Who are Weary of Violence. It’s a great resource, packed with history and stories and statistics of the fascination with guns in our society, how they are literally killing so many people, and what people can do to offer hope to those who have been affected by gun violence, and also how to stand up to combat gun violence in peaceful and prophetic ways, even confronting powerful gun lobbyists and the NRA.

One chapter in the book is called, Love Casteth Out Fear.  He talked about how we can see all around our country what happens when a society is driven by fear rather than love.  (Read p. 229, to …we often turn to our guns.”)

A little later on, Shane tells the story of a time when he was in Afghanistan, and he was meeting with a group of peacemakers from around the world, along with some Afghan women who had escaped unimaginable situations under the Taliban.

There was a woman from Northern Ireland who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous peacemaking work during the time known as “the troubles” in Ireland.  Her name was Mairead Macguire, and while she was telling her story, one of the other women asked “were you ever scared?”  Mairead paused, and with tears in her eyes said,

“Of course we were scared.  But being scared is different from fear.  Being scared is perfectly normal.  Fear is when we let being scared stop us from what love requires of us.”  And then Claiborne says,

We live in a scary world.  Evil is real.  Violence is everywhere and has many forms—hate crimes, bullying, sexual assault.  But the promise of scripture is that “perfect love drives out fear. Fear doesn’t stand a chance against love.”

Friends, let’s cling to that promise.  That perfect love casts out fear, and in doing so, it frees us to share the love and compassion of Jesus with all kinds of people in all kinds of places, where it is desperately needed.

When we know that God is our shelter, and our stronghold, we don’t have to be paralyzed by our fear, and even when we’re scared it won’t stop us from doing what love requires of us.

We’re going to close by hearing a song that proclaims the truth that God’s love is stronger than our fears, and that God has promised to be always near.

I invite you to stand, and as you listen to it, search inside yourself to get in touch how fear might be preventing you from either receiving God’s love for you, or paralyzing you from sharing God’s love and compassion with someone or a group of people in your life.  Feel free to join in singing along after you’d like.