November 13, 2011 I’ll Fly Away
Judges 4:1-9 Psalm 11 1 Thes. 5:1-11 Matthew 25:14-30
Have you ever wanted to fly away, get away from all of your problems or hide where no-one can find you? I know I have. As a single mother of three small children I would dream of running away to some place where I could sleep non-stop. Hiding can seem like an attractive way to escape the problems of the world, or the problems of daily life; however I realized that while running away would provide temporary relief, it could create more or greater problems than it was worth, so I held fast.
Still the appeal of running away remains, if not physically then mentally. There are ways a person can hide without leaving a room, ways to mentally detach and run away. It can be a useful defense mechanism to help someone survive terrible turmoil or an unbearable circumstance, but also can be a trap. As an introvert on Meyers Briggs, when overwhelmed by too many people, too much conversation and experiencing emotional, people overload, I need to retreat, withdraw. If I can’t physically withdraw, I withdraw through closing up, shutting down, making myself unavailable through silence.
Recently I learned about the Enneagram. The Enneagram goes back thousands of years with roots in numerology, study of numbers, sacred numbers. The nine points of the enneagram, point to nine ways in which we tend to sin, based on the seven deadly sins: sloth, greed, pride, anger, envy, lust, gluttony and the addition of deceit and compulsive fear. The desert fathers and mothers used this to help individuals grow spiritually. Each of us has our own weakness, tendency to sin. As a five on the Enneagram, I can be prone to sin through withdrawal, withholding myself rather than engaging others – so can be especially prone to temptation to run away. You might say for us, when the going gets tough, the tough run.
In our Psalm today, the writer is under attack. We don’t know the historical situation, whether the conflict is a personal, social, religious or national one. We just know the writer is in imminent peril. In the face of this peril, his supporters are encouraging him to flee, fly away like a bird to the mountains, a common place to hide during this time. Continuing the metaphor of a bird, they say the enemy has the arrow in the bow, ready to shoot, then they shift to image of robbers coming in the night in order to impress upon him the danger of the situation and the need for immediate action. The very foundation upon which he put his trust is being destroyed, they insist in verse 3. His cause is tumbling down in pieces and he will be destroyed along with it if he doesn’t act quickly.
If written by David, as many of the psalms are commonly attributed to him, then David certainly knows about being on the run as he spent many years fleeing Saul who was determined to kill David as a rival to his throne. David hid in the mountains seeking them out as a place of refuge, so suggestion to flee to the mountains is nothing new. What is new is the writer’s response. A closer translation of verse 1 is to flee “as a little bird.” Writer states, how can you ask me to run away like a little bird? He insists on staying, putting his trust in the Lord. He states: The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven, the Lord sees, he is not asleep or indifferent. The Lord tests both the righteous and the wicked. The Lord is righteous and will uphold the righteous; the righteous will see his face. So even though he is being tested now, the writer is putting his trust in the Lord.
There are times to run away, when the wiser course is to flee in order to fight again another day. There are other times when we are to stand firm – this is one of those times.
Judges – book of Judges is a series of short stories following a similar pattern: Israel sins; God judges by having neighboring nations threaten them; Israel cried to God for help; God saves them through a judge. The sin of the Israelites is that they did not defeat all of the nations of Canaan as commanded by God (Judges 1:22-2:5), rather they sought alliances with the nations, thinking this will give them security. God’s response is to say in Judges 2:3 “So now I say, I will not drive them (the Canaanite nations) out before you; but they shall become adversaries to you, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” What Israel did to secure their safety was their ultimate downfall – “paradoxical twist in that what Israel thought it was doing for security, in fact, became a source of continuing insecurity.” (Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A, After Pentecost, p. 143-144)
Deborah is the judge and heroine of reading today. She puts her trust in God, in contrast to Barak, the commander of the army, who was only willing to go into battle if Deborah came with him. Barak is average in his faith, Deborah outstanding, not counting the cost or worrying about her personal safety, she acted based on confident trust in God, as the psalmist did. For Deborah, this was not the time to run away but the time to act.
Gospel – familiar parable of the talents, a man goes away giving each of his servants a share of his possessions, each according to their ability. Master was extremely generous, one talent equal to 12,000 days wages or over 38 years of labor. Out of fear one servant buries his talent. I’ve often wondered – what if servant had tried investing money to make more money and lost it all, what would have happened then? Would master have said better to have tried and failed then to not try at all?
Basic message is that fear is no excuse for failure. We see that that which servant did to preserve what he had, resulted in his losing all he had, much as what Israelites did to preserve security resulted in insecurity. God gives us abundantly and we are to use that grace, grace buried produces nothing; grace buried is grace lost. Grace is meant to be shared, grace builds upon grace. Or, as Jesus tells us elsewhere in the gospels, don’t light a candle and hide it under a bushel basket.
Paul, in Thessalonians, reminds us of the importance of being aware. We do not know when the “day of the Lord” will come, we just know it will come and so we want to be ready. But we don’t have to live in fear of that day for our God is a God of grace. We are to act assuredly, with confidence, encouraging each other in faith. What’s important is that we do what our God wants us to do and do that with confidence, not fear.
What fears might be keeping you from being all God wants you to be? What keeps you from being outstanding in your faith rather than average? Perhaps you are fearful of rejection, that if people really knew you they wouldn’t like you. Perhaps you fear ridicule, better to remain silent and let others think you are an idiot, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Maybe you don’t want others to know your failings, weaknesses, sinfulness, your shadow side, so you try to hide these. Carl Jung, well known analyst, tells us that the shadow is pure gold; it is by embracing our own sinfulness, bringing our dark side to light, that we are redeemed. We overcome our sinfulness by becoming aware of it, getting to know ourselves and our own particular tendencies to sin, perhaps through aids such as the Enneagram or Meyers Briggs.
Through Jesus Christ we have been redeemed. We no longer need to hide even those parts that we are less comfortable with. There will be a day when we will fly away, fly away to our home with our God in heaven, but until then, let us lead lives of confident trust in our God, our refuge, who is “righteous and protects those who put their trust in him.”
Copyright November 2011