Sermon for Sunday February 10, 2019
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!
If you have Netflix, one of the more recently popular movies is called Birdbox. It is a sci-fi thriller about a mysterious force which humans must avoid because coming face to face with it takes the form of their worst fears – which forces them to commit suicide. It displays the power of fear. Fear caused sane, educated and healthy individuals to go as far as killing themselves. Though a movie, there is some truth to this. Fear is very powerful.
During President Bush’s time in office and all the way until today, both Democrats and Republicans have used fear to convince the people of their own agendas. Fear of gangs and terrorists. Fear of the climate changing. Fear of the market crashing, of you losing your health care, your home, your rights as a citizen of America. As a result these fears have fueled racism, sexism, bigotry, domestic violence, theft, murder and even suicide. In 2008 when the market crashed, suicide rates went through the roof because people didn’t know what to do after losing all their money. Fear is very powerful.
What about us, what do we fear? Perhaps these political issues bring us worry as well. Perhaps we fear about the world our children and grandchildren are growing up in. We fear pain, we fear uncertainty, we fear death. As a result we isolate ourselves, we become angry, we mistrust and we begin to be filled with hate. This mornings Gospel Jesus lets His disciples get into a boat and head out on the Sea of Galilee. A few miles into their trip, it becomes dark and a severe storm ensues. Water begins to pour into the boat. Their ability to navigate is removed, unable to see where they’re going, their boat is taking a serious beating from the turbulent waves. Fear takes over, and it feeds the fear of the others. There is no hope in sight. Then seeing Jesus walking towards them on the water, they become even more afraid. I don’t know about you but if I saw ANYONE walking on the water while I’m in a middle of a storm, of course I would be scared. What is that a ghost?! All Jesus says is, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were comforted and taking him into the boat, immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. The storm had ceased.
What does Jesus’ presence have to do with our fears? Coming to Church and believing in God doesn’t mean the problems of the world disappear, it doesn’t take the fear away from all of life’s difficulties. No of course not. Yet, fear and faith cannot exist in the same place. When someone doesn’t have faith we say it is because they doubt. But lack of faith is not only because of doubt but also because of fear. If we are in a dark room, we can’t see where we are walking, we can’t see if there is something in front us, or even if we are in danger. We become afraid, similar to the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee. Until a light is turned on and fear is vanquished.
Why? Because when the room is illuminated, we know what surrounds us. We are no longer afraid. Likewise, when we have faith in Christ our God, when we believe in all God has done for us and continues to do, we set aside doubt but we also leave fear to one side as well. Because faith is not only a belief, rather faith is a knowledge in the truth. When we approach each Sunday to receive Holy Communion, the priest says this is hope, resurrection, forgiveness and expiation of our sins. He does not say we believe this is…no rather we know this is. When we are baptized we are placed on the path of knowing God, and when we know God, we see with our eyes of faith, we hear and know His voice when He says, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
The fear of the disciples changed to comfort the moment they recognized Christ’s presence. Did the storm continue? Yes. Did everything magically become easy? No. There is something very unique in the way the Gospel tells today’s story. Listen to the last few lines, “When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” What do we see?
Soledad O’brien, an American Journalist says, “I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you…” After seeing Jesus the disciples, first, were glad or comforted – first fear disappeared, first they knew who God was, then the all became calm. This is a major point. Because many of us want life to become easy, then we acknowledge God is there. Yet, how many of us can acknowledge the presence of God in the midst of our fear, our pain, our struggle? Fear blocks out the view of God in our pain and our daily struggles. Yes, we do not continually “see” the presence of God – yet that is where our truth faith, knowledge of Gods presence must guide us, not around but through the fears we have.
And when others see that even through pain we remain faithful, our example will be a guiding force for others to likewise come to the knowledge of God. We become a source of illumination through love of hope for others – which is what we as Christians are called to be. Every week I remind us of the names of those saints who have lived a faithful life and who remain as intercessors and examples for us. Those saints embraced fear, with the knowledge of God in their lives and even though they were martyred, they remain today as living witnesses. We read this when St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr, while being stoned to death, continued to pray and his face became like an angel. Christ called off the cross, Father forgive them… They did not evade fear but showed love through it. What will people say through us and our example?
My prayer my dearly beloved brothers and sisters, is that we do not allow fear to control our lives. Trust have faith and know that He is our God. That we continually live out our baptismal vows and prayers to be in the knowledge of our God. So that when we, or our loved ones, do face times of fear and doubt, we will see and hear Christ calling, “It is I, do not be afraid.” Amen!