Sermon for September 1, 2019
In the name the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Can we believe in God and still have fear in life? Imagine yourself walking home on a rainy night. You have your umbrella, you have a flashlight, you’re watching where you’re going, you are prepared. Yet, fear is still present in that moment. Being prepared does not take away fear. I am sure many people today in Florida, who we are keeping in our prayers, though they have prepared for the upcoming hurricane, fear is still evident in theirs minds and hearts. However, the fear I am speaking about is not our simple fears like spiders, fear of the dark or the fear of the Bears not having another winning season. No rather, real fears. As parents we fear what world our children are growing up in. As Christians we fear of the battle between the sacred and the secular. Fear of our own demons and personal battles? Addictions and doubts, broken families and bullying. Perhaps we are afraid to show people around us who we are, perhaps we are afraid what our friends and colleges will think if they knew that we believe in God? We are afraid of what people will say if we don’t live a popular life vs. a spiritual life?
Fear comes in many forms. Every single one of these fears is like being in a storm and having no control. Fear often times feels like raging waters, filling the boat. The disciples today, we read of how they were afraid when a storm arose around them. The reality that they could die was evident. And yet, when Jesus awoke, the very first thing he asked, “why are you afraid? do you not have faith?” Jesus is asking, why are we afraid, where is our faith?
When the priest turns during Badarak towards the people, what does he say is the Eucharist – the body and blood of Christ? “This is faith, hope, resurrection, forgiveness and remission of sins.” These words are separated by a comma not an and or or. Though this is grammatical, yet there is a theological importance behind it, because neither one of those things can exist without the other.
A few weeks ago we read that faith is what? Assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1) Meaning faith cannot exist without hope. But what is it that we are hoping for, what is it that we have faith in? If we are to accept that fear cannot exist where faith is, then we must begin by realizing that fear is the denial of hope. Fear is hopelessness and hopelessness is denying God of His love and mercy.
When Cain sinned, we read of his fear. His fear made him believe that his sin is too great for God to forgive (Gen. 4:13) – he became hopeless. If we have faith which is hope, then we need to understand that a hope in God demands trust in God. King David says in psalm 56:3 – “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Why? Because trust also requires and begins from our hearts. Christ Jesus teaches us where our hearts are there also will our treasures be. What greater treasure, what is more valuable then our trust? That is what it means when Christ teaches us to love the Lord God with all our heart. It’s not about a feeling – no it is about our trust. That is why where there is fear there cannot be faith.
Does this mean we are never supposed to be afraid? No, my dear brothers and sisters. Life is difficult and fear is a natural expression for each one of us. Fear is human. In scripture we read of Jesus being afraid – in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet, Jesus in his humanity, though being afraid, in his divinity he teaches us of placing our trust in God. Because fear should lead us not to hopelessness but rather to trust. So how do we trust in God, how do we remain hopeful in times of trouble?
Through peace, humility, through repentance and confession. Many times I have spoken about our actions being a reflection of our faith. Yet, in order for us to act on our faith we must begin by preparing ourselves. This is something we all neglect. When we look at today’s story of the calming of the storm, what is the first thing that Jesus does upon waking up? He says “peace, be still.”
At first glance we think he is speaking to the storm only. The story is called “Jesus calmed the storm” and scripture says it plainly that “And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (v.39) Yet, Christ is speaking to the disciples hearts and minds. Christ is also calming the storm in our hearts and minds. When our mind and our heart is focused, our trust is placed in God – there is peace. Yet, this only happens when we are with God.
When Pilate spoke to Jesus and threatened his life, Jesus answered by saying “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above…(John 19:11)” That assurance, that hope, that peace through which Jesus answered Pilate, even in the face of death is only achievable when we are in full Communion with God. And for this we are called to grow towards God, my dears, because God doesn’t need my faith, God needs my heart. God doesn’t want my feelings of love, God wants me. God wants to be in communion with each one of us. That is why we hear the word of scripture, and grow in our faith. That is why we see that the Body and Blood of Christ are not merely bread and wine but is Faith, is Hope, Is Resurrection and forgiveness. It is part of being in Communion with God.
It is not the absence of fear, nor the absence of danger, nor the absence of darkness. No, it is the peace that helps us through all of those storms. A peace from God found only when we place our trust in Him. Only then will our actions begin to reflect our faith. Only then can we navigate the raging waters of our life and by doing so, as St. Paul teaches, “by being comforted, we can comfort others.”
My prayer, therefore, my dearly beloved is that we be at peace. A peace not of this world, but peace founded in our trust and hope that is our faith placed in God. A peace that is not afraid of danger but through Christ faces danger, knowing that God loves us and gives has life as long as we remain hopeful. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)…to whom is given all glory, dominion and honor, Amen!