Sermon for Weekend 23/24 June 2018. From Faith to Fear

‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

Mark 4:38-39

There are lots of things that cause great turbulence in our lives individually and as a community.

Just in our parish alone the turbulence created by our very gifted organist being stood down has unsettled the 7am congregation especially.

In the wider community the huge changes caused by the digital revolution is very unsettling. More and more people will become redundant. Robots won’t just make the cars but they will drive them as well. Accountants find that small businesses can buy computer programmes that do 90% of the accounting work. The list of redundancies grows. The waves of technology make us feel as if we will sink.

If that doesn’t unsettle you waves of news to do with climate changes unsettles our complacency. The small things we can do with recycling and changing light bulbs hardly make a difference.

When we begin to fully realise that changes in the climate will create more political unrest in fragile countries and even more refugees will be on the move, we become disturbed even more.

Individually it can be things like a marriage falling apart, the waves seem to keep crashing for agers afterwards. A diagnosis of cancer or dementia in one family or a very rebellious teen ager in another can create a storm. No doubt you will have other things that have profoundly swamped your life at some stage.

Most of us have experienced the feelings that go with turbulence in our lives: fear, anxiety, confusion, a sense of being overwhelmed. Often we assume that faith, real faith, should drive out all these feelings of woe. But experience suggests that that is not the case.

The story of young David suggests that if we believe in God not only will fear evaporate but we will be able to go out and fight the giant and win. That is not to say there is no truth in the inspiration we might take form David fighting Goliath. Let’s tell the story of modern heroes alongside the story of David. One of my heroes is a man called William Wilberforce who took on the system that allowed slavery in the British Empire. His only weapons as a politician were his voice, his pen and dogged determination. Finally after nearly four decades the abolition of slavery became law. So yes, let’s take on the giants with a determination to bring a change of heart to society.

But when we go out to fight the giant using violence as David and the Israelite Army did we will find that they will return to fight another day. Both King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed by the Philistines. David would eventually subdue them but the violence never ends. 3 000 years later the Philistines (we call them Palestinians) are still fighting with Israel. Violence is never a solution to the horrific storm that beset us.

The storms will come and their overwhelming waves will generate fear and it will be easy to feel that nothing and no one can save us. Let’s return to the fishing boat in the sea of Galilee. Jesus is fast asleep on a cushion. He must have been exhausted. May be that is the only reason he asked the disciples to set sail for the over side of the lake. At least that way he could get some sleep. Once the storm came up the disciples, who presumable had weathered a few storms in their time, were quite frightened. All hands were needed “on deck” even tired preachers would have to start bailing water or rowing, or at least praying. The Evangelist Mark tells us Jesus rebuked the storm and told it to be still. Mark’s narrative has Jesus rebuke the disciples as soon as the storm is still for their lack of faith. There only response was awe and wonder, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (Mark 4:41)

As the disciples got to know Jesus more and more their faith in God was being transformed. They began to know God as a loving, forgiving, merciful God. It wouldn’t be until they met the risen Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit that the transformation was complete.  They would begin to experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Now this peace that comes through knowing Jesus would never completely eradicate fear and the other feelings generated by catastrophic events. But just as we are transformed when we come to know Jesus our experience of fear is also transformed.

David Lose, the Lutheran Pastor says:

Jesus reveals a God who cares passionately for the wellbeing of all God’s people. This is the One we invite people to trust. And trust, in the end, is the only thing that overcomes fear. Ultimately, you see, it’s the question isn’t what moves us from fear to faith, but who. And the answer is Jesus, the one who will not rest until we see and hear and experience and trust God’s passionate love for us and all the world.

Lose goes on to remind us that we are the other “who” that enables fear to be transformed. You and I gather together week by week to reread these stories, to reflect on God’s love, God’s presence in the world. We stand alongside each other when the storms come.

As we stand alongside each other we remind each other of modern David’s who ran forward to confront the Giant. We know that some of those Davids died even as they spoke of non-violence. Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero both died fighting the giant of racism and the giant of oppressive capitalism. Other saints like Mary Mackillop and Mother Teresa didn’t die but the battle went on for years long after they had died of old age. The exciting thing about these modern saints is that they gather a whole community of people around them. These communities walking arm in arm, frightened of what can happen but with a deep peace, they know that they can change a whole nation.

The waves that overwhelm us individually or as a community may not be on the same scale as the fight against slavery or racism or oppressive poverty. Never-the-less the small community that stands alongside us reminds us of the God that we encounter in Jesus. In Jesus we discover peace that surpasses understanding, love that drives out fear and a renewed confidence in life abundant with joy and hope.