Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fear and Faith

Matthew 14: 22-33
White Caps on the Sea of Galilee by Dina

It was a dark and stormy night…you know the kind I mean.  You’re lying in bed asleep in the stillness of the night when you’re awakened by the wrestling of the leaves from a wind that is starting to pick up.  You roll out of bed and amble to the window to see the shadows of the trees bending freely back and forth.

You hear the distant roll of thunder and see a slightly illuminated sky to the west.  Within no time the lightning dances across the sky and the thunder is sitting right on top of you and the room is momentarily lit up inside from the flash of the lightning outside.  The rain begins to pelt the sidewalk and the roof and it’s so loud…too much….your body tenses in expectation of the next barrage of chaotic and random thunder and lightning.  Violent storms like these induce fear.

It was a dark and stormy night THAT night on the Sea of Galilee when the wooden fishing boat that the disciples were on was battered by the waves and beaten by the wind.  The Sea is not big, 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, fed by rainfall and the Jordan River.  When it’s not stormy it’s quite beautiful, as the rabbi’s say, “Although God has created seven seas, yet he has chosen this one as his special delight.”[i]
Winds at the Sea of Galilee by Dina

However the Sea of Galilee can kick up a very violent storm with winds blowing through the east-west corridor of the hill country and winds that come off of the all too close the Golan Heights.[ii]  And so it was THAT night.

Jesus and his disciples were heavy into ministry by now teaching, preaching, curing and healing.  It’s no wonder that Jesus’ reputation had spread so quickly spread throughout the Galilean countryside.  It’s also no wonder that crowds surrounded him and his disciples everywhere they went.  After a weary day of feeding 5,000 people Jesus puts his diciples on a wooden fishing boat to go ahead of him to the other side of the Sea. 

Ahh, alone, now’s the chance to relax for Jesus, an opportunity for him to kick off his sandals and dust off his feet and to sit his weary bones down and be alone to pray.  He spends the night in prayer.
In the wee hours of the morning he sets foot on the water.  The disciples who had just spent a dark and stormy night at sea cry out in fear.  Out of the extremity of their fear they believe Jesus to be a ghost.  But he reassures them.

Peter, the rock upon which the church is built says to Jesus, “If it really is you let me walk on the water and come out to you”.   He doubts.  So Peter disembarks and walks toward Jesus.  The winds kick up a bit and Peter, the rock upon whom the church is built cries out, “Lord, save me”.  He is fearful.  His faith wavers.  Jesus stretches out his hand and catches a sinking Peter and when they got to the boat the winds ceased, the Sea becomes calm.  Jesus subdues and overcomes chaos, that of Peter’s and of the Sea.  Peter’s faith is restored and strengthened.
This is an all too familiar story.  It plays itself out in our lives in a variety of ways.  Who among us has not been caught in a violent storm without shelter or has felt miserably abandoned in a boat that is thrashing about on the sea of uncertainty like the disciples?  The people of Joplin, Missouri probably felt that way when the tornado was ripping through their town.  The traders on Wall Street this past week probably felt that way too when the DJIA sank rapidly closing over 500 points down.  A family who receives news that their child has an incurable disease, the suicidal teenager whose reputation has been defamed because of cyber bullying. 

Storms are real no matter the guise.  So is fear that stems out of these storms.  Fear can impair you and leave you immobile.  It also has the ability to move you to a deeper level of faith.  Fear and faith.  The two are remarkably linked together for if we did not experience fear in life, we may not know the depth of our faith.  Fear is not a test of our faith but a facet of our lives by which our faith gets us through those dark and stormy nights.  Crying out is not a lack of faith but an act of faith. 

And God is mindful of us and our fears. 

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tells a story of fear in his sermon, “Antidotes to Fear” from his book, “Strength to Love”.  He says, “On a particular Monday evening, following a tension-packed week which included being arrested and receiving numerous threatening telephone calls, I spoke at a mass meeting.  I attempted to convey an overt impression of strength and courage, although I was inwardly depressed and fear-stricken.

At the end of the meeting, Mother Pollard came to the front of the church and said, “Come here, son.”  I immediately went to her and hugged her affectionately.  “Something is wrong with you,” she said.  “You didn’t talk strong tonight.”  Seeking further to disguise my fears, I retorted, “Oh no, Mother Pollard, nothing is wrong.  I am feeling fine as ever.”

But her insight was discerning. “Now you can’t fool me,” she said.  “I knows something is wrong.  Is it that we ain’t doing things to please you?”  Before I could respond, she looked directly into my eyes and said, “I don told you we is with you all the way.”  Then her face became radiant and she said in words of quiet certainty, “But even if we ain’t with you, God’s gonna take care of you.”[iii] 

God’s gonna take care of you.  Mother Pollard reached out her hand, a perfect extension of God’s love and lifted King from sinking further into his sea of fear.  Amazing how God’s care and concern for our fears can manifest itself in the presence of others.  Just as Jesus extended his hand to Peter, God will extend the divine arm of hope to lift you up too because “God’s gonna take care of you.” 

There will be storms…that, my friends, is a fact of life.   God’s gonna take care of you.
You will feel abandoned in a boat thrashing about on the sea.  God’s gonna take care of you.
It was a dark and stormy night.  But God’s gonna take care of you.


Jesus Walks on Water by Laura James, 1998

[i]Bolen, Todd. The Sea of Galilee from
[iii] King Jr., Martin Luther.  “Strength to Love”. Fortress Press, 1963, page 125.


ρομπερτ said...

Thank you.

daily athens

Madge said...

Thanks..those are good and encouraging words today... There is a christian bluegrass group Blue Highway, on whose CD 'Wondrous Love,' there is a song that never fails to speak to my heart, called 'Ahead of the Storm.' Here is the chorus: Ahead of the storm,
Away from dark clouds
He hears me whisper
Or crying out loud
When the wind is too much
Or my heart gets torn
My Lord he keeps me
Ahead of the storm
Lord bless you for shining His light into the world...