Letting Go Of Our Fear

Good lord, I practically had to build an ark to get to church this morning!  We definitely needed the rain, though.

Worship was fun this morning.  The Masons from the Eastern Star Lodge, A.F. & A.M. joined us for their annual Father’s Day Masonic Services, which was great!  They are such a great group of men.  I sang in a quartet (we sang Stand By Me, a capella in four-part harmony, as the introit) and we ended church with Jordan leading us in Michael Row The Boat Ashore on the guitar.  The spirit was moving as it poured outside!

Here is this morning’s sermon.  Enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
June 21, 2015

Mark 4:35-41

Letting Go Of Our Fear

“A white gunmen opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, SC, killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt.”

The headline of the New York Times alert was chilling to read; the details that soon emerged from the shooting were devastating.

It is always extremely challenging to talk about stuff like this from the pulpit. But Wednesday’s incident was simply too gut wrenching for me not to mention it here today.

This happened in a church.

A church.

A place that is supposed to be a safe space for all to go and seek God’s love and wisdom.

A place that is full of God’s hospitality and grace.

A place that we are called, as ministers of the Gospel, to care for and to protect.

And this reminded me of far too many tragic events in our nation’s recent history.

It reminded me of the racially charged violence that has made headlines and filled the streets of our cities this year.

It reminded me of the senseless shootings that have devastated our schools, our university campuses, our hospitals and our public buildings.

It reminded me of just how dark and broken the world that we live in is.

And yet, we as ministers of the Gospel, are called to shine light into that darkness; to bear witness to God’s love in the midst of our brokenness.

So let us look at what the Gospel is calling us to do.

When something like this happens, a real and raw fear is instilled into our lives.

Fear of the unknown (and sometimes of the known).

Fear of our own brokenness.

Fear of the things that we cannot control.

Fear for our lives.

Fear for our children’s lives.

Fear of the world that we live in.

And while we grieve what has already happened, we also fear for what might happen next.

So what do we do? There has to be something, right?

Often when we experience this type of fear, we simply do not know what to do.

Fear is not new or specific to our generation. Look at this morning’s gospel reading: The disciples were afraid of the storm that had arisen while they were on the boat. They woke Jesus from where he was sleeping and asked him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” I can only image the state of panic they were in by the time Jesus woke up, because he immediately said to them, “Why are you afraid?”

This fear is the same fear that we feel in our lives today: The fear of the unknown, fear of our own brokenness, fear of the things that we cannot control and so on and so forth and “insert your own fears here.”

These fears are real and these fears often weigh heavily on our lives.

But what did Jesus say when he woke up and found the disciples afraid of the storm?

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

These are words that we need to hear in our lives today.

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Let these words sink in for a moment and think about what they really mean.

Think about what it means to let go of the fears that are in your lives and in your hearts. Think about what your life would look like if you refused to let your fears control you. Fear is a visceral response to the storms in our lives that rise up around you, but think about how powerful you would feel if you did not let fear define your life, but faith.

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Notice that Jesus did not say, “Chill out, guys, there is nothing to be afraid of.” Because there was something to be afraid of! A storm was raging around them that was threatening their safety and their lives. This is something that should elicit fear!

But Jesus encouraged the disciples not to give in to that fear. Jesus told the disciples to hold on, instead, to their faith.

I think we need to remember this in our own lives (and believe me when I say that I am preaching to myself as much as I am to the rest of you right now). We should not hide from the truth. We should not tell ourselves and the people around us that there is nothing to fear in our lives. We should not try to trick ourselves into thinking that there is nothing in this world to be afraid of because that is simply not true. There are real things in this world to be afraid of.

But we should have faith.

In fact, Jesus calls us to have faith.

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Here is the thing that sometimes we forget when we are battling storms in our own lives: Jesus was the one who calmed the storm that evening in Galilee, not the disciples.

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.

This is not one of those stories where everyone has a momentary freak out and then bands together to solve the problem while triumphal music plays in the background. The disciples never pulled themselves together; they woke up Jesus. Jesus was the one who calmed the storm.

And do you know what? We do not have to pull ourselves together, either. We just need to call on Jesus.

When we are afraid of the storms that are raging in our lives and in the world, we have to let go of our fear and hold fast to our faith. Because – in the end – Jesus is the one who really has the power to calm these storms, not us. We should not try to calm these storms without him.

I know that this is easier said than done, but I really do believe that there are ways that we can set ourselves up for success. We can live our lives in a way that prepares us for those moments when the storms are raging. We can practice our faith in a way that enables us to still able to hold fast to fast to that faith in the midst of those storms and trust that Jesus is there.

We need to ground ourselves in our faith. We need to be active participants in a church community full of people who not only love us and encourage us, but who also challenge us and hold us accountable.

We need to love others unconditionally, supporting them and allowing them to support us when we need it as well.

We need to teach our children the difference between right and wrong and we need to abide by those teachings in our own lives as well.

We need to constantly remind everyone in our community that they are a beloved and blessed child of God. We need to stand up for what is right and we need to pay attention to the people who are struggling.

We need to practice resurrection and we need to live out the principles of forgiveness, grace and reconciliation.

We need to pray and worship regularly, even if it is uncomfortable to do at first.

For it is only after we do all of these things that we are truly able to call on Jesus to calm these storms in our lives.

Only then will we be able to fight back against the racism, war and systemic violence in our world. Only then will we be able to rationally and calmly seek covenant in our political systems. Only then will we be able to heal wounded relationships and find peace in our lives. Only then will we be able to face all the crap that comes at us day in and day out.

This is how we need to face the storms that rise up in our lives, in our families, in our communities, in our country and in the world. This is how we respond in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting. This is how we respond to violence in our world. This is how we respond when someone we love is experiencing a crisis. This is how we respond when there is nothing else we can possibly do. This is how we respond to a dark and broken world.

We need to let go of our fear and cling tightly to our faith.

Jesus will call these storms.

This is a promise made to us in scripture.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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