Why Are You Afraid?
St. Dunstan’s 6.24.18
Lectionary: 1Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20, Mark 4:35-41
So, last Tuesday, I sat down at our usual Staff meeting, and as some of you may know, we always have a devotional time before launching into the agenda and calendar items for the week.
We each take turns leading the devotional; this last week it was Fr. Kent’s turn, and he started the devotional with a question, “What would your life look like without Christ in it?”
Then, having dropped that crushing, gut-wrenching question on us, he sat back, smiled and looked around expectantly at each of us as we tried to imagine what it would feel like.
Well, at least for me, it was crushing and gut-wrenching. Mainly because I didn’t have to imagine what it was like.
I knew what it was like.
Because that question swooped me up and took me right back to a time in my life when I was filled with fear, my life was spinning out of control, I felt lost and in a very dark place.
So, of course, I was the first one to blurt out, “My life would be full of chaos, fear and a very dark place…without joy.”
I thought I had no one to turn to and I didn’t have any idea how to fix it…because, you see, I thought I was all alone in facing this giant…
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was a Christian, I went to church, I prayed, I taught Sunday School, I listened to the scriptures, I loved Jesus, I went to Bible study, but… I was still afraid.
I wasn’t willing to trust God …enough.
Deep down, I didn’t believe I was someone God would find worthy to save. My life was such a mess, I couldn’t see through the fear to see the miracles Christ was doing in my life…HAD been doing all through my stormy life.
As I was studying the Gospel this week, preparing this sermon…(and I DID have a nicely organized, three point sermon prepared) – a good study on Mark, miracles, because the miracles are hard to ignore in Mark…and certainly the miracle in this passage -Jesus, telling the storm to cease and be calm was so spectacular, it even leaves the Disciples astounded, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him???”
So, I finish off a rough draft of this neat, tidy sermon, turn off the computer, and walk away thinking, “ok, I’m in good shape for Sunday. I’ll go back tomorrow and tighten it up and polish it up a bit, but I’m good.”
Except I wasn’t. Even as I walked away, I knew there was something gnawing at me …and as I tried to sleep that night, Jesus’ words to his disciples after he calmed the storm –seemed like they were being shouted at me…
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith??”
Why were the disciples so afraid…they’d witnessed miracle after miracle even before getting on that boat with Jesus… and what better Gospeler than Mark to write about all the miracles Jesus did throughout his time in ministry…?
Because Mark’s Gospel is known as the “Miracle Gospel”. (This is mainly because the amount of narrative he devotes to miraculous events in proportion to the entire Gospel is the highest among the Canonical Gospels).
In the first chapter of Mark, right after Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they went into a synagogue in Capernaum where he taught, and a man “with an unclean spirit” came in, and the disciples witnessed their first miracle, as Jesus drove out the unclean spirit from the man.
When they left the synagogue, they went to the house of Simon and Andrew, and Simon told Jesus about his mother-in-law who was bedridden with a fever and very sick, and they again witnessed a healing miracle, as Jesus reached out his hand to the sick woman, and she got up, well and full of energy, apparently, because she immediately began to serve them!
It was quite a day for the disciples, and it wasn’t over yet! Somehow, word of Jesus’ miraculous healings of body and spirit spread…and at sunset, a crowd began to form with all who were sick or possessed with demons! Mark says the WHOLE CITY was gathered around the door!
The next day, Jesus went to neighboring towns, and their synagogues —casting out more demons – and a man with Leprosy asks for Jesus to help him…and right before the disciples’ eyes, the man is cured of leprosy!
A few days later, they went back to Capernaum, and again the crowds filled the house where Jesus was teaching, it was so full of people, that four men were trying to bring their paralyzed friend into Jesus (on a mat), and couldn’t get in.
You probably remember the story, they went up to the roof, opened up a hole in the roof and lowered him down right in front of Jesus! They were determined!
And Mark writes, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven…” (and later)” I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home!”
The disciples are right there, WITH Jesus, and they see him healing, driving out “unclean spirits”, curing lepers, people who are crippled all their life get up and walk, people who are deathly sick, take his hand and they get up from their sick bed and are restored to health…!
So, when we hear or read about the disciples just NOT GETTING IT about Jesus, most of us shake our heads, and think, “How can the disciples be so dumb?
I mean, they had Jesus right there with them for all that time, and they still don’t get it??
We think, “I’m sure I would!”
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no FAITH?”
Hmmm…there’s that word “FAITH” again…
What did Mark actually mean by the word, FAITH in his Gospel?
Mark uses faith in relation to Jesus’ miracles.
Jesus notices the faith of the sufferers in 5 of his miracles in Mark and tells them it is because of their faith they are healed.
Mark sees faith as trust in the power of Jesus to meet physical need or spiritual deliverance… Basically, the trust in the power of God to sustain and protect us.
But I think we have to look further, it’s a little more than this…
If you remember, Jesus himself tells his disciples in Matthew, when they are complaining that they aren’t able to drive out unclean spirits like Jesus told them they would be able to…he says,
“[it’s]Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and [nothing] nothing will be impossible for you.”
Jesus is teaching them that the key in exercising such faith IS– not it’s quantity, (how little or how much faith we have) BUT the GOD TO WHOM our faith IS DIRECTED.
THE TRUST IN THE POWER OF GOD TO SUSTAIN US AND PROTECT US.
That POWER of GOD.
Let that sink in a bit.
Absolute trust and total and complete faith in the power of GOD.
Could it be that the disciples didn’t recognize the REAL miracle on the boat that night?
The miracle, curled up on a cushion, asleep; The Almighty Power and infinite LOVE of GOD, if we just have a little faith?
After that dark, joyless, fearful time in my life, I began (little by little) to trust Christ…I began to realize God loves me!
He loves me just the way I am at that moment! Even during those times when I am so afraid.
I was learning it’s always infinitely better, (with outcomes that I would’ve never imagined) when I remember to faithfully trust Christ in his power to protect me and sustain me in all things.
About 15 years later, another Goliath stood before me. This one; tall and seemingly very strong, gearing up for battle with ammunition filled with heartache and loss.
I found myself, (all 5’2” of me) standing on the battle ground before this Goliath; calmly and fearlessly relying on my super power: the REAL miracle of the POWER of God to protect me and sustain me …confidently knowing the peace and the light of Christ, the JOY of his love would fill my heart through this battle and all those to come.
Bring it, Goliath.