The readings for this reflection come from Mark 4: 35-41 ~ Jesus stills a storm.
Reflection for 4th of Pentecost, Sunday, June 24, 2018
Written by Rev. Jacqueline Samson, St. Stephen’s United Church, Hudson Bay SK
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer…
In our scripture passage from the Gospel of Mark Jesus asks two questions of his disciples…”Why are you afraid?” and “Have you still no faith?” I believe that Jesus wanted his disciples to experience the connection between their fears and their faith…thinking of faith primarily as trust, not simply as belief, but the kind of trust that motivates you to action…the kind of faith that trusts in God’s strength and help to uphold us in the midst of chaos.
Jesus invited the disciples to take him to “the other side”…an undesirable place because it is unknown…a place that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar…a destination that invited them to cross boundaries as they left the comfort of their safe, known waters. Perhaps Jesus’ intention was to get them away from their reliance on themselves…he got them to journey into new territory…the place where fear often lurks just under the surface. If we allow it, fear often thrives when we come face to face with the difficult moments in our lives…when we come face to face with something we fear, whether it be real or imagined. I came across these two acronyms for FEAR that put our choices into a clearer perspective…the first is FACE EVERYTHING AND RUN and the second is FACE IT…EXPLORE IT…ACCEPT IT…RISE ABOVE.
So what exactly is fear…the dictionary defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by an impending pain, danger, evil, etc. or by the illusion of such.” There is an important distinction here. Fear may be brought on by either a real or an imagined threat. One kind of fear is a normal response to real danger. The other kind can be an abnormal, destructive emotion when the threat of pain, danger or evil is only imaginary.
Either way fear often paralyzes us, making trusting — and the confident action that trust makes possible — very difficult, if not impossible. This passage got me thinking about the things that I fear…like leaving this place to begin a new job…what if I can’t do it? What about the community of faith that I am leaving behind?…What if we can’t find affordable housing?…or the fear of going to visit my mother in July… how can I shine the light of Christ as she suffers from anxiety…a form of debilitating fear and possibly dementia…what if there is no hope for her?…why is God not helping her?…What about the fear for our world given what we know about the current corrupt, greedy, and evil powers that allow illegal immigrants to be put into cages and children separated from their parents?
Fear can take the wind out of your sails…the breath out of your lungs…the faith out of your life…fear can trap you and turn light into darkness. If you are comfortable and feel safe, I invite you to share a fear that you have at this time…
The hard truth is that fearsome things are very real…isolation, pain, illness, meaninglessness, rejection, losing one’s job, money problems, marital problems, failure, and death…I believe that the disciples were understandably afraid because of the storm and they allowed their fear to overtake them. When we feed the fears, they grow…the disciples did just this as they assumed the worst as they woke up Jesus saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” This isn’t a trusting or faithful request; it’s a fear-induced accusation. They could have asked him for help…they could have prayed.
The disciples forgot as we so often do that God is with us always.
Thankfully, Jesus reaches beyond their fear quickly and simply as he wakes up…rebukes the wind, and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” He does care for them. He does look out for them. Jesus shows us that we don’t have to have perfect faith for God to respond; indeed, we can even be paralyzed by fear, assume the worst about God, and still receive God’s mercy and grace…and then, perhaps, an invitation to greater faith!
Interestingly, the disciples fear doesn’t evaporate with the stilling of the sea, but it is transformed from the paralyzing anxiety that assumes the worst to a kind of holy awe at the presence and power of the One in their midst. They thought they knew Jesus, and now they have to wonder if they really did. I think that’s the invitation for us as well: to bring our fears, anxieties, and concerns to God as best we can and watch as they are transformed and we are amazed once again at this God who never, ever ceases to surprise us.
Perhaps part of the call in our community of faith here in the Hudson Bay Larger Parish is to remind each other that while God may be so much bigger than we’d thought, and that while the life of faith may at times be much harder than we’d bargained for, God will not abandon us. Not to the tempestuous storms of life, or even to the gale-force winds of our fears. Rather, God will come, stilling wind and wave, calming the fear-ridden heart, telling us again that we are God’s own beloved children, and calling us to greater faith.
There are 4 powerful words that we hear throughout our biblical stories and these are…DO NOT BE AFRAID!! Each time we say and hear these words we join all the saints who came before us who trusted in God to uphold them in times of chaos.
They chose faith over fear and in turn they were given the courage to flourish.
Fear shackles us and keeps us from becoming all that God desires us to be.
Jesus wants us to remember that God will continue to do great things amidst the chaos…amidst the transitions…the storms…the changes.
We are not alone; we live in God’s world.
May faith overcome our fears. I invite you to turn to a neighbour and say these words, “You are God’s beloved child; do not be afraid.”