Sermons on fear
“Look within yourself,” Jesus implores them. But they don’t. What we would have hoped would have been the turning point in the story– the disciples’ transformation into a living and breathing faith — doesn’t happen. When the seas calm and Jesus begs them to go into the dark and foreign places within their own souls, to examine why their fear has overridden their faith, they don’t. Instead, they focus their attention on understanding Jesus, rather than understanding the difference Jesus makes in their lives of faith.
Once the disciples’ minds were opened and they finally understood who Jesus was, he called them into action and through them, he called all generations that followed, down to our day, down to this church, down to this very moment in time. As you know, our risen Lord is here, right now, to tell us who he is, show us his unconditional love, give us his peace, allay our fears, open our minds, and send us into the world in his name.
As we say in our collect on Friday mornings during Morning Prayer, “Jesus stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone may come within his saving embrace.” Believing in a God who would do that for us, and thus calls us to do that for everyone else, can feel risky. And if it is risky, then perhaps it is of God, for it does seem to me that God is the greatest risk-taker of all. God trusts us, we fallible humans, with each other and with God’s creation, and built into that trust in always intention and invitation to redemption and transformed living. When we believe in a loving God who takes risks for us, who loves us into being, then I believe we too can become risk-takers for love. This is what this parable can teach us. Be risk-takers for love. We often say fear is the opposite of faith, largely because each time the angels show up in scripture, they begin their conversation with “Do not be afraid” for fear can prevent us from seeing, hearing, and loving God. Do not be afraid, my friends. Above all else, God has entrusted you with your love of God and it is right and good to share that love boldly with others. We can’t get that wrong, for that always will be pleasing in God’s sight. Amen.
For the sake of our 21st century reality, let’s for a moment write ourselves into Jesus’ story – taking the place of the wounded man, lying by the side of the road. Now ask yourself this question: who is the person that you would rather die than have come help you in a time of need? And who is the person or group whose members would rather die than stop and help you? This is a tough and provocative question, to be sure. Here are just a few possibilities: Imagine an Israeli Jewish man is robbed, and a good Hamas Palestinian member saves his life. A liberal Democrat is robbed, and a good conservative Republican who supports the NRA saves her life. A white supremacist is robbed, and a good black, inner city teenager saves his life. A transgender woman is robbed, and a good anti- LGBTQ activist from Westboro Baptist Church saves her life. .
If we see sin as a way of being which doesn’t allow ourselves to be fully embraced by the love of God, or sin as a barrier that has become entrenched in the way we think or regularly make decisions, that doesn’t allow ourselves to be fully embraced by the love of each other, I have a feeling if we go deeply into our hearts, we will find fear at the basis of all of these ruptures.