Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

Sermon: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost 2015

Date: 21st June 2015

Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers

Church Calendar Date: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Lectionary Reading: 1 Samuel 17:32-49, Psalm 9:9-20, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

At last Wednesday Eucharist we had quite a discussion on Mark’s gospel which you just heard me read. We started by reflecting on what fear does to us: it paralyses us, we have irrational thought, we panic, we are anxious, we don’t think clearly and we think all sorts of horrible things may happen in the future.

Those gathered last Wednesday could clearly name some of the recent changes in their lives that have caused them to be fearful.  Diagnosis of cancer; selling ones’ home; hoping to have enough money for the future; moving to another country, leaving home and friends behind to start a new life; trying to get a visa to come and live in Australia. I’m sure you could add to these your own stories of changes that have made you fearful.

Fear…you can feel your body tighten. And the sense of joy and peace go out the window.  We can be pretty awful to those around us as well…short, sharp, cranky, impatient…when in normal circumstances we would not have reacted like that.

I wonder if you can relate to any of this.  I certainly can.

In today’s story we read of the disciples making a sea trip by night with Jesus…a great storm arose, they were tossed around in the dark, unable to see as there were no stars and no moon, knowing only that their lives were in imminent danger.

Some of Jesus’ disciples were seasoned fisherman who knew about the Sea of Galilee…who knew that storms could blow in anytime…who knew how to handle themselves in rough weather…but this was really scary. The water was coming into their boat and they felt sure they would drown. They called out to the sleeping Jesus and said ‘Don’t you care that we are going to perish!’

After Jesus said to the sea: ‘Peace! Be still!’ and all was calm, (and I’m sure they looked at him with their mouths open) he said to his disciples ‘Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?’

‘Why are you afraid?’

The disciple’s reaction of fear in the storm with water swamping the boat was understandably a very scary situation.  Their fear overtook them and they lashed out at Jesus who was asleep whilst the storm was going on!  Don’t you care we’re going to die?!

‘Do you not care’ is a cry of fear, of doubt and fear of abandonment.

Where are you when I need you?  You don’t seem to care what’s going on for me?   Have you forgotten/ abandoned me?  We say this in desperation…in anger…in reaching out for the situation to change…we don’t like not feeling in control.

The second question posed on Jesus’ lips is ‘Have you still no faith?’

This is a question that Jesus asks again and again to his close followers who saw what he did, heard what he said…and yet still, have no or little faith?  Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

It seems to me that the main question Jesus is really asking is not so much about fear, which is a human response to situations, (and a very useful one to get us out of dangerous situations), but about faith in him.

Somehow it is strangely comforting that even the disciples struggled like you and me to trust…to have faith in all parts of our lives. We want to have control…think we have control. We have faith in the good times, until we don’t have control and go through some tough times.

Alan Brehm from his website ‘The waking dreamer’ wrote this about faith and fear..

“Have we still no faith? I don’t think this applies to the content of what we believe so much as our ability to hold onto a basic trust in God no matter what. We say we believe God is a God of love, and that God loves us unconditionally. But the real challenge is to entrust ourselves, our loved ones, our hopes and dreams, our very lives into the care of this loving God- especially when we’re afraid.

The only way to do this is to let go whatever it is we’re afraid to lose-whether our health, our financial security, our relationships, even our very life.

If the essence of fear is trying to control, the essence of faith is letting go.  When we can do that – when we can let go, we find peace and contentment, and even joy taking the place of fear- regardless of our circumstances. [when we are less anxious, we can think more clearly too].

I’m not going to pretend that this is easy, because it’s not.

The challenge is to look beneath the fear and see the sustaining hand of the God of grace and mercy, even when life’s twists and turns are so frightening. That’s something that we have to do day by day, hour by hour, sometimes even moment by moment.

Faith is not a magic charm that somehow protects us from loss or hardship or catastrophe. Faith is basic trust – trust in the God who says “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb13:5). That doesn’t mean that bad things will never happen to us.  What it means is that when they do, our faith keeps us from going under – or perhaps we should say, the one in whom we place our faith keeps us from going under!

When the fears of life come our way, if we can simply let them be, let go of whatever it is we’re clinging to, and turn our attention away from our fear to the one to whom we have entrusted our lives, we find that even a giant storm can be stilled.  Our faith can still our fears and enable us to live our lives with joy and contentment.”  Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer website

When we look not only back over times in our lives when we have been fearful and have known God being present and have experienced that peace we felt even though life was tough, this memory can help us through the next storm.  We’ve just got to remember those times to help us!

I am also encouraged, when I remember the stories of those who have faith and have gone through some of the most terrible situations throughout history.

Today for morning tea, we remember those who have cancer and are survivors and their families, with the Biggest Morning Tea.

We also remember in this Refugee Week, those brave women, men and children who have left horrifying situations and have travelled to find a place of safety and start building their lives again.

Both those with cancer, those who are refugees, go through much fear, their lives turned upside down. But some of the stories of their faith holding them through is incredibly inspiring.  This is not to take away from whatever we are going through. Don’t go there!  We each have our journey’s to go on, through the storms and the calm and it is just helpful to know that there are people of faith who are there to say ‘this God of love will never leave you or forsake you’.

Besides reading about people of faith there are other ways for us to keep in touch and be reminded of the trust we can place in God.

So, very briefly, as this could be another sermon:

Being with friends in a community of faith, where you are reminded of a loving God, through hymns, readings, bread and wine and cups of coffee!

Praying- writing down special prayers that speak to you and encourage you, affirm you and affirm your trust in God!

Walking in nature, taking deep, slow breaths, looking up and seeing the wide sky, the trees..this can help us feel connected…fear makes us feel isolated.

Meditation is also something that stills the heart and brings us to a calm place.

One of our Wednesday congregation said she says a poem which she has on the fridge and she has learnt it off by heart and has helped her tremendously these past months.

King George VI quoted part of this poem in his 1939 Christmas broadcast. This was read in the early days of the Second World War and was a source of great comfort.

And I will conclude with this poem:

The Gate of the Year

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God,

trod gladly into the night.

And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

The Lord be with you.