Der Vasken's Sermon on February 10, 2019

Feb 12, 2019

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"...when they had sailed to the middle of the lake, they saw Jesus walking to their boat; and they were terrified.  But He said to them, 'It is I; why do you fear?'"

Have you ever been so scared in life that you doubted what your own eyes saw?  That's what happened to the twelve disciples one day while crossing a lake in a boat.  In this Bible story Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee in the dark of night to a small boat filled with His frightened disciples, who were being tossed around by an unforeseen storm on the sea.  And He called out to the boat of frightened men reassuring them with these words: "It is I; why do you fear?"  Today's Bible passage talks about something we all face in life.  Today' biblical story is about fear and trust.

So let's all take a quick moment to think about the last time you faced fear straight on.  When was the last time you faced a fearful situation?  That's what today's Bible passage is all about.  In this well-known story the worst thing, for the disciples about being caught in a storm in the middle of that large sea, was that the One in Whom they placed their trust was not with them.  The disciples of Christ were frightened.  They were caught out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee with a powerful storm threatening all around them.  And they were looking for the presence of Christ but He wasn't with them.  They didn't see Him so they lost their trust in Him and they lost their confidence in Him because He had promised to be with them always through thick and thin.

  • They lost their trust at a time when they needed it most.
  • They lost their trust when the storm was raging.
  • They lost their trust when fear and doubt entered their hearts.
And when that happened, the storm bothered them all the more.

But many people lose their trust in God when the storms of life catch them unprepared and "pour down" on their lives.  This isn't unique to just the disciples.

  • In our days of stress when we are burdened with problems and those problems look dark;
  • In moments of anxiety when we don't know how we can possibly face what lies ahead;
  • Or when the waves of doubt or guilt or fear or despair or temptation or loneliness or depression bear down on us or whatever it is that burdens us;

We today know something that not even the twelve disciples knew at that time.  "God is never far from us."  We just have to look through the "eyes of our faith" to see Him standing with us.  Having trust in Christ does not prevent the storms of life from reaching us but because of trust we can face the wind and waves of any storm that blows through our lives. Trust makes all the difference in the way we face our storms and fears. 

Think about it.  What frightens you?  Everyone feels fear at one time or another.  What has frightened you in life?  We all have fears.  I have my own--the depth of the ocean, losing a loved one, eating bamya (or okra)--all cause me to become uncomfortable.    As a parish priest, I encounter fear often.  I see it in the eyes of people I know and don't know as I sit with families in an ICU waiting room.  That's where I see fear the most.  And during those visits, sitting in the waiting rooms, I see how fear and despair play out in the lives of families and people of all backgrounds:  Black, White, Chinese, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, young and old, men and women, mothers and fathers and children of all ages.  We all have fear and we will all face unwanted challenges in life.

Hospital waiting rooms tell much about how we deal with and face our fears and challenges.  I've come to realize that fear travels with us throughout life.  Children of all ages are fearful of losing their parents. 

  • Parents are fearful because they can't control the culture surrounding their children with violence, with highly-accessible pornography and internet gambling, with drugs, marijuana stores popping up in towns and streets where we live and raise our families, terrorism, the Opioid problems that are growing rapidly all around us and school violence.  That frightens them.
  • Seniors are frightened with growing disability and dependency and end-of-life issues.
  • The middle-aged fear losing their jobs, seeing their incomes shrink and facing that "thing" called "mid-life crisis."  That frightens them.
  • Teenagers are frightened of being counted out by the "in" crowd.  That frightens them.
  • Children are frightened of the dark, of monsters under their beds, of their parents' quarrels and divorces, of being picked on, being different and being left out.  That frightens them.

So let's ask ourselves: What frightens you? For the disciples it was the wind and waves and the fear of drowning that frightened them.  But amid the wind and waves of our lives stands Jesus Christ with outstretched hands saying to us: "It is I; why do you fear?"  May we all take a moment at some point today to think about what frightens you in life.  And remember the words of God: "It is I; why do you fear?"  Let's take a moment to think about it.

  • What frightens you?
  • And what does your trust in God look like in your life?
Amen.