Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Sermon for 1/29/17: Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany

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Human Fear

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sinners that we are, we take comfort and even rejoice when those we see as the best among us succumb to temptation, when their insecurities and fears are revealed, when their weakness is evident. When pastors stumble; when Hollywood’s biggest star falls on the red carpet; when our boss finally gets it from his boss; when the rich and famous go through hard times—we find that comforting. “You see? They’re human too. They’re just like us.” And perhaps that’s what you’re tempted to say when today’s Gospel exposes the fear within the disciples. They cry out, “Lord, save us; we’re perishing!”—and we want to say, “See, they really are human. They’re just like us.”
But really, we shouldn’t want them to be like us—at least, not when we are at our weakest, our most afraid, our most insecure, our least believing. Why would we wish that on anyone? And while we can identify with their fear, why should it comfort us to see that these holy men are really no different from us? To be sure, when the Lord helps them, we come to believe that the Lord will also help us. But why do we rejoice in the weakness, downfall, or the shame of any man or woman?
When the disciples tremble and shudder in fear, that is not true humanity. After all, we were created not to cower, but to trust; not to quake, but to be confident; not to tremble in fear, but to stand firm in faith. We were made by Our Father to be so secure in His love that we would not even know what insecurity is. Yet we are insecure. We do fear. We easily doubt and have second thoughts. We are quick to give in to the temptation to take matters into our own hands.
Taking matters into their own hands, the disciples come to Jesus and shake Him awake and announce their certain doom. But they do not realize that the Man they are shaking, He is the true human, for He alone rests in peace and is confident that the Lord’s mercy will see them through, whatever they face. They don’t realize that the Man with them in the boat is God Himself: the God who turned water to wine; the God who healed the leper and the centurion’s son; the God before whom kings prostrated themselves; the God through whom all things were made. Surely they know this; otherwise they wouldn’t wake Him and yell at Him to do something. In their heads, they know better. In their hearts, they hope for better. But as they sit frantically in the boat, these disciples are run by their fears. And in this, they are most definitely not being human.
And neither are we when we let our fears run us. But we do let our fears reign over us. We lash out at each other. We hold grudges. We let our passions run wild. We live for the moment. Our fears lead us to run over whoever is in our way without extending the kindness we so often demand. And our fears keep us awake at night so that we don’t rest in the peace of the Lord who is with us always.
But there is another way. There is the way of faith in the face of fears; the way of confidence in the Lord’s undying mercy; the way of the hope which allows the child of God to confesses that, whatever trials and struggles and temptations we face, our Lord will not abandon us. This is the way of Holy Baptism, where the same water which caused the disciples to fear actually calms the storm of sin within us. This is the way of Holy Absolution, where we return to those waters every day to drown the Old Adam with his fear and weakness and doubt. This is the way of the Lord’s Supper, where He is present with us, where He strengthens us to go back out into the world and face those trials and temptations, knowing He faces them with us.
Let us never forget that Our Lord is merciful. Let us never forget that He is always quick to rescue and save us. Let us never forget that He has already delivered us from every evil: past, present, and yet to come. And with this faith, let us not fear, no matter what the days ahead may bring. Rather, let us be bold in Our Lord Jesus Christ, who will never fail to calm the storm: the storm that rages outside, and the storm that rages within us. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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