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Coming Out of Fear 

"Coming Out of Fear"

A Sermon Preached by the Rev. Deana Dudley

at Holy Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church, London, Ontario

and Christos Metropolitan Community Church, Toronto, Ontario

22 June 2003

On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to the disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" Mark 4:35-41

Some of y?all have met my little dog, Kitty. You may even have heard me tell about how she reacts to thunder and lightning. First she starts to shake, and then she starts this high-pitches whining, and then she tries to climb up on top of ? I mean on top of the head of ? the nearest human, me or Anne. Then, if the human objects to that, she runs to the basement, jumps into the bathtub, and just goes berserk. She tears up the shower curtain with her claws and then, she just loses it. I mean, she really loses it. The little dog is just scared.... ummm.... witless. Poor little thing just can?t handle storms. She?s terrified.

So it?s a good thing she wasn?t on the boat with Jesus and the disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee. ?Cause first off, I can tell you for sure that Jesus would not have been sleeping in the stern of the boat. When Kitty?s scared, nobody sleeps. Kitty would have been right in there with the disciples, saying "DO something!"

Which is basically what the disciples were doing. Like the little dog, the disciples were scared, um, witless. As well they might be. A bunch of them were professional fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, so they could imagine the calamity that was bearing down on them. The wind comes whipping down the Golan Heights, and you can go from dead calm to swamp the boat time in just minutes. They were certain the boat was going to be swamped any minute, and suddenly they realize there?s Jesus in the back of the boat, sprawled out fast asleep on a cushion, apparently unconcerned that they were all about to die. And even though the storm didn?t wake him, the disciples did, and they shouted at him, "Teacher, don't you CARE that we?re perishing?" They wanted Jesus to get himself up off of that cushion and lend a hand with the bailing bucket.

But bailing out the boat was not actually on Jesus? agenda. Which must have kind of annoyed the disciples. Just when they really needed him, he was sound asleep. They needed all hands on deck to try to keep the boat afloat, to do their best to prevent what looked like an inevitable capsize with the drowning of all crew members. "Don't you care?" they cried. "This is an emergency! If you don't get up and pull your weight right NOW, we?re all going to drown." But Jesus didn't do what they expected him to do. They expected him to leap to his feet and join the team, bailing or grabbing the oars, but he ignored the boat completely. Instead, he went straight to the source of the problem. He commanded the storm to subside. And the disciples couldn?t believe it. What sort of a man were they dealing with, who had power to still storms?

Now, I know that you know that we?ve all faced some storms in our lives where we?ve been tempted to yell at God, "Don't you care that I?m perishing here?" If God exists and loves us, then why do we have suffering in our lives and in the world? If God can calm storms, why are we are still plagued by torrents and downpours in our lives. If God can calm the storms in our lives, explain, please, the Holocaust. If God could quiet the turmoil in our lives, then explain ethnic cleansing and domestic violence. If God can silence the wind and the waves, then explain AIDS and SARS. Suffering is a universal truth, and sometimes it tempts us to raise a fist to heaven and shout, "God, don't you care that we?re perishing?" And it wasn?t that he didn?t care. It?s just that he wasn?t worried about the storm. He trusted God, so he could sleep like a baby.

So after the disciples have survived this near-death experience, after they?ve witnessed this expression of divine power, Mark tells us that "they were filled with great awe, and said to one another, ?who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him??" The literal translation of the phrase, "filled with great awe" is that they "feared a great fear." They were overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what had just happened. I have a feeling that even after seeing what Jesus was capable of, the disciples still feared what this meant. Their big question wasn?t "How did he do that?" but rather, "Who is this person?" And that made them really afraid.

And Jesus acknowledges their fear, but suggests to them that the opposite of fear is faith. After he stilled the storm, he looked at the disciples and said, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" I don't think Jesus is berating them for being inadequate or attacking them for their undeveloped faith. Instead, I think Jesus just longed so desperately for people to have the kind of faith in God that would allow them to sleep through the storm. Jesus knows we have fears, and yet he wants us to release those fears so that we can find faith, hope, and love in God. Jesus desires for us to find a redemptive relationship with God, instead of dwelling in our fears and letting them paralyze us. Jesus wants us to COME OUT of our fears, and live in faith.

Easy for him to say, eh? See, we all have fears. My fear of snakes is fairly well known. Kitty?s scared of thunder, and fireworks, too. She?s really going to enjoy Canada Day. You have your own list. No one is fearless.

Fear and faith.... I think sometimes we think of doubt and unbelief as the biggest barriers to faith. But perhaps, more often than we realise, it?s actually fear. Now, there?s a healthy fear that keeps us alive and well. That keeps us from walking off of cliffs or trying to cross the 401 at rush hour. And there?s a healthy fear that moves us into action and that sends us in prayer to God. That?s a fear that goes hand-in-hand with faith. Sometimes fear?s a normal protective response, but we can overdo it to a point where our ability to act is paralysed.

You have an insert with a few acronyms on it, for both fear and faith. You may find some of them useful or entertaining. Or maybe not. But it contains one of my favourite acronyms for fear, because it is so true: False Evidence Appearing Real. Sometimes, we get so caught up in what we fear, which may or may not ever come to pass, that we can?t do anything. Case in point. I remember when I was first coming to grips with being a lesbian. It was a real struggle for me to come out to people. I admit it; I was scared. I was afraid that they?d reject me. I was afraid that they?d tell me I was going to hell. I was afraid that I would believe them. So, for a long time, I didn?t tell anyone I knew.

I used to "practice" on total strangers. Am I the only one who ever did that? I?d tell them I was gay, and see if I could stand their reactions. Mostly, they were just bored. They didn?t care. But my fears kept me from being open and honest with the people I cared about, who cared about me. Like those disciples in the boat, in the middle of the storm, I didn?t believe anyone cared. And my fear truly was false evidence, appearing real. And it kept me paralysed until one stunning moment when I realized that hiding because I wanted to be safe would not protect me from whatever was headed my way. It is exactly as the late poet Audre Lourde said: "When I use my power in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether or not I am afraid. Your silence will not protect you." All that energy spent on fear could be redirected into enjoying the present. To pass up living an authentic life because of the possibility of an event that was unlikely.... to pass up living the abundant life God called me to live because of the possibility of an event that God could carry me through.... now THAT was to drown in a stormy sea of fear.

But faith can overcome fear. Faith overcoming fear means trusting that God has loved us, redeemed us and called us children of God. Faith overcoming fear means depending on all the resources that God makes available to us as children. Faith overcoming fear means that, while we may not know the details of life, we are sure of the outcome. Your handout has some acronyms for Faith. The one I like best is: "Forget About Impossibilities ? There is Hope!" We have hope, even in the impossible storms of life.

Do y?all know the song "The Edmund FitzGerald" by a good ol? Canadian songster, Gordon Lightfoot? This is the "Canadian Content" portion of our sermon. Anyhow, that song?s about a storm on one of the Great Lakes, and the sinking of a ship. And there?s a line in the song that goes:

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

What IS the answer to Lightfoot's question? Where DOES the love of God go when the storms of life swamp and overturn our lives?... when a little girl is senselessly murdered?.... when a young man is beaten to death for being gay?.... when we?re plagued by pain and disease without ceasing?.... when we?re betrayed by people we thought were friends?.... Where is the love of God then?

Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the storm clouds break over our lives?... when people we love die?.... when we find ourselves unjustly accused?.... when war rolls over whole nations, and it seems like no one can stop it? Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

When that happens, when the storm seems to go on forever, I don?t know about you, but I sometimes tend to try to usurp Jesus? place. When I was looking at these acronyms the other day, Anne was real blunt with me. She said she wished I?d learn some of those things, about fear and faith. See, sometimes, I get this mindset ? I dunno, you think maybe it?s a control thing? ? that it?s all about me. That somehow the calming of the storms around me is dependent on MY faith. That it?s somehow my fault. That I can?t trust God to do it for me. And believe me, when I do that, it?s like the song says: the waves really DO turn the minutes to hours/

And that?s not the point of this story. The point is, when the waves turn the minutes to hours, the love of God is right there. In the same boat with us. And not only is that love there, but that love is there with such power that, one day, there WILL be calm, the storm WILL be ended, and what is broken WILL be made whole. That?s the promise of God. And to believe in that promise is to give up our illusions of control.

So, when the storms of life threaten to overcome us, when the power of fear starts to overtake the power of faith, keep in mind the power of God. When the power of hate begins to overcome the power of love... keep in mind the power of God. When the power of despair attacks the power of hope,... keep in mind the power of God. When you wonder if it matters at all to stand up for justice against the powers of injustice, keep in mind the power of God. When people treat you like a nobody,... keep in mind the God whose image you bear, and whose strength gives you strength. Keep in mind the power of God. Forget about impossibilities: There is hope!

Sermon Resources Gratefully Acknowledged:  Peter Gomes, The Good Book, "The Bible and Mystery", 1996; Robert Smith, The Shaughnessy Pulpit, "When The Waves Turn The Minutes To Hours" Vancouver, B.C., 1985; Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine, "Striving With God"; Carla Thompson Powell, Timothy ELCA, Livonia MI; Wayne Hilliker, Chalmers United Church.



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Holy Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church
388 Dundas St., Unit 305,
London, Ontario N6B 1V7
PH: 519-645-0744