Sunday, July 26, 2015

Proper 12 B - Jul 26, 2015

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams, n/OHC
Proper 12 B – Sunday, July 26, 2015

2 Kings 4:42-44
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21 (Track 2)
A circus elephant
It was now dark . . . The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing . . . Then they saw Him walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." John 6: 17b-20

As a young boy I loved the circus.  I loved seeing the lions, the tigers, the bears and the flying trapeze artist and, the jugglers . . . it was just so exotic! 

Now I must admit when I was younger I always got nervous with the elephant act. Think about it; the lions and tigers are in a cage but the elephants are such massive animals and there was no barrier between them and us. I was always worried that there was going to be some type of elephant coup d’etat and as a result pure pandemonium would break out! But I was never one for an overactive imagination.

Now as I reflect back on my anxiety and then think about why is it that the elephants were able to do all of those tricks and obey their tiny human trainers.

I realized that the elephants have become comfortable with their captivity,
Literally, their leash has been the limitation on their ability to grow because of fear.
The politics of fear have been introduced into the spirit of the animal. 
And as a result they will always stay in place, never moving outside of where it has been dictated that they should operate.

I have come to believe that the most dangerous type of domesticated animal is one that has nothing to lose. Fear, in the words of Howard Thurman:
“Is the one thing that dogs the footsteps of the oppressed by pressing their backs against the wall.
It is when the spirit of fear operates within us that we become locked into patterns of behavior and ways of thinking and being that serve only to hold us back from the abundant life that Christ gives us.”

Now, the dictionary tells us that: “Fear is a normal human emotional reaction, a built-in survival mechanism signaling us of danger and preparing us to deal with it.”

The Writers of Scripture too have taken note of anxiety and fear: 
"Do not be afraid," 
"Fear not," or 
"Do not fear" 
Occur in the Bible 107 times, and the word "fear" appears 314 times. 

In each and every one of those times they are mentioned as two specific types of fear. The first type is beneficial and is to be encouraged: fear of the Lord. This type of fear is a reverential awe of God; a reverence for God’s power and glory. 

The second type is a detriment and is to be not only discouraged, but overcome. That fear, as one writer puts it: 
“Is a dark room where negatives are developed.”

The problem with fear is that it can lead us to turn in on ourselves. In the Scriptures Jesus doesn't condemn fear. No, he doesn't want us to be crippled by it. So when Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid," in each case he used a verb tense that suggests continuance. In other words, he told them: "Don't keep on fearing."

But the sad fact is fear plays a major role in our lives. All of us have fears and some would say we have good reason to be afraid. But when we are honest with ourselves we know that most if not all of the fears we carry around aren't big societal fears. They are the personal fears that have to do with individual problems that we each face: 
What will happen to me as I grow older? 
Will this community last? 
Will I ever meet that one special person?
What will happen to me when I get out of my head and into my heart? 
What will happen to me if I risk giving love and receiving it in return? 
What will come of me if I let go of my anger and resentment and risk forgiveness? 

God invites us to exercise our faith in the face of every fear-filled circumstance of our life. By evaluating every situation from the mind-set that God is Lord over all things in heaven and on Earth.  No, I can't recommend that headline hyped that caters to the part of the brain that controls fear. 

What I CAN DO is testify of a divine promise for the heart, mind and life. 
A promise that says in Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, I am with You; be not dismayed, for I am Your God; I will strengthen You, I will help you, I will uphold You with the right hand of My righteousness.” And to that Divine promise I respond like the Psalmist in Psalm 56:11, 
“I’m proud to praise God. 
Fearless now,
I trust in God; 
What can mere mortals do to me?”- The Message version

What the psalmist is saying is that regardless of what happens, she will trust in God. I think this is the key to facing fear, total and complete trust in God turning to God even in the darkest times. It is this type of trust that delivers us from the fear that:
And paralyzes us. 

I believe it was Rabbi Hillel, one of the great heroes and scholars of Judaism from the 1st century: who said,  

"Every morning we wake up, the scales are equally balanced between good and evil. What we do during the day will determine where the scales fall.”

And that is the question for us: what are we going to do this day? 
Will We be paralyzed by fear? 
Will We live in the comfort of our captivity? 
Or will We move from the place of our comfort and into a new place where we can meet God face to face?  

There is a story a dear friend and mentor told me once. It’s a story of a gentleman that has his first opportunity to preach at a small country church. The young seminarian stood before the people, had all of his notes put together so beautifully, and was ready to preach. But, of course, back then they did not have any type of AC, so all of the windows were open. 

A nice, beautiful breeze came in and blew away all of his notes! He did not know where he was in his sermon. He did not know exactly what to say. I think that the only thing he could say was:
"Ain't God all right? 
Ain't God Good ? 
Ain't God all right?" 

And, of course, everybody was bowing their heads just praying for this young man. Everybody in the church knew that he was not saying much of anything. But there was an elder saint who kept on saying, 
Go ahead! Preach it! 
Thats right! 
Say it!"

Immediately following the service, after everybody left, he decided to find this elder saint and go up to her and speak to her and says:
"Now, you know that my notes went everywhere."She said, Yes, baby, I saw that!" "You know that I wasn't making any sense." She said, "That was absolutely true that you were not making any sense!" So the young man said, "Then why were you encouraging? Why were you shouting the entire time as if I had an incredible sermon?"And she smiled and looked back at him and simply said this,:
"Just because you didn't do your job, 
doesn't mean I'm not going to do mine!"

All of us have a job to do. We cannot be paralyzed by fear. 

It is our duty with God’s help to transform and change our condition and The condition of other people. An Asian wisdom saying puts it this way: “If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to, nothing to fear. If you aren't afraid of dying, there is nothing you can't achieve." Beloved you have nothing to lose!

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