Archive | June 2021

Are We Going to Live in Fear or Faith?

Mark 4:35-41

God, Be in our heads, Be in our hearts, Be in our understanding, Be in the words heard and the words spoken. Amen.

I have a guilty habit to share: I enjoy reading adventure novels: Jason Bourne, Dirk Pitt, Jack Ryan — I buy them in paperback and usually read them in a couple of days. They are brain candy, empty calories, but I still am addicted to them.

The heroes in these books share at least one thing in common: they have learned to manage their fears. Over and over again, when faced with situations that would paralyze most of us, they can consider their options, make a plan, and execute that plan. And, of course, they ultimately come out on top. (Hard to have a series if you kill off the hero.) They have faith in themselves, their abilities, and those around them.

In today’s gospel, we heard Jesus ask the disciples:

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? (Mark 4:40)

Take a minute and think about how many times you have heard this, or maybe heard:

O ye of little faith” (Matthew 8:26)

I ask, what is this faith that we are supposed to have?

So, I went to the Webster’s Dictionary, where faith is defined as “confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea or thing.” But there was also this explanation of faith: “Belief not based on logical proof or material evidence.”

“Belief not based on logical proof or material evidence”

jesus in boat with disciples calming the storm000We find the disciples in a boat, on a rough sea, afraid of capsizing, and Jesus is sleeping! They were afraid – their faith that everything will be okay is lacking. They cry to Jesus:

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)

Jesus calmed the storm, and turns to the disciples and asks:

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

At issue is faith (Mark 4:40) . . . and fear (Mark 4:41).

Jesus called out their fear, not because being afraid in that situation was wrong, but because the way they handled their fear showed a lack of faith.

We are not called to be fearless. We are called to face our fears by knowing that someone greater than our fears is always present and that someone cares and can act.

Jesus didn’t rebuke His disciples for waking Him up. He didn’t give them a lecture about their lack of trust in His ability. Instead, He recognized the desperate state they were in. He knew they couldn’t control the storm; when they were at their wit’s, they called out to him.

We must never feel that anything should stop us from taking our needs to Jesus, no matter how small they may seem. If something concerns us, it concerns Jesus as well; if we have fear, we can take it to Jesus.

This weekend America is celebrating Juneteenth, commemorating the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were finally officially informed that they were free

two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed,

and two months after the Civil War ended.

Its name is derived from a combination of the words “June” and “nineteenth” This celebration represents granting of freedom for African Americans since 1619, when they were first brought over to America.

Slaves had lived in constant fear:

    • of murder and lynching,
    • of cruel punishment or maiming,
    • of separation of families,
    • of being sold like cattle to a white person.

Although the slaves were legally freed, in actuality, the Emancipation Proclamation did not liberate many of the slaves; the promise of freedom and land was replaced by the Jim Crow laws, creating a different type of fear – one of domination, and persecution, and murder. To the government, they were still three-fifths of a human being.

But no matter, our Black brothers and sisters had faith in Jesus, and the love of God kept them going, knowing deep in their hearts that they would someday be free.

This week President Joe Biden established Juneteenth as a national holiday! It is fitting that we mark this holiday in our struggle to remove white supremacy from this nation. Now we all need to work harder to prevent voter suppression and other archaic laws still aimed at minimizing the worth of people of color.

We also celebrate LGBTQA Pride this weekend. For many years, gay men and women were illegal in the United States, and in most states. On June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Union bar in New York City, police attacked those patrons of the bar. Gay and lesbian men and women then took to the streets and began the fight for gay civil rights; this was the origin of Gay Pride. Even today, LGBTQA persons constantly live under the fear

    • of beatings and death (often by law enforcement or mobs),
    • At least two transgenders are murdered each week,
    • being fired from jobs,
    • denied housing (most homeless youth are gays who have been kicked out of their homes by their parents)
    • not being allowed to enjoy the civil rights granted to other Americans.

On a personal note, when my parents found out I was gay, they disowned me and swore to shame me to the rest of my family. After visiting my place of employment and raising a ruckus about how I would never amount to anything, I was fired for being gay.

There are fast-food restaurants and hobby stores that actively support legislation to rescind equal rights to our gay and transgender brothers and sisters. And many churches will not accept us and actively seek to demonize and alienate us from the love of God. Recent Ohio legislation, if passed, will allow healthcare professionals to refuse treatment of gays based on their personal religious beliefs.

But, just like people of color, gays have faith in Jesus and know that we are all beloved children of God, that “all people are created” in God’s eyes.

No matter our skin color, or sexual orientation, or gender identity, everyone of us is often afraid!

Like the disciples, we fear many things. Our small boats seem shaky as we are tossed about on life’s sea. Storms of hate and pain, war and poverty, discrimination and alienation shake us and threaten to swamp our very beings.

Ultimately, fear is something that all of us experience and have to learn to conquer. Indeed, life is full of things that can make us afraid.

Though the storms of life will still come, though we may face the next day with apprehension and anguish, we do not need to fear. We can meet the chaos with courage and find the peace of Christ.

Mark Twain said, in his novel Pudd’nhead Wilson,

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear. We will still be afraid, and sometimes rightly so—but our faith will sustain us and give us mastery of fear.”[1]

Jesus calmed the storm, saying, as he had said many other times:

“Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)

The peace of Jesus does not come from the absence of storms. As long as we walk upon this earth, there will be storms that come our way. The peace comes from the knowledge that Jesus is with us in the storm!

We must realize that we are in the boat with Jesus, that Jesus is with us and that we are never alone; no matter the storm, no matter the struggle, no matter the circumstances. We are in the boat with Jesus. This should give us great comfort, relief, strength, and faith.

But instead of realizing that we are in the boat with Jesus, we only see the waves and the wind and the water coming into the boat. And, like Peter when he tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:29-30), when we take our eyes off Jesus, we end up faltering.

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Our genuine faith comes out in a crisis. When we have a crisis, we have three options:

    • If we choose to worry, all of us know deep down that nothing will change
    • We can try harder and work until there is nothing else we can do and we realize we have no control.
    • Or we can ask for his help and put our complete trust in Him.

Here is the reality. We are either headed into a storm, in the middle of a storm or coming out of one. We need to learn from our storms. God is teaching us something about Himself, about us, and the storms of life. See the storms of life as an opportunity for God to display who He is and for us to increase our faith.

When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about. You will see Jesus differently, and you will see yourself differently.

Not all storms come to disrupt our lives; some come to clear a path. Some storms help us to see some things more clearly.

Think about these questions:

  1. Has a trial you’ve gone through made you stronger spiritually?
  2. When was your faith most tested?
  3. Whom have you turned to in fear and found faith?

Are we living in fear or faith?

Let us pray:

Dear loving Lord, we are feeling stress. We are worried. Too many things occupy our minds. Please show us your order; let us trust in your will alone. Your Word tells us where there is love; there is no fear. Your perfect love drives out all fear. Let us be filled with your love, the faith that tells us we can do all things through you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

[1]      Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins, The Century Magazine, 1894,

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Columbus, OH; 20 June 2021

“A Country Divided Cannot Stand”

Mark 3:20-35

Dear Lord, may your words be heard in our ears, felt in our hearts, and carried in our souls. Amen

Just about every family has that one family member who is a little different from everyone else. This is the person who, at family reunions, everyone talks about to others, or rolls their eyes when he or she does something perceived as ‘strange’. If you are the only person that few others speak to at the family reunion; then, it’s you! You’re the “different one” that everyone else is talking about. They may find you are “eccentric” because you keep up with the fashion trends and hairstyles (or perhaps, because you don’t). They may think you are “weird” because every time you open your mouth, you put your brain on parade, or you talk about current events, or ideas, rather than gossip. They may think you are ‘odd’ because you prefer Beethoven to Beyonce, or birdwatching to baseball. Heaven forbid, someone might have a different idea or viewpoint!

In today’s Gospel from Mark, we read about, when early in his ministry, Jesus went home to Nazareth. People thronged to see him, and crowded around him constantly. But, the things he is saying and doing are so unusual – so beyond their scope of understanding that most believe he is out of his mind, and even consorting with the devil. They heard he had healed people – even healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath! They had heard that people from far and near, came to be healed, and called him “The Son of God”. They heard he spoke in parables or stories, teaching an entirely new approach to living – to loving and caring for one another, despite differences in rank, or wealth; he spoke of loving Pharisees and tax collectors, even gentiles! His mother and brothers came trying to talk some ‘sense’ into their wayward son and brother, asserting

He has gone out of his mind. (Mark 3:21)


He was possessed of an unclean spirit. (Mark 3:30)

And should be taken away.

He was definitely the “different one” in the family!

But that did not stop him.

I think it is interesting to consider, that if Jesus were with us today, and said the same things to us, would we think any differently? If he spoke to us today about welcoming strangers, loving others who are different in race, background, or opinions, wouldn’t we, too, believe that he was out of his mind? If he criticized the hypocrisy of some of our political and church leaders of today, would we think him a rabble-rouser who should be jailed? How often do we believe that what Jesus asks us to do is impractical and impossible in today’s world?

We heard him say in today’s scripture:

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3:24-25)

This is a famous quote often used by clergy in sermons, and government officials when trying to highlight the cultural divisions that separate people.

There is a long history of noteworthy people using this scripture to comment on the dissension within the country.

This biblical passage was used by Abraham Lincoln in an address before his presidency on June 16, 1858. In that address, which came to be known as “A House Divided Speech,” Lincoln said:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.

By saying that a house divided cannot stand, Jesus is illustrating the fact that the strength of a movement or idea or a nation relies on people coming together in unity. This is something we see in daily life all the time. Whether it is a business, a sports team, a political party, or a church, everyone has to work together if anything is to be accomplished.

Right now we are probably living in the most divisive time that the United States has faced since the Civil War, 160 years ago. Even during the Viet Nam war, the country was not as divided as it is now.

Our nation today is so divided that some think the cherished democratic system that generations have worked so long to build and preserve, may cease to exist. Politicians have forgotten that state, local, and federal officials are elected to “serve the needs of the people”, and are driven by their own ideology, passions, greed, and lust for power.

We have political leaders whose supporters participated in the insurrection against the Capitol of the United States and our elected officials in January 2021, in an attempt to change the clear outcome of our presidential election. Some political party officials and special interest groups are destroying valid vote ballots through fake ‘audits’ and enacting legislation that would try to stop anyone from voting who doesn’t agree with them. These activities are supported by bands of militia-type groups that carry guns and assault weapons. High-ranking security personnel and elected representatives intimate a governmental coup is a possibility.

There is overt discrimination and assaults against anyone considered to be the “different one

  • Asian Americans are blamed for creating the COVID virus,
  • Latinx immigrants and refugees are rejected for coming here to escape poverty, violence, and dictatorships
  • LGBTQ Americans are deemed sinners because their sexual orientation and gender identity are not understood;
  • Jewish Americans are again being targeted as warmongers and elitists.

When we divide people into categories of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, or where they live, problems always occur. One only has to think of the Holocaust, or genocides like those that took place in Bosnia, Rwanda, or Darfur to see the results of this division.

Jesus urged unity among believers because, once divisions and conflict beset a nation, productivity, progress, and prosperity inevitably grind to a halt, and the entire culture is weakened and becomes vulnerable to attack, and eventual destruction.

More importantly, IT. IS. WRONG!

Human beings must learn to live together or the world is lost!

As Jesus said:

“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.” (Mark 30:24-25)

As a free people, living in a nation that has become an example for the entire world of a just and peaceful ‘shining city on a hill’, we cannot let this dream – this amazing experiment in freedom and equality – die.

As Christians, we cannot let our amazing country, which has succeeded because we have followed the teachings of Jesus to live in harmony with others, and care for and support one another – we cannot sit by and let it be destroyed!

No, we are not a perfect nation – we have not lived up 100% to the ideals of our Constitution, but for over 245 years, we have provided leadership to a free world with justice and equality for all, and we cannot convert the world from its emphasis on greed and power unless we are united in purpose – unless we love one another. When we ignore the teachings of Jesus to have our own way, the result is discord and disunity.

Unity begins with us.

Responsibility begins with each of us.

I am reminded of the quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionist, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

For our nation to be successful, we have to learn to work together as one people, uniting and strengthening our nation again.

As we pray in the Prayers of the People:

“That we all may be one,
That there may be justice and peace on the earth.”

So, healing the divisions of our nation begins with us.

We must be proactive, and not assume someone else will take care of things.

We must pull together and listen to seek to understand one another.

We must love one another as God has loved us.

So, as we approach our nation’s birthday, let us cherish each individual as our brother and sister in Christ, and then, if we stand together, we can surmount any difficulties that might lie ahead of us, and, perhaps, one day realize the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Let us pray:

In this century and in any century,
Our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
Is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect
May we listen to our own hearts in love and forgiveness
May we listen to God in quietness and awe.

And in this listening,
Which is boundless in its beauty,
May we find the wisdom to cooperate
With a healing spirit, a divine spirit
Who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.

We do not ask for a perfect world.
But we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.[2]


[1]  “A House Divided,” Info USA, Us Department of State

[2]  Jay McDaniel, Professor of Religion, Hendrix College, Arkansas

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Columbus, OH; 6 June 2021