The Scriptures call us to trust in God, a thing much easier said than done.
Fear and Faith. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I was in the woods back of our house climbing about in a tree with my brother. We were playing pirates and the tree was our ship, or maybe Batman and Robin and the tree was a tall building, or maybe the tree was just a tree and we were enjoying being in it. I don’t remember. What I do remember is that somehow my brother ended up standing on the ground, and I ended up hanging by my feet with my head about 10 feet above the ground. I was really, really scared and could not get down. My brother was really, really scared and couldn’t figure out how to help me get down. So he told me to let go, he would catch me. I distinctly remember him saying, “Trust me, I’ll catch you.” I trusted him. He didn’t catch me. I still have a scar under my chin from where I cut it on a rock. He ran to the house, screaming for my mother. He thought, he feared, that I was dead. He also had little faith that were I not dead, our mother would not punish him severely for letting his little brother get hurt.
Fear and faith. Our reading from Mark’s Gospel is full of fear and faith. A woman in the crowd, a woman with a flow of blood, touched Jesus. He stopped, turned and asked who touched him—a surprising question since the crowd was pressing in from all sides. She “came in fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him the whole truth. He (Jesus) said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34). Fear and faith.
In the wrap-around story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the story with which our text begins and ends, just after Jesus says to the woman, “Your faith has made you well,” “some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe’ ”—have faith (Mark 5:36). Fear and faith.
When I was a child, I had a lot of faith; I also had a lot of fear. My faith was faith in the reality of God, not any sort of trust in the goodness or compassion of God. And my fear was Sunday school and fundamentalist preaching, and comic books, and horror movies and God knows what else. As I have grown older, faith and fear have remained in dynamic tension in my life. Just as my faith has matured and become more sophisticated, my fears have grown less generalized and more realistic.
But they are still there, as they are for all of us. All of us fear things: terrorism, illness, economic collapse, earthquake, fire, flood, crime, the police, etc. And the last few years have shown us that many of our fears are realistic and based on reality. As we face these realistic fears, we must ask ourselves—where do we place our faith, our assurance, our hope for the future? In money and its accumulation and clout? In governments and their armies? In coalitions of folk who think, and look and act like us? Whom do we trust? Where do we turn for solace and hope?
The Scriptures call us to trust in God, a thing much easier said than done. Lamentations reminds us “that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, (God’s) mercies never come to an end.” and then goes on to talk about those times when one feels abandoned by God. This is a realistic look at faith in the face of fear.
The Psalm repeats this theme, as in “then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear” but also cries out, “O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever.” And our lesson from 2 Corinthians reminds us not to hoard our money but rather to share our resources with those in need, trusting that God will take care of us. Generosity is an act of faith overcoming fear.
Fear and faith. In the last several years, the church has been living through frightening and uncertain times. We must ask ourselves—are we facing the future with fear or faith? Are we retreating into attempts to secure what we have, to protect the church from further erosion and decline? Or are we reaching out to God in faith and to one another in love?
It sometimes feels like we are barely hanging on, about to fall, yet afraid to trust God to catch us if we do. Now, when I was hanging upside down in that tree, I did have faith, I did let go—the problem is, I trusted the wrong person. I should have waited for Mama to come. I am sure she would have been able to rescue me with little or no damage.
Fear and faith. We are invited this day to join the writer of Lamentations in not only singing to God “Great is thy faithfulness,” but also with the woman in the crowd, and Jairus and the people of Corinth, holding out our hands and our hearts to Jesus, trusting the Holy One of God with our life and our future.
Amen and amen.