Sermon for Proper 7, year B, Father’s Day, June 20, 2021

Job 38:1-11                          Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32                      2 Corinthians 6:1-13                        Mark 4:35-41

          In today’s scriptures, Jesus is awakened by his disciples who are frightened. They ask, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  He responds by rebuking the wind and telling the sea, “Peace! Be still!” 

          The relationship between Jesus and his disciples in the passage in one that reminds me of a father and his children.  The disciples come to him afraid and his first response is to claim their fears.  Only after he does this, does he seek to use this experience to teach them a life lesson – a lesson about faith.  He asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

          Today, we celebrate Father’s Day by honoring the men who have cared for us, as Jesus did his disciples, and who have sought to teach us how to cope when things do go as we expected or wanted.  We all need to turn to our faith whenever we feel threatened or afraid.

          There are certainly a number of external reasons to be frightened, but the most difficult fears to face are those we internalize.  It may be a fear of change, a fear of losing our sense of what is right and what is wrong, a fear that what we learned about our history as nation glossed over shameful acts on the part of our ancestors, or simply of the fear of the unknown – fear can close our minds to new possibilities.  This weekend we have celebrated, for the first time as a national holiday, Juneteenth.  And this weekend, Main Street was filled with people celebrating diversity at Batesville’s Pride Festival. 

          Both celebrations mark a difference in how we view our world.  Juneteenth not only celebrates the emancipation of slaves; it acknowledges a part of our past that is not pretty.  In just two more weeks we will celebrate our nation’s independence – for white, straight men, and we will celebrate the creation of a nation based on the principle that “all men are created equal.”  This is a principle that, thankfully, we have struggled as a nation to expand to include ALL people regardless of color, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. 

          Fear is often why we struggle as we learn to see by faith, that Jesus came to teach us God’s love is for all of creation.  All God asks of us is to love God, to love one another, and to love ourselves.  When we see the world through love, the winds of changes are no longer frightening for, through faith, we can see that the change is being fueled by the Spirit.  The sea of change is peaceful.  This is what we witnessed with the bi-partisan passage of legislation creating Juneteenth as a holiday, and with our celebration of diversity on Main Street.

          This is not to say that what needs to happen has happened and our community, nation, or the world is free from discrimination.  It is not.  There is a lot more work that needs to be done.  There are many people living in fear today.   Still, we need to celebrate this new holiday and pride and recognize the progress we have a made.  It gives us hope for the future. 

          Today’s passage from 2nd Corinthians was written when Christians were being persecuted.  Paul writes to the church in Corinth saying, “As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. . . our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.”  Paul speaks of having endured “hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.”  He speaks of being treated “as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 

What does Paul fear? – apparently nothing because he has endured everything and continues to feel blessed because of his faith and the faith of others.  He continues to open his heart wide to others. 

There is a difference between being frightened and being overcome by fear. 

In his letter, Paul quotes Isaiah, saying, “Now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”  Isaiah is speaking of God’s promise to bring the people of Isaiah back home to Jerusalem from their exile.  Paul uses this quote to say something more.  He says this is the day of salvation. 

          The persecution Paul experiences will ultimately end in his death – but he is not afraid because he is filled with hope for the future.  He sees the Spirit of the Lord at work in the world.  Thus, the peace that Paul experiences comes from within.  It is the same peace that enables us to endure all the trials and tribulations of this life.  It enables us to experience a sense of calm is the midst of chaos and in the midst suffering. 

This past year I, too, have known suffering.  I admit to asking, more than once, “Lord do you not care?”  Yet, I have known that God is with me in my grief and, God was with us when Cathy and I have COVID.  I know the peace that I seek, the peace that sustains me, cannot be found outside of myself, the world is too uncertain.  The peace that stills the wind and calms the sea, the peace I find in my heart comes when I draw my strength from Christ. 

Just as freedom and justice and equality for all are ongoing principles we seek to achieve, the peace of God found within is an ongoing process that requires continuous work on our part.  We must, as the disciples did, turn to Jesus when we find ourselves in trouble and ask for his help.  Jesus may challenge us, as he did them, to examine our faith, or lack of faith, but he will calm our fears.

I read about the disciples waking Jesus and know that doing so was an act of faith.  After Jesus quietens their fear, he reminds them that their faith can do the same.  He did not rebuke them for coming to him, he lovingly calmed the storm and helped them to grow in faith so that they could lead the church into the future.  Jesus will do the same for us – if we let him.  

Let us pray.

Loving God, we give thanks for helping us as a people to see your creation as good.  Help us continue to learn from the sins of our past and do the work you have given us to do to make this world a more loving place in which to live.  And, we thank you for fathers who have taught us to love and show compassion just as Jesus cared for his disciples.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.