Courage in the face of Fear
Preached by Pastor Peter Beeson
June 24, 2018
On Tuesday two clean-cut, well dressed, African missionaries came to Bible study.
My first thought as they walked through the door was, “They’re lost” followed by the thought, “They’ve come to kill me.” I panicked as I glanced around looking for exits while inviting them to sit down and asking if I could get them a glass of water or cup of coffee. (PAUSE) (BREATHE)
In that moment the death threats I, and by extension my family, have received finally got to me. And it wasn’t just that. There has been a lot going on in the world in the past few weeks.
Last week was the third anniversary of the shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. A day when a young, white, man shot and killed nine members of a historically black church, who invited him to join them in Bible study.
Then two years ago a young Arab man shot and killed 49 members of the LGBT Latino community. They, like the people at Mother Emmanuel were gathered in what was supposed to be a safe space, a gay bar known for providing refuge for those who are both Latino and LGBT. (BREATHE)
And then in February, during the renaming ceremony, there were the death threats I, and by extension my family, received.
Written by people who thought of themselves as good Christians, concerned about the soul of this community.
And Jesus has the gall to ask if we’re afraid.
As if all that is going on in the world and in our own lives, isn’t enough cause us to fear, doubt, and lose faith.
As professional seafarers the disciples were afraid. They knew what was happening was scary. The Sea of Galilee had a reputation for violent storms that would come out of nowhere, sinking ships and killing crews. As professional fishermen, people who knew how to read the waves, and the clouds and the storms, the disciples respected the power of the sea. (BREATHE)
And as we, as educated, sophisticated, urbane people skilled in reading newspapers and foreign policy, are afraid. If you aren’t (at least a bit) unnerved by what is happening in the world. Consider that you might be numbing in some way.
It is all right to be afraid.
However sometimes we’re afraid of the wrong thing.
The disciples survived the storm we read about today.
The people I thought were African missionaries who had found out I am trans and were coming to Bible study to kill me, were recently retired professionals who (like many of our summer visitors) had come to visit their adult child who is working in New York City. As Lutheran members of a Lutheran church in South Africa, they had seen St. Matthew Trinity while walking around Hoboken and wanted to see inside. Because they had other obligations this Sunday, they had stopped by LunchTime Ministry, where Spike had told them about Bible Study. The words they offered during that last part of Bible study, and then again when I was giving them a tour upstairs of the Sanctuary, were exactly the words I needed to hear on Tuesday. (BREATHE)
(So much for being afraid)
In the book of Job God shows how God works beyond human comprehension; using even the things we fear or don’t understand as part of God’s creation.
However even knowing that, even knowing that God can use all things, it is all right to be afraid. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is the drive to do something anyway.
Throughout this summer we will be exploring themes like this. Where reality intersects with faith. We will hear stories of doubt, forgiveness, prayer, and hymnody. We will explore how our worship forms our faith, how God gives us the tools to be resilient even when we are afraid. I hope you come for this summer and hear stories from people in this community.
And if you would like to do something in the meantime, a few of us are going over to New York City to march with other Lutherans in the Pride Parade, today. On Tuesday there is a vigil for immigrants at Frank Sinatra Amphitheater down by the river, here in Hoboken, and then on September 9th, during God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday we will Stamp Out Despair, by assembling care packets for refugees.
It is all right to be afraid.
God gives us the courage to act, anyway.
Based off the Bible passages:
Job 38:1 - 11
2 Corinthians 6:1-13