Find peace, by Pastor Noel

June 24, 2018    Proper 7B    5 Pentecost

 

      “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

      The last two Sundays I was with you I was celebrating ordination anniversaries.

      Last time I said, “no more anniversaries!” but, this also is an anniversary of a sort.

      Thirty years ago, give or take, I was approaching ordination as a deacon. I had no church job, and I was very anxious. I was afraid.

      There were two possible jobs—and I didn’t feel particularly called to either one. I did interview at the church here in RI. I wasn’t looking forward to the work I’d be doing, but I was looking forward to being part of that parish community.

      After my second interview I knew that I had the job if I wanted it. Then, as I drove home, I heard a voice from the backseat say, ‘You’ll never be part of that community.”

      Now, I knew that there was no one in the car with me, but I turned around to look.

      I’m not sure how I got home that day, over the Mt. Hope Bridge which is daunting in the best of times.

      I called the man in charge of clergy employment—or deployment as it’s called—expecting him to say, “Well, that’s the only job.”

      Instead he said, “I always listen to voices like that.” And calmed me, and helped me disengage from that search. But it was the only job.

      I decided to read through the Gospel of Mark. It’s short, an afternoon’s reading.

      When I got to this passage, the words I read from it suddenly caught on fire on the page.

      Whoa!  

      I guess God meant me to take that seriously! “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

      Well, I thought that I had faith, but there was no job, and the two were connected in my mind.

      I got ordained, and a few days later I went to visit my grandmother on her 95th birthday.

      Still no job in sight.

      While I was out in AZ I got a call from a friend who was Assistant at St. Michael’s, Bristol. He said that they were expanding their free meal program, and would I be interested in running it and serving at St. Michael’s? I was. I did. It’s still going.

      “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

      Since then, and even before, there have been so many times when just the right thing happened at just the right time. Not, perhaps, the time I would have chosen, but right nonetheless.

      So, this has cured my anxiety and taken away my fear and filled me with patience, right? Go ahead, it’s OK to laugh in church!

      Would that I had the patience of Job. The faith of Job. His wife, his friends, his whole world, accusing him of sinning. Blaming the victim.

      This is a very old tale that could begin, “Long ago and far away…” We learn at the start of the story that God is not testing Job, Satan is.

      Job denies displeasing God. He declares his innocence and lists all the good things he has done. He challenges God to respond.

      God does respond. God shows Job that it is God’s creative power that will save him. Job is called to see with new eyes, new ways, new ideas.

      Joan Chittister says, “Job’s salvation lies in being able to distinguish between the designs of God and the destructiveness of evil pretending to be God.”

      When I read that I realized that this old, old, story of Job is what we need to hear today.

      There is still way too much destructive evil being done in the name of God.

      There isn’t time this morning to name all the innocent people killed or maimed because someone had the wrong idea about God and power.

      There isn’t time, or enough Kleenex, to count and name the children who may never see their parents again, or to even know who they are.

      There isn’t enough time here to name all the ways God’s creation—our environment—is being defiled and poisoned.

      All this, and much more, makes me angry. It makes me anxious. It makes me afraid.

      “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

      I do have faith. Not faith that God will come down and wipe away all the evil. Not faith that the evil will suddenly transform itself into good.

      I do have faith that good people of God will find strength and courage to fight the evil. It has always been necessary and it is always happening.

      One of my favorite magazines is Sojourners. Its mission: to inspire hope (through) the Biblical call to racial and social justice, life and peace, and environmental stewardship.”

      Today they posted a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “As much as Christians would like to distance selves from political struggle, nonetheless, even here the commandment of love urges the Christian to stand up for his neighbor.”

      So I will work and fight for God’s justice, even though it sometimes gives me fear.

      The opposite of fear is peace.

      Jesus’ first words to folks is often, “Peace be with you.”

      Peace may not change the situation that gives us fear.

      All the meditative prayer in the world won’t change the world situation, but it will change us.

      Even in the best of times, peace is a good way to feel, a good place to be. Find the way that works for you and let go of anxiety and fear. Find peace.

      In the worst of times, peace is a necessity. It brings us back to God and our faith, our trust, in God. Peace can give us courage to fight—sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it!

      Peace can give us strength and courage to fight for justice for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our world—people, ocean, trees, animals. All God’s creation.

      Peace is contagious! Find peace, be peace, pass it on. Share it to help our hurting world.

      Peace is stronger than fear. Peace is a sign and manifestation of God’s love for us.

      “Are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

      Find peace.

           

 

 

 

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details