June 24, 2012

1 Samuel 17:1-49
Mark 4:35-41

The kind of faith that we see reflected in our Scripture lessons for today can, I think, help us to move forward in new directions. For example, look at the contrast between fear and faith in the story of David and Goliath. As long as the army of Israel believed Goliath’s boasts about his prowess, they remained immobilized, paralyzed by fear.[2] Suddenly, a very young David, who is one of the army’s “water boys,” arrives on the scene. When he hears the Philistine’s mockery, he is dumbfounded that no one is willing to accept the challenge. He volunteers immediately, despite the fact that he seems an unlikely challenger to the Philistine champion. But David goes not in his own strength or military prowess; rather he is confident that the “living God” who delivered him from danger many times before will once again deliver him from Goliath. Goliath comes to David with his impressive size and armor and his vulgar and boastful mouth, and David meets him with five smooth stones “in the name of the Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 17:45).

You have heard me speak of making Pastor Mark full time. Let me tell you two things about this plan. First, it has nothing to do with Mark (Sorry Mark). Second, it has everything to do with the mission of the church. All i am interested in is poising Hain’s Church in a way that is appropriate for the future. It will involve a significant cultural shift, we must talk about our mission in a way that makes it clear that we are disciples of Jesus. It means that we must be faithful stewards, every one of us, with out time, talent, and treasure. Some people will say this is the wrong time. I ask, “when is the right time?”

When it comes to our faith, I think we too have the choice of whether we will live in fear or in trust. That applies to all aspect of our lives, but especially to what we do at Church. It’s my opinion (and not mine alone) that church growth is fairly simple. If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten. It seems that many think that the way to promote the vitality of a church is to take old familiar ways and just push them harder. But that reminds me of the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result! I think there are many well-meaning church leaders in our day who are doing all they can to validate that as the definition of insanity!

Seeking new vitality requires new directions—that’s just as true for church as it is for life in general. And stepping out in new directions takes courage and faith. Unfortunately, many of us act as if we think that our living Lord Jesus the Christ is asleep somewhere in the back of the boat and all we can see are the waves crashing all around us. I think Jesus would ask us as well, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mk. 4:40)

Remarkably, Mark’s earliest commentator offered precisely such an interpretation—but with a twist. With a copy of Mark on the desk, the author of Matthew changes several little details in Mark’s story. Matthew, however, is interested in the community of Jesus’ followers more than in the challenges of individual living. So where Mark offers several boats, Matthew’s disciples follow Jesus into one boat. That’s what disciples do; they follow Jesus. And when they’re afraid, they don’t complain as they do in Mark. Instead, they pray, “Lord, save us!” Matthew’s disciples, buffeted by the waves of resistance to the gospel and perhaps by outright persecution, cry out for deliverance, and Jesus saves them.

But that’s Matthew’s version, not Mark’s. Mark allows the story to remain chaotic because Mark is after something greater. Careful Bible readers have long noticed how Mark’s account echoes some of Israel’s Psalms. Facing a storm on the sea, sailors “cried out to the LORD in their trouble.” Then the LORD made the storm “be still,” “and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:28-29, NRSV). Just as Israel’s God stills the storm and hushes the waves, so does Mark’s Jesus.

We can go where Jesus is calling us, where God is calling us. Why? Where in the heck are you going pastor Fogle? I know we can do it and I have no fear, because I know who is with us!