Psalm 97: 1-6
The Glory of God’s Reign
1 The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
Fear. …. (My cursor has been blinking in this space for 5 minutes now. Literally, “Fear has stopped me in my tracks.”)
This past week has certainly given us pause and cause for worry and fear; both in the global and local arenas of our lives. In my sermon yesterday I began by listing the top stressors in our lives that cause fear, according to an article I had read earlier.. Things like fear of failure or fear of success (!) Fear of public speaking, and fear of spiders. Fear of heights or small spaces, and fear of dying. But what didn’t make the list, was fear of nuclear war, or fear of a hatred and bigotry so intense that it causes violence, anger, destruction, and even death. Or fear of hunger, or a whole country’s economic collapse. Fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes, or fear for the life of a infant born with severe physical and mental problems. Or the fear of another friends’ unknown medical test results. And those are just the fears from this past week.. Indeed, the world is in need of rescue.
In the gospel text for yesterday we witnessed the disciple’s fear in the boat, all alone, on the raging seas, and then we hear the voice of One familiar who calls out, “Don’t be afraid. In fact, come to me.” And then one brave enough, trusting enough – at least for a moment – steps out of the boat, until this one too is in need of rescuing.
If this walking on water text indicates one thing besides the questionable, wobbly, unsteady faith of a disciple, it reminds us even more, that because of our wobbly insecure faith, that we aren’t in charge of our own rescue mission. That Jesus is the One who rescues. And to that, I say AMEN. For the many many times that I sink in fear, there is Jesus, each and every time, stretching out a hand for me to grab a hold of.
When I read the Psalm text above for today, I must admit that at first all I could see was a powerful, violent God, even if this God is on “my side!” I literally run from uncertainties with fear. And I run even faster away from violence. When the earth trembles and the mountains melt, we are talking some significant power force to be reckoned with. It makes me want to run and hide.
But then I stepped back for a moment (maybe back into the boat?), and as I read, the Hebrew for these translated words reminded me of this somewhat poet use of the word ‘fear’ in this context. ‘Fear of God’ in Hebrew, is not being afraid of a destructive God, but rather being in AWE of this majestic God who has come to rescue you and me and all the world. Not tear it down or destroy it, but rather bring the earth and the seas and the mountains and you and me – all of creation – to our knees in AWE and glory and honor.
There is clouds and darkness and destruction that surrounds our lives and casts a shadow over the world – you bet. But in the midst of that darkness, is the Light able to shine so so brilliantly and brightly. My response can only be one of AWE, affording me the opportunity to see the light – in you and me, and in the voices that refuse to let evil and darkness have the last say. God is rescuing us each and every day and calls us out of the boat to follow God on God’s rescue mission – yes, even with our wobbly legs. To God be the glory!