Do not be afraid

Jesus intuits that his friends are in trouble and comes to save them from their peril on the sea. They are terrified, they cry out in fear. And then Jesus speaks the words of calm, the often repeated phrase from the Messiah’s lips, “Do not be afraid!”

My favourite bible stat claims that the phrases, “do not be afraid” or “fear not” occur 365 times, that’s once for every day of the year. Jesus used this or a similar phrase regularly during his ministry. We can take from this that Jesus – standing in the context of Jewish wisdom and divine care – understands what fear is. This means that God knows fear. Far from being a trait of the weak and cowardly, God knows that fear is real and awful and demonising.

In the gospel this week, the disciples journey down from the mountain and escape from the crowds and return to the lake in their professional capacity as fishermen. Jesus withdraws too, but not for long. He intuits the danger coming from the lake. The boat is in trouble, so are his students! Jesus walks out to the place of fear and stills the storm.

Jesus walks on the water but Peter does not. We all know that when a beginner learns to swim, it is ultimately fear that prevents them from staying afloat. Similarly here, Peter panics, loses touch with himself, with his God and begins to sink. So, in order to walk on water – or, in fact, to walk through life, we need to keep our focus on Christ and not panic.

Fear is such a common, felt emotion. It attacks us for different reasons through a variety of contexts. It is one of the most foundational of human triggers leading to the fight or flight response. Thanks to Peter, we are shown how this closest follower of Jesus suffered acutely from his own human condition and environment. Peter was afraid. If Peter feared, then surely we have an excuse to fear too? But what, I wonder, do we fear and why?

It is not for me or this post to enquire too deeply but it is a question for reflection. Jesus knows our self imposed limitations, our neuroses and inherited traumas. The storms come and go and sometimes it feels like we are drowning under external forces and internal voices. But the stillness of Jesus remains. In fact Jesus invites us to take steps of faith, like Peter. It might be a terrifying prospect but sometimes we need to make that step if we are to grow stronger and survive the trauma.

“Do not be afraid” – perhaps we need to use this as a mantra and claim it for daily life?

OTHER NEWS

The Partnership Quarterly

Contributions of no more than 600 words for the September e-issue are welcome, please/thanks.  The deadline is Sunday 16 August. Please send, preferably by e-mail to one of the editors: Ann Stedman (ann.stedman@btinternet.com), Michael Daniell (michaeldaniell51@gmail.com) or John Harding (john.harding22@gmail.com). 

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Last Sunday was our first livestream event. The broadcast was far from perfect but we are determined to learn from our mistakes. The sound quality is the main issue which is difficult to control in such a reverberant space. Please do subscribe to the Facebook Live event and ‘like; and ‘share’ as much as possible. Go to your Facebook timeline page or watch another time on the church’s facebook feed from its website homepage: https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Upcoming Services

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St Michael & All Angels Parish Church is open from Saturday to Wednesday for private prayer from 10am – 20m. If you would like to chat to a priest, please phone Gavin, the vicar, on 07833 251939.

Sunday worship is at 8am, 10am and 6.30pm. Please bring a face mask. Distancing measures are being observed.

Tears and laughter

My grandmother’s house was dark, cramped and cheerless. She lived in an early Victorian terrace with a company of cats and an outside loo. As a child I remember how unfamiliar this dwelling felt compared with my own home. It seemed, therefore, quite incongruous that, in this rather depressing place, one of my most vivid memories is of a wooden plaque mounted on the wall of the sitting room which read, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you.” Little did I know that these lines were part of a poem entitled Solitude by the American author, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Continue reading “Tears and laughter”