Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 10 August 2014 – “Do Not Be Afraid”

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19 Sunday Ordinary Time – August 10, 2014 – “Do Not Be Afraid!”

1Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

When reading about the stormy weather in today’s biblical texts these words of the poet Rod McKuen came to mind, “How can we be sure of anything? … The sea sends sailors crashing on the rocks, as easily as it guides them safely home. I love the sea but it doesn’t make me less afraid of it.”  [1]

Peter and the apostles must have had a sinking feeling when the squall came up on the Sea of Galilee. Although most of the apostles, except for Mary Magdalen, were fishermen and loved the water, it did not make them less afraid of it.

This section of Matthew’s gospel draws our attention to the demands of discipleship emphasized in Peter’s confession of faith. Some say the boat is a metaphor for the church and the storm symbolizes the persecutions experienced by Jewish Christians — Matthew’s target audience.

In the story Jesus has a calming effect on the storm and those in the boat. The author reckoned that the belief of the early Christians in Christ as a savior would sustain them in their persecutions.

We who are the baptized members of the church, as disciples of Christ, are called to have a calming effect on today’s turmoils. This is a familiar and nagging challenge for us. Many of us ourselves need help in addressing our own problems and fears. Where are we to find the strength to help others?

We have only some control over the forces of nature. We can do some things to arrest global warming and the depletion of natural resources, for example. But when winds, rains, fires grow in enormous proportions lives are lost and dreams are destroyed. On another level it is even harder to imagine what we can do to settle international conflicts.

Where do we find hope in our efforts which sometimes feel so impotent? Perhaps it takes persistence. I heard from my cousin last week who after 41 years of living with his partner was finally able to marry him. Who would have thought just several years ago that that wedding would ever be possible? Other examples of progress are innumerable. Our attention to such unimaginable possibilities like this one can fuel our enthusiasm, calm our fears, give us courage.

Our church over the centuries has maintained a steady and usually reliable course. Today by many accounts, however, it is a ship in troubled waters. We have not reached calm seas on many issues: married clergy, women deacons and priests, shared authority at top levels of decision making, trusting the consciences of it members and incompetence in leadership roles.

Above all, how does our church prepare for the stormy weather in the forecast? How do we reach disenfranchised Millennial and Pluralist generations? How do we plan for a greater shortage of priests? How do we break the chains that continue to moor our church in safe harbors, a church often afraid to jump into the waters much less sail the high seas.

The first reading implies that God is not found in these storms. Instead they are indications of how God works in our lives. God is found in the aftermath of the storms — whatever it is that frightened us to death. The revelation of God in our lives is ever evolving. Our collective awareness of new epiphanies sustains us and gives us courage. There is no one way to understand how God works. We do believe God continues to speak to us. Psalm 85 that we sang this morning challenges us to be still enough to hear the soft, comforting words of God.

Maybe for this week you and I can take time to notice what is stirring in our lives that requires acting beyond our fears. Maybe there is something that is challenging us to take a bold step forward in the face of those fears. Just maybe this is the time to let go of whatever it is that holds us back so that we can chart a course forward trusting that the God of all creation will guide us safely home.

____

1 McKuen, Rod. FOURTEEN/The Storm

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

6 thoughts on “Homily – 10 August 2014 – “Do Not Be Afraid”

  1. Great synthesis of today’s realities with readings. If God is present in everything, especially an incarnational presence, then somehow God is present in the storm, and we are more aware after the storm? (You were missed. Sounds like vacation renewed your energies!) See you at 11 AM.

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    • Gail: Wish I had your insight before delivering the homilies this morning. Yes. Perhaps the author of Kings did not have the information about how nature works that we do (even though we still cannot control its power). So what a wonderful thought yours is … God IS present in all the works of creation (constructive and destructive). As you say, we become more aware of that ever evolving presence after the storms. Thanks.

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  2. Although God seems to speak in the gentle whisper most of the time, it is during the storms that we can be most aware of the loving, abiding presence…isn’t that when we find we can walk on water?

    My congratulations to and prayers for your cousin; may others soon come to know the joy he knows.

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  3. This weekend’s homily, I think, flows logically and theologically from the two that preceded it. The world can be a dreadful place, and yet we dwell, as Thomas Merton put it, within the will of God as in a sanctuary. I wish I could give up my bipolar spirituality and embrace the paradox, but I still find myself swinging from anguish to hope and back again. BTW thanks for according Mary Magdalen her deserved title of apostle!

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  4. Like how you included Mary Magdalene in the 2nd paragraph. Christine was telling me tonight how much she enjoyed this homily yesterday.

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  5. Hope can often be so hard to hold on to. It’s so quiet. Fear is often so loud and strong. I will work this week to calmly face fears and be hopeful. I’ve just finished reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s, “The Sixth Extinction.” It left me with a feeling that none of my efforts to help the earth will ever reverse the destruction that has already been done. But your words have given me some hope or at least some challenge to at least try. Thank you.

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