Matthew 8:23-27, 26:36-39
Today we are continuing our sermon series based on this study The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss by James Kemp, by reviewing Seuss’ short story, What Was I Scared Of? This story addresses one of the most powerful emotions of all – fear. When we look at fear, we find two sides to the same coin. On one side is a healthy dose of fear – the one that has us fastening our seat belts, looking both ways before crossing the street, keeping a close eye on our children. The other side of the coin is what is addressed in Dr. Seuss’ story – the debilitating fear that leaves us crippled and isolated, unable to do or try new things because we are consumed by fear.
The story goes that a young lad is walking in the woods one evening and encounters a pair of unoccupied pale green pants. At first he is not afraid, just curious. Why would there be a pair of pants with nobody in them? Suddenly, the pants move toward him and the little guy takes off running. He tries to conduct his life as normal, only to begin encountering the green pants everywhere he went. The pants are even able to row a boat, and when they come toward the little guy who was fishing, the little guy takes off losing his rod, reel, line and bait. The fear of these green pants has this little “creacha” hiding away, unable to do his normal tasks because of his fear. [Play video of story]
The first gospel lesson read for us from Matthew recalls the event when Jesus was sleeping on the boat while the disciples were fighting a fierce storm. The disciples were consumed by their fear – these experienced fishermen were convinced they were about to die. “Teacher, do you not care that we perish?” Jesus not only responded by calming the storm, but challenged the disciples concerning their fears – “Why did you doubt? Have you no faith?” It appears there is an element that helps us to counter the powerful weapon of fear – and that is faith.
First we need to fully grasp the effects and the power of fear. Fear can be a direct result of an event – you were bitten by a dog as a child so for the longest time, even as an adult, you were afraid of dogs. Perhaps you were caught out in a field during a thunderstorm and now find these storms most disturbing, even when you are safe within the confines of your home. At times we fear what we do not know or have never experienced. I have avoided doing certain things because I am consumed by my fear of heights. When the confirmation class went to West River for their last retreat, there was an activity known as the Giant Swing. [explain] I couldn’t even bring myself to consider it – even though I had never tried it.
Many of us fear the future. No one can predict what is going to happen, although we take precautions to help us avoid disaster. We fear for our children, we fear becoming obsolete, we fear being excluded, we fear death. Anytime we cannot guarantee an outcome, we may find ourselves succumbing to fear. The disciples had the son of God in their boat, yet they feared for their lives. They did not have faith.
Perhaps we have a defense counter to our fear of the unknown and that is faith. Faith does not eliminate our fears but helps us to face them. Like our little “creacha” we can face our fears through faith in order to overcome them. We may still be leery of certain events or situations, but our faith can see us through those fears. I suspect that every parent or grandparent prays regularly for your children and grandchildren. We pray for God to watch over them, and we maintain faith that God will do just that. When we fear becoming obsolete we are reminded through scripture that we are God’s precious children. When we fear being excluded we cling to our faith in Jesus Christ who included all of us when he died on Calvary for everyone, even me. When we fear death, we are given the assurance of eternal life.
At times our fears can become debilitating. We may face a similar situation as our little “creacha” who could no longer follow his regular routine for fear of running into those pale green pants. This little guy’s fear was preventing him from living. Perhaps we too have been caught up in worry, dread, or fear. I remember all the angst over Y2K. Among all the speculations of a total computer breakdown, there was a lot of talk about terrorist activity. I remember we diverted our plans for New Year’s Eve in order to stay home and be safe. We missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime event. When my nephew was born in Hawaii in December of 2001, Mark and I had a decision to make. Would we dare to attempt air travel so soon after 9/11 or would we miss out on meeting the newest member of our family? We chose to have faith, face our fears and fly to Hawaii.
Where is God calling you to step out in faith? Are you afraid of participating in a mission trip? Are you afraid to share your belief in Jesus Christ because of what others will think? Are you consumed by the fear of the unknown? Many have expressed their fears about the upcoming election – those on both sides of the aisle. Some have jokingly posted ways to relocate to another country should our candidate of choice not become elected.
Do we run from our fears or do we cling to faith to help us face our fears? Jesus gave us the perfect example in the passage read for us concerning his time in the Garden of Gethsemane. Clearly Jesus was aware of what was about to happen to him. He displayed fear for the near future. Perhaps he was afraid of the physical pain he would endure. Perhaps he was afraid of the humiliation he would have to face. Perhaps he feared the rejection by his closest followers. Yet when all was said and done, Jesus put his faith in God the Father, noting, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” We too can place our faith in God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, to not necessarily take away our fears but to help us face them. God will see us through the dark times. Our little “creacha” not only faced his fear and regained his life, but he gained a friend in the process. My prayer is that we will face our fears knowing we are in the care of the Creator. Amen.