3 October 2010/Proper 22C – 2 Timothy 1:1-14/Luke 17:5-10
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Peter’s at Ellicott Mills
Faith and Fear
Many would agree with the proposition that we live in fear-full times. People fear for their jobs. People fear they may lose their homes. People fear an unidentifiable enemy may once again attack our shores. People fear there will not be enough resources to get through the next month, the next week, the next day. Parishes fear not having the resources to get through the next year. People fear the planet is undergoing irreversible damage due to human consumption. None of these fears is unfounded.
All these fears and more were in Paul’s mind as he wrote to Timothy. And Paul’s greatest fear was that Timothy and the young emerging church would be afraid to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ: “Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord…”
This fear evidently seized the disciples as well – they had a fear of having not enough faith: “Increase our faith!” they cry out. And when faced with all the fears that seem to spring up day and night throughout the world and in our own inner worlds, many are the times we feel like making the very same plea – Lord, give me strength – Lord, increase my faith – Lord, get me through the night.
To which Jesus replies, in essence, “You just need the tiniest bit of faith imaginable,” coupled with a metaphor or parable about the relationship between slaves and masters.
Admittedly, our Republic is still young enough that any discussion that begins with the word “slave” attached still raises high emotional reactions – and with good reason. There are examples almost daily to suggest that matters of race, which are inextricably tied to slavery, are still matters of deep concern. Just look at the firing of CNN’s Rick Sanchez for calling Jon Stewart “a bigot.”
But at the core of this metaphor Jesus uses is a relationship – a relationship that is anything but casual.
So as I was sitting in the chapel at Fairhaven yesterday waiting for a funeral to begin, I read all 176 verses of Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is a long meditation on those who “walk in the law of the Lord.” Other synonyms for law are his “statutes”, “commandments”, “righteous judgments”, and “your word.” Then there is this synonym in verse 38: “Fulfill your promise to your servant, which you make to those who fear you.”
One dimension of our relationship with the Lord is meant to be “fear.” Which got me to wondering as I sat there in the chapel at Fairhaven: “Why do we fear all sorts of other things, but no longer seem to fear the Lord?”
That is what is at stake here – the fear of the Lord. Elsewhere we read, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”(Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, Psalm 111:10, etc….) I have to believe that the question about increasing our faith is related to our inability to fear the Lord.
Which evidently leads St. Paul to write to Timothy, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a strong mind.” To which Jesus answers, you don’t need a lot of faith, you just need a tiny bit of faith and a proper amount of fear – fear of the master, which can be read as respect, awe, and reverence for the Lord.
So we see that the fear that should be our real fear, fear of the Lord, is a mixture of awe, respect and ultimately must be coupled with trust and love. So much trust and love that just the tiniest speck of faith and fear should be enough to move mountains and uproot trees!
To truly develop such faith and fear, I would suggest reading all of Psalm 119 once a day for 30 days. I believe that at the end of 30 days you will have at the least a mustard seed’s worth of faith in and fear of the Lord. It will lead to a new appreciation for his commandments and statutes.
As we move into our Stewardship Season and prepare to make our pledges for the year ahead, there is one command that is given to guide us – the law of the Tithe – giving 10% of our resources to the mission and ministry of Christ’s Church. Why, we might ask ourselves, don’t we have enough faith in the Lord and fear of the Lord to respect His command to Tithe? Why do we waste so much time and energy fearing those things we have no control over at the end of the day?
Might living into the commandment to Tithe actually Increase our Faith?
And might becoming Tithers deepen our relationship with the Master?
Might becoming Tithers be one way to demonstrate our witness and testimony about our Lord?
Might just a little Faith and more Fear – Fear of the Lord – result in less Fear in and of the world?
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed
You can take trees and hurl them in the sea
The lame will walk and the blind will see
Wars will cease with the end of greed
Bread multiplies so there’s enough to feed
As you sow you shall receive
As you pray you will believe
Trust in the Lord, He’ll supply every need
As you follow Christ, you’ll begin to lead