Continuing this week in our Lenten sermon series, Open to Peace, we’ll continue our exploration of the Prayer of Saint Francis, focusing specifically on the line, “Where there is doubt, let me sow faith.” A synonym of the word, faith, as it is used in most places in the bible, is trust. Trust in this context can be understood as the opposite of fear.
In our scripture this week, Mark tells the story of Jesus and his disciples out on the Sea of Galilee during a storm. The wind was howling through the rigging of the small boat, the waves were crashing over the sides, and the raindrops were pummeling the frightened disciples.
Jesus, however, was asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat.
The panicked disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Jesus then got up, gave orders to the wind and said to the lake, “Peace! Be still!”
Then the wind ceased and there was dead calm.
Jesus then said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
In this story, the disciples doubt that Jesus is trustworthy. They think he’s asleep at the switch. They doubt that they have the resources they need as they face this storm. What they’re putting into words is their doubt that Jesus cares about their plight; it is their doubt that leads them to the conclusion that they are alone. Fear, you see, is corrosive. And, even though healthy doubt can spur us to deeper faith and raise questions we need to address, doubt that manifests as debilitating fear becomes corrosive to our faith.
Now, imagine what this story must have meant to Christians in the early Church being tossed in the storms of persecution. Surely they asked, in the midst of their difficult circumstances, “Does Jesus even care? Is he asleep someplace?”
They, too, must have doubted that Christ was trustworthy. They, too, must have thought he was asleep at the switch. They, too, likely doubted that they had any resources for facing their own storms.
The message of this story must have been comforting to them: Yes, Jesus cares. And he has the ability to bring peace in the midst of storms.
Now notice Jesus’ question: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Here Jesus is contrasting fear — their debilitating doubt — with faith. These emotions are, in reality, polar opposites. Fear, like doubt, can serve a very important function in our lives. But what happens when fear becomes a primary driver — in our lives, in our relationships, in our nation, and even in our global community? Now contrast that with faith — the deep sense of trust in God. What happens when faith becomes our primary driver?
I look forward to being with you in worship this Sunday as we continue to pray together, in the Prayer of Saint Francis,
“Make me an instrument of your peace . . . where there is doubt, faith.”
Grace and peace,