“Faith, the Usurper of Fear”

Rev. Katherine Todd
1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-24, 32-49
Mark 4:35-41

1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-24, 32-49

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid.

David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

It occurs to me that so many of our Biblical stories are these stark juxtapositions.  The more dire the situation, the more dramatically God shows up.

In the first reading, it was evening, and Jesus and his followers were crossing the sea by boat with a great windstorm arise.  The wind and waves pummeled the boat, so much so that the boat was being swamped.  In other words, the boat was filling with water.

Meanwhile Jesus has managed to sleep through this whole affair – all the wind, all the waves, all the fear, the exhaustion, the utter desperation… and he only awakes when woken by his disciples who have seriously begun to wonder whether or not Jesus even cares at all.  “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

By all appearances at that moment, Jesus would seem not to care.  He is ASLEEP.  One could imagine that the only way he could be asleep would be by ignoring the realities at play.  How could ANYONE possibly sleep through this storm-to-end-all-days?

But upon being called, Jesus wakes and immediately says to the wind and to the sea, “Peace!  Be still!”

The roaring ceased. And it says there was a dead calm.

And Jesus then speaks to his disciples saying, “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”

As someone who needs time to process an event, I would at this moment, have been in shock.  Of course now, it is clear that all is well, they are safe, there is no need for fear.  But seconds before, they felt with all their being that the end was nigh! All their experience of the world had shown them that THIS was exactly how boats went under and lives were lost. All their experience of the world had shown them that unless they could bail water faster than it was being blown and splashed into the hull, that they would surely sink.

Who could have anticipated what happened next?!

I have always heard this statement by Jesus as a rebuke.  It has sounded like he is still a bit disappointed in his followers for not getting it yet.  And yet in this reading, a different aspect of the story jumped out:


Jesus clearly had faith. Jesus clearly knew what the disciples did not.  And all this understanding produced sleep sleep amidst chaos.

Not a light or fitful sleep. But a deep sleep, that all the wind and waves and hot impassioned fear could not rouse!

That is some kind of sleep!!

It has been observed from car accidents, that babies can fair better than adults.  Not seizing up with fear or anticipating of a crisis, babies remain more supple, they go with the motion of the vehicle, sometimes even sleeping through an incident.  They can end up miraculously unscathed in situations with far scarier odds.

And that reminds me of Jesus’ own words about children – calling all his disciples to “faith like a child.”  Jesus lifted up those in society who had no rights, those who were considered property, those considered among the least upon the social ladder and LIFTED THEM UP as being the models for us all.


In the disciples’ struggle to believe, in their struggle to trust, in their struggle to have faith, Jesus lifts up children as an object lesson to the adults.  They have faith.  We need faith like them.

Corrie Ten Boom remembered vividly an experience from her youth.  A family friend had died, and she and her father made the train ride over to visit with the family.  When they arrived, they found the dead body of their family friend present in the room, and Corrie, still a young girl, had never seen a dead body before.

The experience shook her, and she had many questions for her father about death.  She worried it would be painful and she wouldn’t have what she needed when the time came.

And so he asked her, “Corrie, when we rode the train over here today, did you worry about your ticket for the train?”  “No,” she replied, “I knew you would get it for me.”  “But you didn’t seethe ticket?  How did you know that you’d have one, and that you wouldn’t be stuck, left behind?” “I knew because you love me, and you always present the ticket just before we board.”

“Death is like that,” he explained. “Our heavenly Father loves us and knows what we need.  When the time comes, God will give us all that we need.”

Indeed Corrie trusted her father with the faith of a child.  She didn’t worry about money for the ticket.  She didn’t worry that she’d be left behind.  She didn’t worry about her father’s love for her.  No she trusted him implicitly, and he was inviting her to trust God with that same implicit trust, for all the scary unknowns she would face in her life.

So what would it have looked like if the disciples had had faith?

Faith like a child

Could they too have slept through the raging storm?

In our other reading for today of David and Goliath, we see a boy, whodidhave a measure of faith.  He kept speaking his trust that the Living God would deliver them from this assailant.

This trust may have been bolstered by his young age and limited experiences.  It may have been

The result of his not having seen how dire things could get in battle.

This trust may have been sown by his experiences fighting bears and lions who had come for the sheep in his care.

We do not know what mix of faith and doubt he had.
We do not know what faith was born of naiveté or youth.
But where all around him there is fear – a whole army full of fear – he alone has faith.
And he alone gets the victory over this foe.

What would it look like if we have faith?

Each of us has faced and will face many storms in this life.
Some of them will feel like the end is near.
In some of them we too cry out with all our hearts, “Why, Lord?!  Do you not care?”

But may we hear Jesus’ words to the disciples, lessas chastisement or disappointment, and more as invitation.

Could it be
that Jesus is inviting his followers into a different way of BEING
in the midst of the storms and raging fears?

Is it possible,
that Jesus is inviting us into a way of peace that passes all understanding
– that defies logic!?

If we take a moment
to learn from the children in our lives,
how can WE have faith,
like them?

So that whatever may come,
we know
we are loved by the Creator of Heaven and Earth,
and we know
and can rest in the knowledge
that we are held in the strong and tender arms of our God.

It may be
that rather than exhausting ourselves
in endless worry and crippling fear,
we may instead rest and be renewed
that we may then wake
to speak
and act
and follow after our Lord
in such a time as this. 

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