Learning to Weather the Storm!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Jesus warned us that “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:6-8) All we have to do is take a quick look at today’s headlines and we see this is really true. Fighting, atrocities, chaos, rebellion, conflicts, and division, are all symptoms of a society that is at war with itself and others. And Jesus tells us to not be troubled!
Religious citizens in America are confronted with the reality that they are becoming more and more the despised minority because society shifting away from traditional morals. We are experiencing that ancient Chinese curse: May you live in “interesting” times! And these “interesting times” are typified by a war against people by people. An ideology that attempts to sterilize future generations by normalizing barren sexual ethics, and even surgery to make sure certain people can’t reproduce. All in the name of “fairness” and “compassion.” It is true madness.
Whew! Some might suggest the glass is not only half empty, but it looks like they are going to take the glass away too!
In these times when it’s easy to doubt and hard to keep the Faith, when storms rage all around us, what message can we pass on to our children to help them weather these times?
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Luke 8:22-25:
At that time, Jesus entered a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even wind and water, and they obey him?”
The disciples saw the storm raging, but instead of noticing that the Lord was at such peace, He was asleep, instead of remembering the power displayed by the Lord in healing and feeding the hungry and casting out the demons, instead of trusting that if the Lord said they were going to the other side, nothing would prevent the Lord from doing as He said, they were intoxicated by the immediate worries of the storm they were fixated upon! In other words, where was their faith? All they saw was the storm and not the Lord of the storm in the boat with them.
A note of caution here. This isn’t about some fatalistic notion of “inshallah,” or the Christian equivalent of that counterfeit known as “fate.” Not at all. This isn’t abandoning me to fatalism at all. That isn’t faith! No, the faith the Lord calls His disciples to embrace is the robust faith that is positive and joyously free! It’s the faith that says these temporary circumstances are 1) not unknown to God; 2) not beyond His power, and 3) not the worst thing that could befall a human!
The Lord confronts His disciples about their faith because unless your faith “grows up” to the sober and joyous maturity of seeing beyond the temporary “rescues” of circumstances to the deeper and more life-producing faith that looks beyond the temptation for temporary “comfort” you will always be a slave to whatever life may throw at you and you will remain an infant in faith. No, this faith the Lord confronts His disciples to embrace keeps in mind that “no weapon formed against you will prosper” (Isaiah 54:17) because even if you face what too many see as the ultimate human tragedy; suffering and physical death; your Lord has overcome physical death. Period! The greater tragedy is to be devoid of this eternal perspective that tempts you to medicate your fears with selfish living and false hope in created things to “save” you! That is the ultimate delusion. That is the ultimate human tragedy because it has eternal consequences! And it is this eternal perspective that robs current circumstances of their power to tempt us with losing hope or confidence.
You aren’t tempted to abandon Faith in good times, so the real test of whether you will keep the faith or not always comes during times of trial and difficulty! You know, like the times are now! Keeping faith during the Storm is where the Faith resides, not when it’s easy to believe.
St. Philip, who we remember today, was one of the 7 men the Apostles made a deacon in the book of Acts after the coming of the Holy Spirit and the commissioning of the Church to make disciples of all nations. St. Philip was married and had 4 daughters who were all gifted with the ability to prophesy. They were great witnesses to the power of the Faith to transform people with the message of Jesus. When strong persecution of the Church began in Jerusalem after the stoning of the main deacon of the Church, St. Stephen, St. Philip left Jerusalem and settled in Samaria where he preached and converted many to Christ. One of his many converts was the Eunuch of Queen Kandace Empress of Ethiopia. This conversion led to the entire Kingdom of Ethiopia converting to Christianity in the earliest centuries of the Church. St. Philip also confronted the “magician” Simon, who converted to Christ under Philip’s preaching and then began traveling with St. Philip and helping him in his ministry. The Apostles eventually made St. Philip the bishop of the city of Tralles in Asia Minor, and it was there that St. Philip died of old age after seeing the Church grow under his ministry.
Today, where is your faith? Why are you so easily captured by doubt and fear in the face of the Lord Jesus blazing the trail of victory before you? Why is it so easy to panic? I’ll tell you why because we all suffer from moments of weakness. We all face storms. So, why not freely confess my own moments of weakness, and cry out as the Church teaches me “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” That’s the Path to being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Since you were enlightened by the Holy Spirit, you enlighten the earth and all its fullness with the beams of your wise teachings and miracles, Apostle Philip, you sacred initiate.