“Faith and Fear”; scriptures and questions for Aug. 10

Genesis 37:1–4, 12—28
Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being 17 years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. . . .

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ”  So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Matthew 14:22–33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Questions for reflection
Both lessons assigned for this day in the Revised Common Lectionary have to do with fear and its relationship to faith. In Genesis Joseph’s brothers were overcome with a fearful hatred of their brother. In Matthew fear overcame the disciples as Jesus walked to them on the water, and fear caused Peter himself to sink.

What relationship has fear had to your faith? Many of us were raised to “fear God,” and this meant that fear of eternal punishment should motivate us toward ethical and moral behavior. Now, we strive to adopt a liberating view; God is love and therefore it is grace that motivates us to also be loving. Fear, in a love-based version of the Christian faith, limits us from reaching our fullest human and spiritual potential.

What role does fear play in your life of faith? What role should it play? Bringing these questions to the scripture passages may open up your path or heal your past.

Jeffrey Sartain, Executive Minister

About PlymouthSpirit

Plymouth Congregational Church is a progressive faith community grounded in the Christian tradition. We are spiritual, loving, relevant and transforming.
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2 Responses to “Faith and Fear”; scriptures and questions for Aug. 10

  1. joanmjsmiley says:

    Jeff’s sermon today encouraged me and others to ‘fear not’, but trust in God to be with us as we venture forth in life and relationships. This message inspired me with greater confidence in my ability to be viewed at Plymouth as a competent person. The gathering in Guild Hall today after the worship service was especially kind and friendly. The stage had been set for honest conversations. I enjoyed this opportunity to get to know Plymouth friends better and to experience the vitality of the community (family) life at Plymouth church. A true blessing.

    I’m sure many others in the congregation at Plymouth today join me in wishing Jeff “God Speed” during his vacation days.

  2. Hazel Lutz says:

    To answer Jeff’s question about the role of fear in my faith, I have to say that it plays no role. I have long believed that God is the social ecology that binds us separate humans together into a whole. Fear is destructive of that whole. Love and compassion are what hold us together.

    Remnants of the “fear of God” mode of Christianity certainly still lurk in the back of my mind, particularly at the thought of death (in the form of “what if thre is a hell” but then I remember that God made me and God is not cruel. I always come back to the belief that God is love.
    Hazel Lutz

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