God for us, we call you “Father.”
God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”
God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”
-- Fr. Richard Rohr
How many of you are fans of scary movies? I must confess that growing up most of my teenage friends and I were enamored with scary movies, and our very favorites were the vampire movies.
A number of years ago there was a vampire movie entitled: “Fright Night.” In the movie a teenage boy named Charley comes to believe that his neighbor is a vampire.
Have any of you had neighbors you suspected were vampires? I’ve had a couple of neighbors that stayed up all night and slept all day…not sure if they were vampires or just worked the night shift?
Anyway, in the movie, after a number of strange disappearances of persons, Charley is sure his neighbor, the vampire is behind them, and he seeks to prove this.
To do this, he enlists the help of Peter, an aging retired actor who played the part of a Vampire Hunter in the movies. Surely, Peter will help Charley get to the bottom of this mystery and rid their small beach community of his vampire neighbor.
The aging actor however tells Charley that he cannot help him as he is just an actor, he is not a real vampire hunter. Nonetheless, Charley persuades the aging actor to act like a real vampire hunter and together they would confront his neighbor and run him out of town.
In utter terror, both Charley and Peter approach the vampire and Peter pulls out a crucifix and holds it in front of the vampire.
The vampire smiles, takes the crucifix in his hand, crushes it and says this: “You know fellas, you gotta believe in this stuff for it work.” Indeed, you see, the power comes not from the crucifix itself, it comes from the belief in the symbol and what it means, and then the willingness to act upon that belief.
In many of the healings performed by Jesus, he engaged the faith of those who were being healed with the question: “Do you believe that I can do this?” They answered, “Yes Lord, I believe.”
In one particular passage from Matthew’s gospel, it says this:
“And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you. And their eyes were opened.”
Jesus just as easily could have said, “You know fellas, you gotta believe in me for this healing stuff to work.”
In our New Testament lesson today, the Apostle Paul also makes this distinction when he says this:
“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord AND, this is the big AND, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You see, it takes more than a confession of our faith, it takes the courage to believe in our hearts, and then the willingness to act upon it. Make no mistake, our faith is only as strong as our willingness to believe and to act.
This is an important spiritual principle that we must not only understand, but also must practice in our daily lives. To be sure, as Christians, our faith must be more of a verb than a noun.
It is has been rightly said that faith is like a muscle, if it is often exercised it becomes healthy and strong; but if it is left idle, it weakens and atrophies.
The Old Testament is replete with stories where the faith of the Patriarchs and Prophets moved them to take action.
After our Lord was baptized in the river Jordan and the power of the Holy Spirit descended upon him, he immediately took action and went into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days and forty nights, and then he withstood the greatest tests of faith one can encounter.
In our gospel lesson today, we have Jesus walking on the water to the disciples who were in a boat being tossed by the wind and waves. This time it was Peter’s faith that drove him to take action.
Peter says this:
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So, Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward 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?”
Jesus just as easily could have said, “You know, Peter, you gotta believe in me for this miracle stuff to work.”
The power of our faith is best measured in our willingness not only to believe, but also in our willingness to take action, to take that “leap of faith,” to get out of the boat and start walking.
My friends, the winds and waves are many in our world today. The fears and anxieties of the pandemic, political and racial unrest, a weak economy and a divided nation, would seek to pull us down to the depths of despair.
And yet, it is precisely our faith that will buoy us, that will take us by the hand and lift us up.
It is precisely our faith that will cause us to take action, to reach out our hands and lift up others who are sinking with discouragement and apathy during these perilous times.
It is precisely our faith that will move us to take action to lift each other up as we face the winds and waves that lay ahead of us, knowing that our Lord will be with us to strengthen, support and lift us up.
Jesus said this:
“In this world you (will) have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Finally, my friends, I would like to close with this thought. This morning we find ourselves not only watching a scary movie but also participating in a scary movie.
The pandemic is a very real vampire if there ever was one, and it appears it will be our neighbor for some time to come. It will drain the life and strength from us if we will allow it.
However, unlike the movie, we are not left helpless in our unbelief. Being true believers, when we hold up the cross of our faith to our fears, our faith will prevail…it always has, and it always will.
“In this world you (will) have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”