“Do not fear. Only believe”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 — Week of Proper 23, Year 2

Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, Bishops and Martyrs, 1555

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 989)

Psalm 5, 6 (morning) // 10, 11 (evening)

Jonah 1:1-17a

Acts 26:24 – 27:8

Luke 8:40-56

“Do not fear. Only believe.” (Luke 8:50b)

In all of our readings today there is some traveling. Weaving in and out of the stories is an invitation to traveling trust.

First Jonah shows us what not to do. He’s called to a task he doesn’t want to undertake. So he runs away. Eventually, by God, he’ll get to where he is called. But it’s the roundabout and difficult route.

Paul’s life is as adventurous and uncontrollable as Jonah’s. Only there is a sense that Paul has surrendered trustingly and embraced his journey. He’s in custody. He has been for some while. Sincere people set on protecting their religious traditions from the radical changes that Paul is teaching have conspired against him. Earlier, to avoid the possibility that he would be assassinated, he exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the emperor. The irony now is that had his not done so, and lived to get his day in court before King Agrippa, he would have been freed. Now a Roman Centurion named Julius is escorting Paul to Rome for his appeal. Though the guard is a permissive one, Paul is still a prisoner.

Through all of this intrigue, we sense in Paul a centeredness of trust. He will make his defense vigorously, but it’s as if he’s also watching all of this as a disinterested observer. It’s like it doesn’t matter much to him whether he’s free or in custody, whether he’s released to go where he will or is sent to Rome under guard. He senses that underneath whatever happens is the purpose of Christ. Paul embraces the notion that his only work is to be a faithful witness. Everything else is in God’s hands. He trusts God to guide him wherever he should be.

We see that same confident presence in Jesus as he returns, presumably to Capernaum. A leader of the synagogue runs to him in desperation. My child is dying. Help. What could take precedent over such urgency? But on the way, there is an interruption. A woman touches the fringe of Jesus’ clothes. He feels power go from him. “Who touched me?” The emergency ambulance stops. Jesus confronts the woman. She has suffered chronically for twelve years. She had exhausted all medical hope. Touching Jesus has made her well. He pardons her intrusion. Wonderful. Go in peace.

But now it appears it is too late for the child. Maybe it was the interruption that robbed them of their chance, but the child is dead. “Do not fear. Only believe.” Jesus continues to move within the agenda of God, and the child is restored.

There is a way of accepting the circumstances of the day and walking with total trust that God will present whatever God will present. Do not fear. (Do not try to control.) Only believe.

Jonah futility tried to bend his life into his own designs. Paul didn’t worry whether he was free or bound. Jesus lived present to the Spirit through crisis and interruption.

The picture is pretty compelling. There is a flow. We can go with it or we can struggle against it. God is drawing us into the places where God can use us. That works most efficiently when we quit struggling and let it come to us. Even if we think, like Paul, we could have been freed if we had played our cards differently. Even if, like Paul in tomorrow’s story, we face a few shipwrecks along the way. Even if, like Jesus, we’re interrupted during something that feels life-or-death. Do not fear. Only believe.

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