Wish Prayer: To Allow Your Faith to Shape Your Reality
Sermon: To Allow Your Faith to Shape Your Reality
It’s Halloween. And I know this not because of the candy aisles in all the stores, or the decorations my neighbors have had hanging up since September, but because on TV we can watch it’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
Some of you may have heard of it. It’s a story about a young boy named Linus who believes in the Great Pumpkin. To gain an understanding of who the Great Pumpkin is, you have to hear from Linus, to get the full effect.
Linus thinks the Great Pumpkin watches you, to see if you are good or bad, and brings presents to you in a pumpkin patch.
Snoopy finds it funny, Linus’ sister Lucy finds it embarrassing, and Charlie Brown says Linus is confusing him with Santa Claus, but Linus says that’s a matter of beliefs.
So, the story will be- Do the beliefs of Linus reveal themselves to be true? And will they help him overcome some scary experiences as he sits and waits in the pumpkin patch?
Do our beliefs help us overcome some scary experiences we find ourselves in?
Like battling through a storm as our lesson speaks of.
Here’s the context to this passage- Chapter 8 of Matthew begins with focusing on the authority of Jesus, his divine power. So, we read how he cleaned a leper, cured a servant of a Roman official, made Peter’s mother in law well, freed the demon possessed and healed the ill.
But now the focus of this chapter turns to discipleship. So that whoever wants to follow Jesus must recognize it will lead to change.
Thus, the text begins: 18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. Jesus commands them where to go, the other side, to change their way, their focus.
And we find out one of the possible candidates for discipleship responds to that order by stating, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’
Now you should know that in Jesus’ day it was common for rabbis to have disciples. People wanted to learn from them, so they would petition the rabbi, the teacher, to be their follower. However, Jesus has made it clear from the beginning, he makes the initiative, he seeks his followers by welcoming them, but warning them such learning, such following, will not be the usual rabbi student relationship. That is why Jesus responds to this scribe stating, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
Another person claims they want to follow Jesus, stating, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’
He wanted to get his affairs in order before he followed Jesus. But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’ Meaning, nothing should get in the way of following Jesus.
You see, time and time again, a disciple of Jesus will be forced to make decisions: follow Jesus to the new horizon, new way, or remain as is in the comfort of stability. Which, let’s face it, doesn’t sound too bad, right?
However, what happens when the storms of life come at you? When the boat carrying you is swamped by the waves and you cry out for help. Will your desire for comfort and stability keep you safe and sound? Or will the one you put your faith in save you? Calm your storm?
That’s what this story gets at. When the disciples wake Jesus up saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing” Jesus replies, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith’
Jesus is calling the disciples to reveal their faith, their beliefs because what we believe shapes our reality.
Take for instance if you believe that Halloween is a day that invites ghosts and evil into your life, then you are going to be more sensitive to strange noises and sights that will upset you.
But if you believe Halloween is actually a day that Christians established to be celebrated on the eve of All Saint’s day, which is also known as All Hallow’s Eve, Hallow meaning holy, on that Hallow’een Christians remembered their loved ones who have died and gone on into the afterlife, and on that Hallow’s Eve, they would dress up as ghosts in the cemeteries, bringing food and welcoming the ghosts to visit with them, if you believe that is what Halloween is for, then you welcome the day as a day of thanksgiving and celebration of loved ones and new life.
What we believe shapes our reality, so regarding this text, do the followers of Jesus believe who he is? God with us?
The story goes that after the disciples woke Jesus, we read, Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’
Friends, Do we believe that Jesus is God with us through the storms of life? Because if we do than what do we have to fear?
Let’s be honest, We are often times scared, nervous, over various things. Sometimes we are afraid of change, of failure, of rejection, of being harmed. Sadly, fear makes a lot of noise and takes up a lot of room in our lives sometimes to the point it controls our lives.
That’s why time and time again in the Bible, God tells people not to be afraid.
Many of the Psalms were written during a time of great struggle for Israel as their little kingdom was constantly being invaded. Yet, the Psalmist proclaim the trust in God’s help.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall, I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
And Psalm 34:4–6
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
And when that nation was working its way through and from captivity, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah stating, Isaiah 43:1
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
Jesus, as he prepared his disciples for his departure, assured them with these words, John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Time and time again we read in the Bible that we are not to be afraid. Why is it God shares those words so often? One is obviously, we are creatures easily scared. But two, God wants us not to be afraid so we can experience something better, to a new horizon, a new way of life, where the Divine is with us. And that’s not something to be scared of. That’s something to trust and to follow.
As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control. God is at work in and through us to live into the power of love, that casts out fear. Or as 1 John 4:18 “Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear”
So, what happens at the end of the Great Pumpkin?
Linus falls asleep and does not find any clue of such a character’s visit. But does that deter his faith? No, he announces next year he promises to find a better pumpkin patch, next year he vows to meet and greet the Great Pumpkin.
Again: What we believe shapes our reality, so when we believe the Great Pumpkin is coming soon, we sit and wait and we shiver in a cold, dark pumpkin patch, without complaining.
And when we believe that Jesus is God with us, we know we can turn to him for anything we need, recognizing the divine presence given to help you and me.
As I wrap up this sermon series on my wish prayers for this church, I shared with you during the month of October that I wish for us to remember the hope, the love, the forgiveness Christ gives, for new life with each other. (Oct 3rd with Worldwide Communion) 2) To celebrate Hershey First UMC past to build for the present and future (Homecoming Sunday Oct 10th) 3) To listen to those around you (Someone To Tell It To guest preachers Oct 17th) 4) For charity, truth, and loving kindness (The story of Ruth. Oct 24th).
Today my final wish prayer for all of us is this: taken from Psalm 56:4 “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? . In other words, may our beliefs of God in Jesus Christ welcome the reality of life lived without fear and with trust in perfect love.
Let us pray: Lord, through the storms, through the trials, may we hear your voice telling us of your presence, reminding us how nothing can separate us from you and your love. Promising to deliver us into hope and peace, a way of life, without fear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.