The Old Testament reading, although it appears to be long, is the familiar account of young David’s encounter with the giant Philistine warrior Goliath. What would the outcome of this battle appear to be? David’s appearance is that of youth and weakness; he staggers under the weight of Saul’s armor, which he cannot wear. He stands unprotected, holding his shepherd’s staff and simple sling. Goliath has the appearance of military might and experience; his size, his armor, his sword, spear and javelin would seem to guarantee his victory. Yet David’s mobility, his skill, and above all his reliance on the power of the name of the Lord of hosts provide his victory. He is the picture and the voice of faith prevailing over worldly power.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul defends himself against the charges made by his accusers. How would Paul’s ministry appear to be doing? He appears, to his opponents, as an unknown imposter, weak and poor and bound for defeat. His accusers assume the appearance of cultural dominance and superiority. Yet Paul asserts that he is true, known, alive, rejoicing, and rich—through the grace and power of God. He implores the Corinthians to “open wide their hearts,” so that can accept the grace of God being offered to them. Paul is elevating faith against the pressure of cultural expectations.
Jesus calms the storm at sea in our lesson from Mark. How does the situation in the boat appear to be unfolding? The waves batter the boat, the wind roars, the disciples appear to be struggling vigilantly to keep their vessel afloat. But they are powered by fear. Jesus appears unconcerned, as he sleeps on a cushion in the stern, unaware and unafraid. His response to their imploring and accusation that he does not care is to still the storm. And then he asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Are we powered by anxiety and fear, reacting to what we perceive to be the powerful threats around us in our world? Or are we standing in the confidence of faith in our Lord, confident of his grace and trusting in his power?