St. Augustine of Hippo

Episcopal Church


Let Your Faith Determine Your Fate Instead of Your Fear

August 13, 2017

The Reverend Nathanael Saint-Pierre 

Have you been afraid in your life? Afraid for your life? When I was young, I was afraid of darkness. Growing up in a country where electricity was rare, my mother, to discourage me from staying out late at night, invented a character named Uncle Blackout: some kind of ghost who could kidnap disobedient children. I was really afraid of Uncle Blackout. Who wouldn’t be? Under Duvalier, people were disappearing pretty often. Families were mourning the loss of their beloved ones. Nowadays, many people among us are afraid. So many who took a boat to come to America from Haiti and believed that Temporary Protective Status (TPS) would protect them indefinitely are now in panic mode because this country that offered them temporary shelter is now after them to send them back to a place they fled. Some thought God was acting for them when TPS was granted. Many are now questioning God, like Israel did, asking why he let them down?

Stop one moment, don’t blame them for questioning God; picture yourself in a frail embarkation, a small wooden boat with no engine, too small for the many people onboard, shaken by the sea, by the wind, by nature in fury. The chance to make it to America is slim but the hope is huge because America is the land of hope. These people put their lives on the line because they want to leave the worst behind. As if it were Jesus walking on the sea, they’ve seen a big army boat coming to their rescue. The fear for their lives was over. Instead of returning them to their country, the soldiers welcomed them into theirs. They were giving a pass to hope for better days. Many years down the road, like Peter in today’s gospel, after they have learned the language as best as they could, after having worked like slaves to earn a living, some bought a house, some married, some had children born in this country. They feel like they have been forever saved and redeemed. They themselves were ready to walk on the sea, or so they thought. Then came Trump and they feel fooled. The fear to be deported fills their souls. They feel sinking. "Don’t be afraid", says the Lord. But how can they not?

The bad news of the gospel today is that fear will always attempt to destroy our hopes, make us doubt that God is willing and able to save us. The Good News is that when faith is not enough to determine our fate, Jesus is present and ready to rescue us. I have really come to like Peter because he allows me to see that faith is not uniform (one size does not fit all). He is this outspoken guy, always ready to speak even when he doesn’t know what to say or when to shut up. He is the audacious disciple who jumped in the water to meet the master when others, paralyzed by fear, wanted to sit in the boat and wait for events to unfold. He is the one who took a sword to defend the master, although a few hours later he will repudiate him. Peter is in all of us: worried, afraid, concerned, panicking, wanting to rush to Canada when the USA is becoming hostile. But each one of us is one kind of disciple, living our faith differently, some waiting in inaction, some actively acting seeking for alternate solution. And the world is watching and judging.

But God may have a plan that differs from ours. Peter had the choice to try to save himself, to swim against the current. But he did not. So many of us are looking at him as someone with not enough faith… Even Jesus seems to argue that Peter failed because he did not have a big enough faith. I look back at this event; Peter had the courage to jump in the water and try to go meet Jesus. Peter knew that when his faith failed, Jesus would be his last rescue: “Lord, save me!”

My prayer for you today is that when your knowledge is not enough to get you out of the waters that are drowning you, you’ll cry: “Lord, save me!”

When your intelligence is not capable of designing the right solution to your problems, you’ll cry: “Lord, save me!”

When you cannot rely on your own capability to face and overcome your troubles, you’ll cry: “Lord, save me!”

When darkness surrounds you and you feel that there is no light anywhere to show your path, no matter if you are to be deported or you have to rush to a place of discomfort, tell me what will you cry?

Jesus himself, when troubled learning that John the Baptist was beheaded, went to a place of solitude and prayer. When he saw his own death closing in on him, he first went to a place of prayer, but even while going to this place of prayer, he did not turn his back on a crowd of people who were seeking for solace and assurance. May we care for the Haitian people and all people who feel surrounded by the sea in fury to provide the solace and the assurance of God’s grace. Amen.