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Rise Up - Rise Strong

"We can't be brave in the big world without at least one small safe place to work through our fears and falls."

This quote is from a book I am reading and hoping to have a group of us read and discuss this fall, Rising Strong, by Brene Brown. We sometimes limit ourselves because of our fear of failing or falling which takes away the possibility of achieving greatness or at least attempting to achieve new heights. These hesitations to reach for something new or exciting or amazing can be driven by our experiences in life that have taught us it is safer to dare less rather than suffer the consequences of attempting something great and failing. We accept less because of our fear of failing and the feeling of loss and defeat. This happens when we don’t take the risk of asking someone for their friendship because they may say no or they have ignored us in the past, or maybe we did not try out for a certain sport or team as a youth because we were convinced we were not good enough or we don’t ask for a promotion or seek a new job or career because we will risk the security of the present, even if we feel unfulfilled and undervalued. When attempting new opportunities, new routines or even a new type of food, we risk failure but the key is, as Brene Brown notes, is to keep getting up or as she says to ‘rise strong’.

In our Bible Study of Mark, we have been discussing miracles. I am struck by how Jesus says in Mark that it is the faith of the person that heals them and he then instructs them to rise up, rise strong, and go forth to live. Jesus sends them back to their homes to dare to live the life their faith calls them to live and that Jesus empowers them to live. We too are called by Jesus to ‘rise up, rise strong’ in faith and to return home to declare the greatness of God and the power of faith. Falling or failure is painful, yes, but it is also the step to greatness and deeper faith. Where has your faith grown the deepest, in celebration or in struggle? It grows in both, yet in the struggles and in the falling we find the true strength of faith that sets us free to dare to believe when others doubt or question us. To rise up with Jesus is to claim the power of the resurrection as your own as promised in Jesus. To rise up is to know the power and possibilities of the Holy Spirit as the early disciples came to experience.

So here is the challenge – let us as disciples of Jesus dare to rise up, to rise strong in our faith so we become the beacons of light He calls us to be in life. Let us rise up from falling so we can be witnesses to the resurrection of new life and strength, even in disappointment and fear. We rise up when we dare to believe that Jesus is present for us in His Word and Sacrament so we can share his power with others, as well as know it for ourselves. It is time for the disciples here at St. Mark’s to rise up and to rise strong to the hopefulness of the future, to rise above our differences or different points of view so we can move forward into the kingdom of God by being witnesses who proclaim the power of God in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We will be strong and vibrant and faithful as we dare to believe we can risk failure for the sake of the kingdom and know that the Holy Spirit will raise us up from falling to try again with more strength and faith, as well as bless us if we succeed and move us toward even greater heights. As you have heard me say, it is not the world or God who holds us from our calling or our own greatness, it is often our own sense of anxiety or fear of failure/falling that holds us from knowing the full power of the faith of Jesus. We are not called to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory’ but ‘to declare victory in the face of failure or falling’ for we are the disciples of the One who DID snatch victory from defeat on the cross and in the resurrection. Jesus claimed life through death! To the world Jesus had failed but to those who believed and received the Holy Spirit he ‘rose strong to new and everlasting life for all who believed’.

The challenge is to rise above our anxieties about the future, our yearning for the glory of the past and move forward in the faith granted to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Our guide is not the past but the faith instilled in us at Baptism, to rise up and go boldly into the future where God is leading us as He has throughout time. The story of scripture and faith is letting God be our guide and trusting in His wisdom and blessings to protect us and lead us to the fullness of life and hope.

Rise Strong, Rise in Faith as the disciples of Jesus!

Pastor Stan