This Sunday is the second Sunday of Lent, and my sermon series is called Say NO to Fear; Just Say YES to Faith. This week’s topic is “The Fear of Snakes.” It is a common fear, and I will talk about what it represents in our lives.

We talked about having a snake handler greet people on the front porch before worship, but Rev. Claudia Aguilar Rubalcava, our associate pastor, told me yesterday she is very afraid of snakes. I decided that the snake handler was probably not a good idea because I really love working with her and I don’t want to run her off.

Although I am a lifelong Southerner, and have spent some time in Pentecostal churches, I can’t for the life of me understand my sisters and brothers who are part of the traditions in the rural South that handle poisonous snakes. They say it is a matter of faith, but I think it is presumption.

I suppose it is pretty easy to confuse faith and presumption. After all, when we are convinced that something is good and right, we naturally presume that others agree with us, including God. If it is our will that something turn out a certain way then surely it must be God’s will, too, especially when it is OBVIOUS to us what is best for all concerned.

While it embarrasses me to admit it, I’ve always been a bit of a science-fiction fan, and I am fascinated by the recurring time-travel theme. The hero goes into the past to change something bad, but their changes only make things worse.

When I was a young pastor, I heard an older pastor try to explain to a teenager why God had not healed her mother of cancer. The mother was a genuine saint by anyone’s standard, and the old preacher agreed that if anyone deserved to be healed she did. He said, “But we just don’t know enough. Perhaps if she had lived there might be a traffic accident that kills the person who will discover the cure for cancer. That may sound outlandish, but my point is that we just don’t know enough to presume to understand the will of God.”

I thought that was a pretty poor way to comfort a grieving teenager, but, 40 years later, I still remember his point and the difference between faith and presumption.




Rev. Michael Piazza