Monday, 1 August 2016

When the storms come




Our reading today is about a journey.

The journey we read about here is not long. It is a nautical journey, from one side of the lake to the other. But it was eventful: something happened and the people who went on that journey were changed.

It was a journey that began with obedience.
It was a response to Jesus. Jesus has been teaching the crowd all day. It was a large crowd, and they were pressing on him, and he had to use a boat as a pulpit. And now, as evening comes, he says, ‘Let us go across to the other side’ (4.35). [That is why it says, ‘They took him just as he was’. In other words, he didn’t even get out of the boat.]

And it was because they were obedient that those first followers
·         learnt about themselves
·         learnt about Jesus

1.    They discover that they don’t really trust Jesus

When the storm comes, they panic. They shake Jesus awake and they say to him ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
And Jesus challenges them, after he has calmed the storm, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ (v40)

It is easy to put our trust in Jesus when things are going well.
But when things become difficult, costly or even dangerous, we panic.
Yes, the waters threatened to overwhelm the disciples. But they allowed fear to overwhelm them.

But they didn't need to panic:
Jesus had told them that they were going to the other side. In fact he had a job to do on the other side.

And yes, he was asleep, but he was with them. And the fact that he was asleep should have reassured them. Jesus wasn't fazed. He slept through most of the storm (Ps 3.5: ‘I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me’).
Last summer we went on a little boat trip from Ireland to the isles of Aran. It was terrifying. We thought we were going to die. But on the way back I looked at the crew. They weren't worried (at least not on the outside), so I assumed it was OK! And because Jesus was OK the disciples should have realised that they were OK.

And the disciples knew that Jesus was special.
They had seen some of the works he had done

He cast out an evil Spirit (and, interestingly, used the same sort of language that he is about to use on the wind and waves. He tells the demons to ‘be silent’).
He healed Peter’s mother in law; and the many sick people and those possessed by evil spirits who came to him.
He healed a man with leprosy; and a paralysed man - he was the one that they let down through the roof; and a man who had a withered hand.
And Jesus speaks about how he has come to bind the strong man, satan, and plunder that which satan thought was his own.

So the disciples had seen Jesus’ power, and yet when the storm came, they panic.

2.    They discover that Jesus has power over creation

When Jesus calms the wind and the waves they are astonished.

Jesus has healed people and cast out demons. But, it seems, others also did those sort of things.
But others did not have power over nature

Jesus speaks to creation with a word and it obeys him.

There are echoes of the Old Testament here:
·         of the story of Jonah, when it is God himself who calms the sea.
·         of Psalm 107.23-32, when it is God who again brings relief from the storm.

And so the disciples ask each other: Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?

The disciples had much still to learn - about themselves and about Jesus.

We think of Peter who, at the last supper, declared that he had such a strong faith he would never let Jesus down. Early the next morning he denied Jesus, not just once but three times.
But Peter also discovered so much more about Jesus: about the love of Jesus, which took him to the cross; about the mercy of Jesus that reached out and brought forgiveness even to him; about the power of God which did something even more amazing than calming a storm. It brought Jesus back from the dead.

But through their journeying with Jesus, the disciples grew in their faith, and in their understanding of the Lord Jesus.
And they were able to trust him, not only when things were going well, but also when things got very scary.  They were able to trust him even when it seemed that he was asleep. And they were able to trust him even when they were called to face death for the sake of Jesus.  

And if we are obedient, there will be journeys that we have to take

Tom and Jemma are being called to go on a journey. For them and the family it is a big journey

But this is not just about the big journeys. The fishermen would have often crossed the Sea of Galilee. It was second nature to them. This is about little journeys, the sort of journeys that we make every day of our lives.

And please note that just because it is right for us to go on a journey, it does not mean that storms won't happen. I’m sure Tom and Jemma will have several of them. And there will be times when it seems that Jesus is sleeping and that he doesn't care.

But what we do know is that he never will abandon us; and when we cry out to him - whether in faith or panic - he will answer. He will grow us in our self-understanding and in our knowledge of him.

Tom said on one occasion that there were people on his Reader training course who had some great stories they could tell about God's faithfulness, love and power but that he didn't really have those stories. Well, I suspect that he does now, and there will be more.

We grow most when we go through the storms.

I have grown most in my Christian faith when I have been well and truly out of my depth. When as a curate I crashed; when we were in Russia and things were humanly impossible (like, for instance, how to get our things out of customs. The Russians have a word for miracle, wonder – chuda – and there were several times when we were simply dependent on chuda). And it has been the times of conflict, or of failure, frustration or fear; or when events have not gone as I expected or when I have had to let go of something that I have put my trust in – those are the times that I have most grown in my faith and understanding.

There will be storms. Some of the storms, like this one, come because we are obedient; some come to us because we are disobedient; some come to us because we are fallen human beings who live in a fallen creation. There will be times of sickness, bereavement, deep disappointment, abandonment.

In fact, the more you trust Jesus, the greater the challenges there will be.

But if we turn to him we can grow through them.

I’d love to pray that as you go through life on your journeys that you face no storms.
But I can’t pray that.
What I can pray is that – as you go on this journey – whatever storms you do meet will bring you face to face with Jesus.
and that when you come back, you will be changed people, and you will be filled with the power and the love and the beauty and the truth of the risen Lord Jesus.




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