God is with us. Mark 4.35-41

Mark 4:35-41

The shape of our building/roof is the shape of an upturned boat.
That is not accidental. It is the style of church building that is common particularly in the UK.
The church is likened to a ship

It is an illustration that Peter uses: he speaks of the church as being like the ark in which Noah and his family were saved. While everyone else perished, the ark kept them safe and brought them to a place of safety.

And here we are: gathered together in our boat because Jesus has called us to go to the other side. We’re on a journey

But we are not on our own. He is with us.

As a people we are on a journey – we are on a journey together.

We are very different – we often say that, but for a year, two years, ten years, maybe longer, whatever it is – God has called us to worship together in the good ship St Andrew’s. He has called us to be together, to learn together, to grow together, to be shaped by each other and encourage each other and challenge each other – through just meeting, through working together, through fighting with each other and making up, through playing together.

We are in the same boat.

There are other boats.
There is one that is just down the road;
There is one that meets here in the afternoon.

But at the moment, we are thinking about this boat.
I could never say that this is the only boat that Jesus is in. But it is the boat that we are in. And I can say that Jesus is with us. Because that is his promise.

We are trying to be obedient. We are going to the other side: we are going towards the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Caspian sets sail to find some missing lords. But he and the crew are drawn further and further east to the very edge of the world: and to the beginning of the land of the Emperor beyond the sun. It is the place where Aslan rules. And Aslan is the one who represents Christ.

We are drawn to that land: not just to our death – our death is simply a staging post, albeit a pretty major staging post – but beyond death.

And each of us is called to constantly move on, maybe physically to another place, but usually we are called to move on in the same place (to constantly be moving from place to place, from church to church, is actually usually a way of avoiding facing up to ourselves. We think the problems will be solved by going somewhere new – but when we go somewhere new, we bring our old self, and nothing changes).

No, we are called to take off the old nature – and to put on the new nature.

We are called to cross the equivalent of our red sea, just like the people of Israel did 4000 years ago, from the land of slavery to the land of freedom.

That is where we are going.

We may have arguments about what we will find when we get there. We may argue about which way we should tack – this tack or that tack. We may argue about the colour of the boat, or what rations we should take, or the different names that we give the different parts of the boat, or who should do which job.

But we are still in the same boat.

The priest or the pastor or the minister is not the captain. Far from it. They are one of the crew, although they have a particular role to play.

The captain is Jesus. He is the one who has built the boat and owns the boat; he is the one who has invited us into the boat, who has pulled us over the side out of the deep water. He has brought us together, and has taught us.

He is the one who has told us where to go: ‘Let us go to the other side’.

I’m afraid that I’m just as mutinous as the rest of us. I’m just as quick to make a bid to grab the tiller and to steer us where I want to go. Or, if we’re not going where I want us to go, I’m just as quick to jump ship, to lower the lifeboat and to sail off on my own in a different direction.

And I am afraid that I am just as quick to panic when the storms come.

Oh, and they do come.

There are the storms that are outside and the storms inside.

Paul talks about some of the storms which he and his companions faced in that remarkable second letter that he wrote to the Corinthians. It is remarkable because, as people in our bible study have noticed, it is the letter where Paul opens up his soul. We see the man behind the letters.

And Paul talks of storms. There are the storms of affliction, hardship, and calamities. He experienced several literal storms at sea, and even shipwreck. There are the storms of beatings, imprisonments, riots. He speaks of storms when they are dishonoured or shamed, or when they are punished and stripped of all things. There are the storms of anxiety – anxiety about his work, the churches and even about his life.

And we will face storms on the journey to the other side: there are the storms that we all face, but there are also the storms that we face because we are being obedient to Jesus.

There will be individual storms – the difficulties that we face: failure, sickness, loneliness, abandonment, bereavement, anxieties – about money, travel, documents, work, children, parents, the past, the future. And there will be the storms of temptation: to despair of ourselves or God, to give up.

And because we are all in one boat, the storms of one will be the storms of the other. Hong’s death obviously is an overwhelming storm for Ming, but it is also a storm for all of us.

But, and this is the important thing, we are not on our own. God is with us.

Jesus was able to sleep through the storm.

That may be because he was exhausted – but if you think you are going to die, then even if you are exhausted you stay awake!

Jesus had utter confidence in His Father, the one who ‘made the storm be still, and hushed the waves of the sea’ (Ps 107:29)

And also, if you think about it, Jesus has utter confidence in his followers.
He is not a sailor. They are the sailors. They are the ones who are used to sailing a boat in a storm. The best thing he can do is get out of the way, let them get on with the job.

And Jesus is so confident in God, and confident in them, that he is able to go to sleep.

The problem is that the disciples do not realise that because Jesus is in the boat with them, God is with them.

And when they wake Jesus and ask him if he doesn’t care that they are about to die, Jesus rebukes them and asks them a question, ‘Why are you still afraid? Have you no faith?’.

It is the second question that he has asked them in Mark 4.

The first question comes after he has told a parable, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?’
And there is a link. Because they haven’t really understood who Jesus is, they are not able to trust him when the storm comes.

The followers of Jesus were going to face fair worse than storms at sea. They were going to see Jesus crucified. They were going to be mocked and hated. They were going to be hunted like wild animals. They were going to face bitter and fierce persecution. They were going to face death – all because they were being obedient to Jesus.

But they held firm, because they had begun to realise who Jesus was. He is the one who the wind and waves obey, he is the eternal Son of God.

And he is the one who is with us.

In Psalm 44, the writer laments the fact that “for your sake we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Ps 44.22).
And he cries out to God, ‘Wake up. Rouse yourself God’ (Ps 44.23)

Well, God does rouse himself. He does do something. In Jesus His Son, He comes to live among us. He dies for us and rises from the dead. 
And He is with us.

And Paul, because he has such confidence in who Jesus is, turns Psalm 44 on its head.

In Romans 8, he quotes Psalm 44: ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered’.

But he continues. No, in all these things – in the storms of life – we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. And he continues, ‘Nothing – no, nothing – not even the most terrifying tempest, nothing in life, and not even death, not even the most horrific demon, not even the devil himself, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’


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