Lord Over the Storms

I don't know whether you've noticed it or not, but throughout this year we have been traveling with Jesus on his life's journey using in large part the Gospel of Mark as our road map.

Well at the beginning of this particular gospel, Jesus invites a group of ordinary people to travel with him. He called 12 by name and they joined him on the journey of their lives; to be a disciple, to be on a journey with Jesus, walking with him, and learning from him.

And in this morning's gospel reading, this journey of a lifetime all of a sudden takes a terrifying turn. It's "evening" (4:35), Jesus is crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and he invites his disciples to go with him, "leaving the crowd behind" (4:36).

Before too long a storm comes rolling in, which was not an uncommon experience given that the Sea of Galilee is 680 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills. The storm came up and became fierce; as waves beat against the boat they were all in, yet Jesus is fast asleep (4:38)!

The disciples cry out to Jesus, "Do you care if we are perishing?" When you think about it, this question is a pretty profound question, shouted out in the middle of the storm. Does Jesus care if we perish? His peaceful state, in the middle of a ragging storm is impressive, but does Jesus' calm extend to the fate of his disciples as well, or is this state of calm only for him?

It seems to me that this story is told in response to this basic question of faith: does Jesus care? Does Jesus really give a hoot about any of his disciples? Does Jesus really care about us, especially when things are rough? Upon hearing the cry for help, Jesus arises and rebukes the wind and the waves (4:39). Then Jesus rebukes his disciples, "Had they no faith?" Well the beginning of the story is an answer to that question. They have faith, but when the waves start crashing over their boat, and the wind whips up with a frenzy, they ask the fundamental question: "Master do you care if we perish?" The whole story ends with the disciples' question: "Who is this? Who is this Jesus? The story is certainly meant as a response to that question by the disciples, and the church. "Who is this man Jesus?"

This story is full of strong metaphors and vivid imagery. It's a story that speaks its own truth. And it's a story that each of us can relate to very easily.

Through our study of Christian discipleship we've come to understand, and experience all to well, that journeying with Jesus as his disciples, does not insulate us from difficulties and storms in life. Jesus never promised his disciples smooth sailing! Jesus never promised us a life full of angelic singing and rose gardens. Yet, in his great mercy, he does care for us deeply.

Jesus is not only merciful, but also powerful in his rebuke of the wind and the waves. He's also merciful and full of grace in his active compassion for us in our troubles. He's Lord, even in the middle of those storms, which come blowing our way; tossing and turning us sometimes to the point we don't know what to do next.

Yes, Jesus is there as the master helmsman steering us back on course, providing the wind for our sails so we might emerge from the storm stronger in our faith.

Let's take a closer look at some key points highlighted in our gospel reading to see how this story might more specifically relate to us.

Jesus invites the disciples into the boat. The whole journey into the storm, out onto the sea in the dark, was Jesus' idea, not the disciples. Jesus called the disciples, the disciples didn't call Jesus. What do you make of this? Is Jesus testing the faith of his disciples?

One things for sure, discipleship is not always a state of peaceful calm. But the truth is some of our greatest adventures with Jesus will be in the storms of life, in the dead of night, when it's dark, and we're lost, not knowing where to turn or what to do next. I found this to be true in my own life. Some of my darkest moments have yielded the brightest light.

The past several weeks we've experienced rain and stormy skies, and this has been somewhat frustrating. But we manage to work our way through this time knowing that eventually the sun (S.U.N.) will shine again.

Well the same is true of the medical, emotional, and spiritual storms we encounter. We work our way through these storms with Jesus by our side knowing that eventually the Son (S.O.N.) will once again shine bright.

Jesus is in the boat with his disciples. Jesus journeys with his disciples, they don't have to "go it alone." However, don't lose the point that even though Jesus is with them there is still no guarantee they will always experience smooth sailing!

And I think we can all relate to this. Life isn't always easy, we do encounter bumps, and sometimes boulders along our life's journey don't we? But even in these cases one thing is constant and that is Jesus love for us, and his desire to sail with us during the storms we encounter.

There is a storm, a "great storm" which comes up all of a sudden. Sailing with Jesus doesn't mean exemption from real bad storms either. And in some cases we don't even see the storms until they're on top of us. We have no warning. In fact, Jesus sometimes (at least the story implies) is the one who invites us into, even leads us toward great storms.

Why is this? It's because it's often times in the midst of the storms that we finally get it. We finally realize we can't do it all ourselves, we finally realize it's not about us, we finally understand we need help, we need a savior, we need Jesus Christ to lead us through the eye of the storm to experience calm and serenity once again.

Jesus is un-phased by the same storm that so terrifies his disciples. Jesus is the serene, the majestic Lord of the storm. He's not worried. He's in control.

God in Jesus Christ is in control. Not humanity, not Satan, but God. And thanks be to God for that.

Can you image what a mess we would have if humanity or Satan had ultimate control. You talk about chaos. This world would probably no longer exist.

The disciples awake Jesus and dare to ask a threatening question, upon which hangs much of our faith in Jesus: do you care if we perish? Let's take this as the central question of our scripture reading: does Jesus care if we perish? And not only is this the central question, it's an eternal question.

Well the answer is: Jesus does care. He cares a lot. Jesus arises and calms the raging storm. Jesus not only cares, he also acts. Jesus is the one who, when it's dark and all hope seems lost, rises, speaks, rebukes the wind and the waves, and saves those who, without his care and action, would be lost. Yes Jesus cares, he cares a great deal.

Jesus wonders why his disciples are afraid and have no faith in him. Jesus has been with them for a long time now. Yet the disciples still don't seem to get it. And as you read the Gospel of Mark this sort of misunderstanding and lack of faith is rather typical for Jesus' disciples.

Yet, despite their misunderstanding, their lack of faith, Jesus doesn't desert them, and Jesus doesn't desert those who have dared to travel with him. He keeps sailing with them.

Jesus doesn't seem to resent the misunderstanding of his closest followers. He's not too choosy about his travel companions! He keeps saving them, even while they fear that they might perish. And thank God for this truth! And lastly the story ends in wonder and awe, in worship, in which his disciples are moved to ask, "Who is this?" The answer to this question is not explicitly given. The story doesn't answer with, "This is the Messiah," or "Here before you is the Son of God."

Perhaps the answer is not given because it's an answer that can only be given as a gift, a byproduct of our time of wonder and awe which we call worship. The answer to our deepest question about Jesus ("Who is this?") is a gift of that vision and experience we receive in the middle of the storm.

Being a disciple of Jesus is not always easy. It requires commitment, contentment, faith, trust, and surrender. All of which are hard work. And lets not kid ourselves, it really is hard work.

Also, being a disciple of Jesus doesn't mean we won't run into temptation and sin because we will. Even Jesus ran into temptation. Praying that temptation and sin go away won't work. Sin and temptation are a part of this world. But we can pray that we overcome the sin and temptation that is before us. Christians are over-comers; we overcome obstacles by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The storm mentioned in our gospel is a weather-related storm, but storms can come in other forms as well. Think about the storms in your life, the situations that cause you great anxiety. Know that whatever your difficulty, you have two options really: You can worry and assume that Jesus no longer cares, or you can resist fear, placing your trust in Jesus.

Throughout our lives we will encounter many different kinds of storms. And when confronted with these storms often times running for the phone to get help won't work. Running to the needle, the pill, the bottle, the pantry, and the government won't work either.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about a road map to peace. Well know that there is only one road map to peace, and that's the road map proclaimed by the one who said I am the way, the truth, and the life.

We don't need homeland security to protect us, we need Jesus security, we need to go to the throne for help. It's there we'll find true peace. It's there we'll find the power for calming our storms.

When you feel like panicking, confess your need for God and then place your whole trust in him to take care of you, knowing that God will help in his way and in his time.

But asking for and receiving God's help in the midst of life's storms require us to do something. It requires us to be active in our faith. Faith requires action, living as disciples requires action, living God's truth requires action.

You know it does you no good to come to church, sit, and listen to God's word being read and God's word being proclaimed. It's an easy thing to do though, isn't it? But in reality by just coming to church and listening you've done nothing.

Now I don't mean to sound arrogant, but in preparing today's sermon, I did the homework, I studied, and I prayed that the Holy Spirit would lead me in my preparation. So my point is if you come this morning and listen, and then don't leave and apply what you've heard, then you've wasted your time.

God doesn't have some gold leaf heavenly attendance sheet that he checks off just because we come to church. We don't read the Bible for God; God already knows what the Bible says. We read the Bible and listen to sermons so we will learn what God wants us to do.

God wants us to read the Bible, worship, and then go apply it.

We are to live out God's word, and place our whole trust in him. And I can think of no more important time to live out God's word then in the storms of our life, when it seems the world around us is falling apart. God's word reminds us that there is a light in the midst of the storm, and that lights name is Jesus Christ

You know, life is such a gift, even with the storms, but we sometimes seem to just fetter it away. Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life! There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today; but I did! And because I did I'm going to celebrate!

Today, I'm going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me a stronger disciple.

I'll go through the rest of this day with my head held high, and a happy heart. I'll marvel at God's seemingly simple gifts: the morning rain, the green grass, the clouds, the trees, the flowers, and the birds. Today, none of these miraculous creations will escape my notice. Today, I'll share my excitement for life with other people. I'll make someone smile. I'll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don't even know, out of Christian love not religious obligation.

Today, I'll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I'll tell a child how special he or she is, and I'll tell someone just how deeply I care for them.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don't have, and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me, even in the midst of storms. I'll remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in God and his Divine Purpose ensures everything will be just fine.

And tonight, before I go to bed, I'll go outside and raise my eyes to the heavens. I'll stand in awe at the beauty of the stars and the moon, and I will praise God for these magnificent treasures. As the day ends and I lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank the Almighty for the best day of my life. And I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because I know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!

This can be the best day of your life too. There's no need to worry; there's no need to be concerned because Jesus Christ is the road map to peace, and Lord over the storms.

Thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ we have a friend to help us through the storms of life!


Read other messages by Pastor Wade