Morning Prayer 20/06/21 (3rd Sunday after Trinity)
(Joanna Fisher - Liturgical Assistant )
Jesus Calms the Storm
(Based on Mark 4:35-41)
On the evening of that same day Jesus said to his disciples,
“Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”
So they left the crowd; the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. Other boats were there too.
Suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the waves began to spill over into the boat, so that it was about to fill with water. Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. The disciples woke him up and said,
“Teacher, don't you care that we are about to die?”
Jesus stood up and commanded the wind,
“Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!”
The wind died down, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?”
But they were terribly afraid and began to say to one another,
“Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Lord, as we think about our reading from Mark’s gospel
about Jesus calming the storm;
may you speak into the hearts and minds of your people gathered here this morning; may they find your peace in the storms of living
and come to know you more deeply through their experiences.
In the evening, on the other side of the lake, suddenly a storm blew up… and Jesus said,
Peace, Be still.
You may remember a few months back in January/February;
fierce storms across the Irish Sea, massive waves crashing over the promenade in Douglas and Fenella Beach in Peel. The Isle of Man is not immune to its storms.
And many of you in times gone by, have probably crossed the Irish sea in the old Manx boats and experienced waves pounding against the windows on the upper deck, people being unable to walk upright, cups and dishes sliding off tables
and everyone looking decidedly green!
Not a great experience – but at least the captain was not sleeping
In our reading today from Mark’s Gospel, the storm happens at the end of the day.
It had been a busy one for Jesus.
It had started with a confrontation with some Pharisees
who said that he was possessed;
then Jesus’ brothers tried to take him away because they thought he had lost his mind. Tensions with the family and tensions in the church
– not very different in Jesus’ day from what we experience in today’s world.
After that, he had spent the rest of the day teaching parables:
the parable of the farmer scattering seed, parable of the lamp, parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed that Ruth talked to us about last week.
This had continued throughout the day under the heat of the sun.
So come the evening, Jesus must have been emotionally and physically exhausted.
A nice evening sail to the ‘other side’ of the lake must have felt ‘just the ticket!’.
And so it was for Jesus, who remained calm and restful throughout.
But as we know, the disciples had a very different experience.
A mega storm threatened to sink the boat and the disciples who fished for a living thought that this was the end. And they were not over-reacting.
Theirs was the ultimate cry of fear, of doubt, of abandonment –
it’s a cry often expressed when we feel adrift in the storms of life,
when we feel God’s absence rather than his presence.
What can this storm then tell us about ourselves and about Jesus?
What is happening in this roller-coaster of emotions?
Let’s have a bit of STORM THEOLOGY.
Storms happen…. v 37 Suddenly a strong wind blew up...
The first thing that comes to mind is that storms happen,
and sometimes they happen quite suddenly.
Lake Galilee was one such place,
a large, shallow body of water, 700ft below sea level in a rift valley;
prone to sudden, violent storms that died down equally quickly
when the wind dropped.
The storm can be seen as a metaphor for life, rather like in Jesus’ parables.
Jesus was not immune from storms in his life – after all,
he was in the storm-tossed boat too.
In his short earthly life, he was not detached from the human condition –
he experienced clashes with authority, with the religious peoples of the day,
with his family.
We’re not immune to storms either,
but these days, storms often confront us in different ways.
Concern about a sick or dying friend, worries about losing jobs and supporting families, fears that we will be left alone, governments that appear unable to tell the truth, racial or religious strife, wars, an environment that groans with pandemics and climate change, and children suffering from lack of food.
Sometimes there seems to be more storms than fair weather!
They can arrive unexpectedly and go quickly; they may brew over a period of time;
and sometimes they seem to go on forever.
Storms happen, and we need to acknowledge them – we don’t live in a fantasy world, storms are part of life, and they vary in their severity and duration.
Fear happens…. verse 38. teacher, don't you care?...
The second thing that happens in the story is fear.
Fear arises in us, like surging waves, when things feel out of our control.
When we don’t know what’s going to happen to us.
The disciples definitely felt that things were out of their control, chaotic!
The boat was being buffeted about, the water was pouring in,
and everything was being destabilised.
And in their fear and distress, they cry out to the sleeping Jesus – do you not care? Where are you God when we need you? Help us! Do something!
Lots of people today ask the same question – where are you God?
If God is so great and powerful, if God really cares about the world,
then why do events in the world and in our lives go so badly?
We might well think – either God has no power, or he doesn’t care.
So where is God at these times?
And the answer…. he is there, right in the middle of the storm, as he was in the boat. Responding to our need, in his time and in his way.
He may not calm the storm right when we want it, but he can calm the storm in us.
I wonder if you’ve ever come across situations or people
who have been at their wits end; who have reached the point of total despair?
It may be that you have experienced times in your life when this has happened to you. And at these times, when they or you can’t get any lower,
there’s a cry that goes out to God.
At the heart of people, there is a yearning, a hope, that there is a God,
and it is a God who has a caring heart and can do something.
It happens sometimes for people who may not even have believed in God.
That cry can become a potential turning point in a person’s life.
A point at which they can glimmer something beyond the finality of earthy life, something good and safe, something that turns the chaos of living
towards the calming of God’s presence.
Calm happens…. verse 39. peace, be still
And this is what happens next…. calming, peace, stillness
When we are in a state of fear and anxiety, we often go straight to fight/flight mode, and the urge to act impulsively takes precedent over measured discussion.
We don’t always think things through properly.
Imagine if Jesus had said to the disciples as the water was flooding into the boat
and they were being tossed around – look chaps - why don’t we all just sit down
and have a little chat about this storm!
No way would the disciples be able to take that on board!
Nor would we in the same situation.
In order to process information, we have to be calm.
So, this is one of the times Jesus speaks in the whirlwind as opposed to the ‘still small voice.’ He shows power, authority, and control over the wind and waves;
and brings order out of chaos. We are placed here in the presence of God.
What can we take from this?
I guess, if we come across somebody who is highly anxious, or even if we are in a state of anxiety ourselves, it helps to draw near to our loving and caring God
who can calm us and give us a different perspective.
In my work with school children, I often came across youngsters who were anxious. Worried about others saying unkind things to them, worrying about not having friends, worrying about whether their parents would be drunk that evening and whether they would have a meal. And when they were at school, they were expected to think and learn in class, and they couldn’t. Often, they would hit out, be disruptive, or unfocused. They were having their own storm in life.
They needed calming before they could begin to be a part of a learning community and focus.
This is what Jesus does – calms first. Jesus cares, and Jesus calms.
Questions and thinking happen….
v.40“Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith? 41Who then is this?”
It’s only when the physical rescue has been accomplished and the sea is calm,
that there is headspace for thinking things through.
And this is what happens next in the story, there is a conversation.
Jesus asks 2 questions of the disciples and encourages them to think –
What are they frightened of?
What does faith mean to them?
And the disciples respond by questioning themselves,
who is this man Jesus?
We too can have these conversations, and I would invite you to do so with trusted friends and family. What are your storms in life, what are your fears?
How does your faith help you through them? Who is Jesus?
So, to conclude….
Storms happen, fear happens, calming happens, and conversations happen.
So here is the reality.
We are either headed into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of one. Let’s learn from our storms.
God is teaching us something about himself, about us, and about the storms of life.
And Jesus wants for us, and from us, the same thing he wanted from the disciples in the middle the storm—to have faith in him.
Nothing is too difficult for Him. His arm is not too short to save.
He can handle the problems in our world, and in our lives.
If we can trust God with our eternity, we can certainly trust him with our tomorrows.
So, we now have storm theology.
Christian faith is not just about surviving the shipwreck through the storms of life,
it’s about believing confidently that the journey ends well,
and that at the end, there’s a cushion we can all sleep on.
I’d like to end with a prayer….
Lord, let us make space and take time to be with you.
Let us remember that amid the storms of life,
when the waves seem to overwhelm us,
You are there beside us,
and we will hear your voice - be not afraid…. peace…. be still.