Newport United Church of Christ
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July 8 2018

Reading from the Bible   Mark 4:35-41,  John 14:27

 Morning Message “When the Storms Roll”

We are going to turn to the story of Jesus and the storm. It is so familiar, it is hard for us to say what more should we know from this story or what more can we gain. Perhaps we should go to the book of Romans which is meatier or something more complex like the book of Job. But we should hear this story at least once or twice every year or so to remind ourselves about who is the Lord of the sea.

Mark 4:35-41   Jesus Stills a Storm

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

John 14: 27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

One day Gary and his two sons went fishing at Neah Bay and on into the Pacific Ocean.  It had been a nice calm day and they had caught a lot of fish. They were getting ready to come back with the boat. The captain was very confident, and they had all had a great day. Then they turned on the motor and it went brump-brump—didn’t start. Well, no problem the captain had a new ticker—new motor—but neither of them worked. Well, they decided to wait a little bit and then they called the Coast Guard to be rescued. They were going to make news in the newspaper. Of course. when you are bobbing around in the water you bound to get seasick. You have nothing to move you or move with, even the men were turning a little green. How much worse could it get? Then the fog comes in. They can’t see a thing and they are bobbing around in the Pacific waiting for the Coast Guard. Waiting—and waiting. The men are getting greener and greener.

And I am at home wondering why they are so late to getting back home. They should be back by now and I start to worry a little bit. I know they are all competent people; the captain was experienced and seasoned. Finally the Coast Guard comes to the rescue and they hook onto the boat and they haul it back into the shore. The boat was swing backing and forth like on a bungee cord and everybody is green by this time. So they get into the harbor and the captain said, “I can park my boat.”  But the Coast Guard people said, “Oh no, once we start a rescue we have to finish it, we have to complete it to the end. So they get into the dock and unfortunately ram the dock and knock off one of the railings on the boat. I think these men were never so happy to get off a boat as in their whole entire life.

You probably have some boat stories too. In Wyoming you would have some stories about the Wild Buffalo Reservoir too. It is not much bigger but is deeper than the Sea of Galilee. And the storms come up quickly and even with the fancy little motor boats the distance to the shore seems like a long way and that is what is happening in this story.

The disciples get into the boat and start to cross over—the Sea of Galilee is only 12 or 14 miles long and probably 7 miles wide. So they are getting ready to go to the other side.  And Jesus has started sleeping on the pillow down in the boat. They had had a long day. Think about the darkest place you have ever been at nighttime—think about bobbing around in a small boat in the dark place, I have another Gary story. We went on a Christmas cruise out at Port Townsend and the Ballard locks and all. It was night and it was raining but very beautiful with all the lights of the city. Gary is terrified. He is never going on anything like that again. He said “Did you see that log bouncing around there. They are everywhere. The boat could hit one and we would never know it” He did not enjoy the entire trip.

These disciples with Jesus were white knuckled. Jews did not like the water. Jews believed water was chaotic and evil. It was where God and the forces of evil clash. Jesus was going to make quite a statement in this storm He was going to show who was boss. I think we could easily identify with the disciples. I am not a sailor but I have been on boats but you bring up a storm like that even the most faithful and most courageous disciples would be white knuckled. That was the way it was on the Sea of Galilee sometimes.  The lake is 700 feet below sea level and it has mountains above it.  It is tropical around the Sea of Galilee but it is dry in the mountain and if the atmosphere is just right it can be very rough and the wind can stir up the waves and can turn into a tremendous whirlwind.  It was serious, it was scary and when it happened, the disciples were scared. Since the Jewish people always feared the sea they feared that the danger and chaos was going to overtake them. The disciples believed they were all going to die. And they were sure of it.  They are watching what is going on around them and Jesus is sleeping like he did not have a care in the world. He knows who is in charge. He knew they were not going to die. The disciples go over to him. In the Gospels Matthew and Luke talk about the disciples going over to Jesus and yelling, “Wake up wake up. T here is a terrible storm.” Mark records it a little differently, “Wake up wake up. Don’t you care that we are about to drown?”  There is nothing kind or gentle about that phrase. There is nothing you can do with the language. Are you indifferent to us? Are you ignoring our need? Are you hard hearted? Who are you really?” These thoughts were going through their heads. They had seen his other miracles but in this setting it did not seem to connect for them.  There was a furious wind; the waves were over taking the boat. The one little sail that they had was down.  Their four oarsmen could do nothing in that storm. They were seasoned sailors, they knew the danger, they were terrified and they knew they were all going to die.

Jesus had perfect confidence and so he sleeps on and he was more powerful than what they understood. They did not understand and they were going to be very impressed with actions and his teachings that Jesus was going to make from that experience.  Some    people believed God created the earth and then just left it and set it into space. That is not the kind of God that Jesus is.  God is interested and involved in the affairs of people not only in the affairs in general but in individuals.  He is involved in the world that he has created. Jesus his Son has come to save that world.

Marks fleshes out who Jesus Christ is.  Jesus gets up and with a word stops the storm dead in its tracks. It was terrifying! Think about some of the wind storms that you have been in or some torrential rain.  I have been hail storms and they would stop just like that and the sun would come out and you take a deep breath and wonder what happened. Jesus commanded the storm and it stopped in its tracts and the wind stopped.  Jesus was the victor over the storm. He was going to do something that the disciples couldn’t image that he was capable of doing. Then we have to deal with what he says to them. This is hard. I read some commentaries that really tried to soften it- to make it, “A guys don’t you understand and he says to them, “Why are you afraid?” Have you still no faith”? That is just as hard as, ”Don’t you care we are perishing?” It would have been nice if it had just an arm around them and saying, “There, there.” But he says, “Don’t you have faith?  Don’t you get it yet? Didn’t you see the man possessed with demons healed?” You have seen the miracles I have done and you have heard my teachings. Why is this so hard for you?” So then we can feel guilty. Not enough faith, I thought about a measuring cup and tried to fill it up—and how much would be enough faith?  Does it have to be over flowing? How much faith to weather the things that are coming in? I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying at all.  You have to have an X amount of faith in order to cope with life. What he is saying is, “Don’t you know who I am?” Don’t you know I am the Son of God?” Don’t you know when God created the creation out of chaos and brought order? Don’t you know I am the same one who split the sea and let the Israelites pass over on dry land? Don’t you get who I am” You are going to see this and more. You are going to be astonished- just wait until I die and rise again. Don’t you know who I am?”  I think that is a far different question than to guilt us with the question of don’t you have enough faith?” I think he is saying to them try to comprehend of who I am. Trying to grasp with the best of your ability-take a step forward and trust who I am. We don’t triumph over adversity because Jesus remedies our situation but we rise through adversity because he is who he is. This is more than a miracle story of the first century. It is a timeless truth Christ’s ability to bring calm in times of turbulence and uncertainty, calm in times of sorrow, calm in the life to come. Calm our anxiety and our worry. He speaks to our uncertainties and fears and chaos around and within us and Jesus says, “Peace is still.” He is not removing us from the situation but it is like having a little hedge of protection all around us. The Irish have this idea to draw a circle around a person and t hey would pray for protection from  the outside- anything that would come against you, people talking about you, people harming you, people wounding your spirit and all that and  inside the circle would be goodness, Christ likeness and warmth of the Holy Spirit. They would ask God for that kind of protection for people.  I think that is what Christ offers, Peace be still. Imagine that circle around you, Peace be still. Imagine Jesus calming the storm.

I got an email from my friend Rita this morning and it says thanks for all the prayers. She is the widow of our friend George. We are doing a service for him in a couple of weeks.  She wrote, I am still a mess and Oscar their cat. It is just weird not to have George here. We haven’t figured out a schedule or what TV programs to watch. Who would have thought such crazy things would occur our time.” Like the song we sang, “When the storms of life surround me-stand by me.” And Rita knows to do that and she knows how to live by the little fisherman’s prayer. “Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide. And my boat is so small.”

Christ is not a refuge from uncertainty and sudden times of struggle. There are no safe places in life.  Yet we are safe in the arms of Jesus. Paul knew that from Romans chapter eight. Paul had a long list of things that had happened to him-ship wrecks, beatings, imprisonment and all those things but he could say Romans 8-31-39:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Have you enough faith?” We are still growing Do you believe Jesus is who he is? If the answer is yes you will understand the words Peace be still Let us pray:

Gracious God we are aware that life hands us many things that we don’t expect. We are aware that at times we totally incompetent to conquer. We see what goes on around us, we hear the news and we see lives torn around us torn apart, we see a world that is in turmoil.  We hear the words peace when there seems to be no peace yet we know you are our pilot, your are guide, and when we trust you and we believe who you are.  Everything else will fall into place. Help us to rely only on you, this we pray in your name Jesus Amen