5th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 7 – B)
June 24, 2018
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
An oceanic organization estimates there are three million sunken boats in the oceans around the world. Some, like the Titanic, are famous. Others, like the Amalia which sank in 1838 or ‘39 while bringing Lutherans to America, are just a footnote in history. While modern technology has made ocean travel safer, this wasn’t always the case. Imagine you’re in a terrible storm and your boat is only seven feet wide and four or five feet high, that would ramp up the fear factor, wouldn’t it? It’s no wonder the disciples panicked when they were confronted by such a storm. You’re probably not at a great risk for being caught in a sinking boat (unless you’re a fisherman) but you’re still going to face some stormy times. And amid these storms you need just one thing, faith that trusts that Jesus never sleeps.
Now, I won’t blame you if you’re thinking, “Sure Pastor, that’s easy for you to say!” and I’d agree that it is easier said than done. I won’t deny that sometimes Jesus does appear to be sleeping while the storm rages on around us. We’re tossed and battered by waves of disappointment, financial burdens, and overwhelming stress, and there appears to be no help coming to our rescue. The storm rages on, but we don’t hear from Him. He doesn’t respond to our prayers. All we can see is that we’re about to sink and die. Why won’t God wake up and save us?
The disciples sure thought this is what Jesus was doing. They woke Him up with an unfair accusation: “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” You might think that’s bold on their part, and you’d be right, but others have done it also. In the Old Testament reading God says to Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” God is angry because Job had just accused Him treating him unfairly. In Job’s mind, he didn’t deserve what was happening to him and so God must not have cared. You heard how God reacted to that!
You might be thinking that you would never be so bold as to say such a thing to God. You might be thinking that you have been so bold as to say such a thing to God. We’re accusing God of sleeping on the job whenever we question Him or blame Him, when we think He isn’t showing enough urgency. Whenever we think He’s not doing what we think He should be doing, we’re accusing Him of sleeping.
Is this accurate? Not at all! God never sleeps! In Psalm 121 we’re promised, “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” This is true of God and it’s true of His Son. Yes, the man Jesus was sound asleep and oblivious to the storm. But as God, He knew exactly what was going on. The disciples thought Jesus was uncaring, they didn’t trust that He would see them through the storm. Nobody knows why Jesus let the disciples flounder for awhile and we don’t know why He doesn’t come rushing to our aid either. Is it to test us? Possibly. Is it to draw us closer to Himself? Maybe. Is it to teach us the importance of completely relying on Him? Could be. Any of these are good possibilities and there could be others we’re not even thinking about. What’s important for us to remember is that God never sleeps and trusting in this promise is a perfect example of faith in the midst of a storm.
When Jesus wakes up, He does two things. Mark writes, “And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’” I love the language that Mark uses. Jesus didn’t ask the wind to die down. He rebuked the wind and the waves! He’s God, He’s the Almighty Creator, is there anything He can’t handle? Not at all! God controls all the storms and it doesn’t matter what they are!
The other thing Jesus does is to chastise the disciples for their lack of faith. They obviously believed in Him to a certain degree because they were following Him, but they didn’t completely trust in Him. They were more focused on the storm than the One who could help them. They were more worried about baling the water out of the boat and holding on than relying on the One who would preserve them. Even if they had died, everything would have been okay because Christ was with them.
Jesus worked a miracle for the disciples by stilling the storm and there are times that He works miracles in our own lives. However, Jesus isn’t going to necessarily still our storms so quickly. He may wait awhile before stilling them with just His voice, but you can know, you can trust, that He is in the boat with you. You can trust Him no matter what storm crashes into your boat. No matter how high the waves or how fierce the storm blows, He controls it. He’s not sleeping! Instead, He has you firmly in His hands, and He’ll shelter you through all your storms.
We trust in Him, we have faith, because we can’t help ourselves. Suicide has been in the news and in our community lately and it’s heartbreaking. Suicide is the result of losing sight of who is in the boat with us. Suicide, despair, whatever it may be, is believing that God is asleep and just doesn’t care. But He does! The Devil likes to attack when Jesus appears to be sleeping and make you think God doesn’t care. That’s when it is all the more important to know who pilots our boat. It’s not us, it’s not Satan, it’s Christ!
And even if we lose our lives to our storms, we know that no harm will be fall us. Jesus controls your storms and while sometimes He makes them stop, other times He rides them out with us. He wants us to trust in Him, to have a faith that looks to Him and knows that no matter what happens, He loves us and will work all things for the good of those who love Him.
Do you remember the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They were the three men who were thrown into the furnace for not worshipping a golden statue. At one-point King Nebuchadnezzar says to them, “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” In the face of storm about to take their lives, they said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He’ll deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” They announced boldly that God would save them, but if He didn’t, they would still trust in Him, they would hold on to Him in faith.
Faith is hard thing to quantify and yet it’s what saves you! It’s not the faith you have in yourself, it’s the faith that looks to God even when He appears to be sleeping. If it’s the faith of a tiny mustard seed, you’re saved. If it’s a giant faith that never wavers, you’re saved. Faith is trusting that Jesus is with you in the ship, that He controls the storms, and even if the storm takes your life, you will live forever. Sometimes we have to say with the father of a sick girl, “I believe, help my unbelief!” and know that God doesn’t leave us on our own to find faith, but He gives it to us and sustains it in us.
You know that Jesus can control your storms because He handled the storm of the cross! He trusted the Father even when God was clearly ignoring His cries. He faced a storm of whips and nails fully trusting in God. He knew what had to be done and He did it. But even that storm didn’t take His life because Jesus willing gave up His life to deliver us from our storms. Even the final storm of death will not destroy you because He stilled it forever by His resurrection! Faith is knowing for certain that He’s always in our boats, and even if it looks like He’s sleeping, He’s not. He’s the God who never slumbers no sleeps and we know that He’s the God who stills our storms or carries us through them.
In the book of Revelation, John says that in Heaven there is no sea. There aren’t any more storms either. In Heaven, all our storms will be stilled once and for all. Until that day, our Lord may appear to be sleeping, but He’s not. He’s awake, He’s taking care us, and He will enable us to survive our storms. As Jesus said to the wind and the waves, so also He says to you, “Peace!” He has given you peace and you can have faith in midst of your storms. Have faith because He will bring you through all your storms, that is His promise to you.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen