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The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2012
The Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
Sermon: "Rough Weather"
The Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
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When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "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 windstorm 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?"
Are you comfortable flying? A lot of people are not. Two friends were sitting on a park bench. One of them said to the other, “I’m afraid of flying. I take the train for all my long trips.” The other said, “That’s crazy! Didn’t you read about those three hundred people who got killed on a train last week? “Three hundred people?” asked the first man, “How could three hundred people die in a train crash?” His friend replied, “A plane fell on it.”
A friend of mine who is afraid of flight and high places once quoted the words of Jesus to me in defense of his fear. “Remember”, he said, “Jesus said, ‘Low, I am with you always.’”
Perhaps if you can imagine yourself in a tiny plane being buffeted by a storm that is threatening to tear your craft to pieces, you can appreciate the terror that seized the disciples when a horrific storm came up on the Sea of Galilee. The wind and the waves threatened to swamp their boat. Only if we remember that these disciples were seasoned, hardened fishermen, used to rough weather, can we appreciate how ferocious this storm must have been. The disciples thought they were about to die. They were so frightened that they woke Jesus, who amazingly enough was asleep in the stern, and asked him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Many of us have asked that very question of the Lord at some time in our lives. Jesus seems asleep in the stern of our own life’s boat as rough weather is about to dash us to pieces, and we want to ask, “Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Every one of us goes through Life’s harrowing storms at some time or another. Our storm may be a problem marriage. Recently, a grandmother was celebrating her golden wedding anniversary. She told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day,” she said, “I decided to make a list of my new husband’s faults, ten of which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook.” A friend asked her to tell some of these faults. The grandmother replied, “To tell you the truth, I never did get around to listing them. Whenever my husband does something, though, that makes me hopping mad, I say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten!’” Some marriages don’t make it through the storm, and the wreckage can be devastating for all aboard.
Our storm may be the loss of one we love. One famous study, called “Broken Hearts,” researched the mortality rate of 4,500 widowers within six months of their wives’ deaths. Compared with other men the same age, the widowers had a mortality rate forty percent higher. What greater storm can we go through than the loss of a loved one?
Or our storm may be one of personal failure. Circumstances may conspire to close a door just as we are about to achieve a long sought after goal. A cherished dream may be deferred or even be ended due to some happening that is beyond our control. Then again, the storm that robs us of our sense of accomplishment and worth may be of our own creating through a personal moral failure.
Whatever the cause or the circumstance of the rough weather, we find ourselves crying out with the disciples, “Lord don’t you care that we are perishing?” “Do my grief and heartaches matter?” “Lord, do you care?”
The Good News from our Gospel lesson from the fourth chapter of the Gospel According to Mark this morning is this: Yes, Jesus does care. When the storms of life are raging, he cares. When it seems we cannot hold on a moment longer, he cares. When destructive waters threaten to engulf us, he cares. The Disciples rouse Jesus from his sleep, and he speaks to the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceases and there is a great calm. The Disciples are left in wonderment at the power of Jesus to give peace.
Jesus gives peace in the midst of our storm of sorrow. When sorrows come, as they do to all of us, He tells us of the glory of the life to come. He changes the darkness of death into the light at the thought of life eternal. He tells us of the love of God, and gives us the certainty that we shall again see those we have loved and lost for this while. When the storms of sorrow seek to uproot the very foundations of faith, there is a steady safety in our Lord’s presence.
Jesus gives peace in the midst of our storms doubt; when life’s obstacles and circumstances involve us in a tempest of doubt and uncertainty. There come times when we do not know what to do; when we stand at some cross-roads in life and do not know which way to take, or even if there is a way to take. If we then turn to Jesus and ask, “Lord, what would you have me do?” he will make the way plain. To ask his will and to submit to it is the way of peace in such a moment.
Jesus gives peace in the midst of our storms of anxiety; when worry attacks this life. The enemy of peace is worry, worry for ourselves, worry about the unknown future, and worry for those we love. But our Lord speaks to us of a nurturing, fathering, mothering God, and of a love beyond which neither we nor those we love can ever drift.
Jesus gives peace in the midst of our storms of temptation. Sometimes temptation comes to us with an almost overmastering force. If we meet that tempest of temptation alone we perish; but with our Lord there comes a peace in which temptations lose their power.
In the presence of Jesus we have peace, even in the wildest storms of life. Margaret Avery, the English writer, once recounted a true and, thankfully, humorous incident that happened in the hill country of England. A teacher in a small village school told her class this story of Jesus calming the storm during the daily chapel time. Almost as she finished a terrible blizzard struck covering the hills around in deep drifts of ice and snow. As the time came for the students to leave for home, the storm was still raging, so she determined to see each of them in turn safely to their doorsteps. To do it she almost had to drag the little children bodily through the tempest. She got all her charges safely home, despite the very real danger. But what she remembered most, and often repeated as she later related the event, was the comment of one of the little boys. In the midst of it all she heard him say, as if to himself, “We could be doing with that chap Jesus here now.”
The lesson of this story, the meaning of this story, the fact of this story, is that when the storms of life shake our souls Jesus is here now. The storm didn’t go around the Disciple’s boat just because Jesus was on board. It hit them full force. In this sinful, imperfect world, we are all in for some rough weather. Our Lord nowhere promises that his followers’ life voyages will be peaceful. But, in his presence, they will be peace-filled. Turn to him; trust in him; call upon him! In his presence the raging of the roughest weather, turns to the peace that no storm can ever take away.