‘Church in the stormy sea’

Mark 4:41
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?’

            A great wind and huge choppy waves, out on the boat in the middle of the sea; it’s bad enough caught in a storm on land, pushed around by the wind, and pelted by the rain, but if even what we stood on was shaking, it’s no wonder the disciples said, don’t you care if we perish?

            Out on a boat in the middle of a sea. Out in the church buffeted on all sides, and even the ground beneath us shaking. It’s a worrying place to be. And yet here we are, our congregations and parish, shaken in recent weeks by the loss of two key members. Yes, we’ve had other troubles, and they still continue for many of us; worries about how we’ll get things done, about the future of this congregation, about the safety and salvation of our families and friends. And now perhaps things are coming to a head for you, for this congregation, this parish. What will happen next? Will we just abandon ship? Jump into the stormy waters? And what is Jesus doing? He promised to be with us, that the Holy Spirit would guide us, that His Church will never die. What is Jesus doing? Is He asleep?

            The boat was and is an ancient picture of Christ’s church; the disciples, those who would pass on the faith down to all who believe; the sea, a place of chaos and monsters, the uncertainty of this broken world; and the winds of temptation tearing at the sails. This event has long been used as a picture of the Church in this broken and tumultuous world. Here we are together, as in a boat; yes like a boat out on sea there are calm times for us, and yet also times when we feel uncertain, when we feel attacked both from the chaotic waves on the seas and the water sloshing about our feet in the boat threatening to sink us lower. We like the disciples are unsure of what will happen, in the Christian Church today, in our LCA Synod, in this parish and even in your own Christian life. When things are threatening to fall apart, even when we are sinking under the pressure of all this. What do we do? What can you do?

            Remember that Jesus is in the boat with us, call to Him for help, to do what we cannot. Trust in the Lord. And make no mistake, Jesus is Lord, Master over all. He stood and rebuked the wind and waves, Peace! Be silent! And they obeyed. Jesus is Lord of all, Victorious over sin, death and the devil. The chaotic waters and powers of the air submit to His Word. Silenced by His command they obey Him. The disciples ask ‘Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him.’ Of course the answer is, God Almighty, Creator of all, the one who laid the earth’s foundation, who marked it’s dimensions, who set the boundaries of the seas, who came before Job in a storm! And Job in his life was certainly rocked about, just like the disciples, just as we heard with Paul, just as the Church has been down the ages, and just as we in the boat of Christ’s Church also suffer today. Who is Jesus? He is God Most High! Now how do you respond?

            Job submitted, the waves stopped, the disciples feared, yet you know the Gospel, the truth of why Jesus came, to reconcile us together with God our Father, by the Holy Spirit. He has opened His heart wide to you, shown His love for you; today forgives you again, speaks with you again, strengthens you for going out into this broken world. Will you respond in prayer, praising Him the Lord of Hosts, God who created even you, who commands the storms of this world; and thanking Him for His mercy and teaching? Will you respond in song, singing of His greatness, and proclaiming His love? Will you respond as we go out into our communities, amongst those people we meet, and those trials we suffer, will you respond with love?

            Just as the disciples were in the boat with Jesus, under His protection, we are too. This doesn’t mean that there are no hard times in our lives, no hard decisions for our congregation, no persecution for Christ’s Church; and yet through all this, Christ is with us as He promised. We need not fear, yet even if you do that is good if it brings you to call on Jesus. Like the disciples, you might have little faith at times, ‘How can Jesus save if He sleeps, if I don’t see Him here?’ yet you’re still in the boat. We are in the boat together, and Jesus Lord over all storms, is here with us; we can call on Him and He listens, He will save His people despite our troubles in this world. Yet that question remains, how will you respond?

            The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.