“The Storm Has Passed”
September 24th, 2017
Mark 4: 35-41
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words of scripture from the gospel according to Mark, chapter 4, verses 35 thru 41.”
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 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?”
“Let us allow our hearts to absorb what our ears have heard, as we thank God for the storms which have passed.”
Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, Norma and Otis, all current & named storms this season. Two of them we know all too well, Harvey and Irma, two really-big storms; and it appears Maria will also be remembered. In our scripture today, we hear of a great wind-storm which the disciples and Jesus get caught up in; we never learn its name. Named or no-name, storms are anxiety producing events! I think we can all agree about this. Some storms pass over us, some leave their destructive mark and often they are killers, they destroy the order of life for millions of families. And for some they destroy homes and take lives. The aftermath is costly and oftentimes heart wrenching for many. In the story of the storm, which Jesus and the Disciples experienced, no lives were lost, at least none are recorded in scripture for us. Other scripture lessons and writings tell us of the high cost, they tell us of what the ‘real-life storms’ cost Jesus and his early followers. Half a trillion dollars is the current cost of Harvey and Wilma. Yet, the true cost will be much higher than that!
The storms of life are not always in the form of named storms. Most of them are unnamed and they are most typically personal. Despite the scolding from Jesus: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” /Mark 4:40/ This is not a very easy sermon to preach, likewise, it is a really-hard one to fully live into. Fear, anxiety, worry and concern over a coming or pending event, are interchangeable nouns describing our feelings about and around current or projected and approaching storms. Most of us humans, experience these feelings at one level or another – when the storms of life hit! You and me, we are only human. This story about the disciple’s fear, was written, I believe, to help us to grasp the fact that even the most faith filled followers, disciples of Christ, experience fear, now and then. This is not a question. The question is, what do we do when we find ourselves caught up in these realities of life.
When the wind is howling at 60 MPH it can make your heart pound and your ears perk up. When it reaches 80 MPH the anxiety over the state of the shingles on your roof begin to become more acute. By the time the gusts break 90 MPH you may find yourself asking God for courage and mercy. This is very much what it felt like when Irma pasted over my house. Do you remember how you were feeling? Folks on the west coast of Florida, especially on the Keys, if they did not evacuate, they surely felt the full effects of these emotions. Those that did evacuate may also have experienced these worrisome feelings as they helplessly looked on, via the internet or one of the news broadcasts of what was ‘happening’ during and after the storm. No, being in the-midst of a storm is not easy, no matter how strong your faith!
There are numerous storms that do not get named and do not bring winds nor rain. Yet, most of them cause us humans to expel a great deal of energy and emotion upon them, and/or about them. It would be great if this were not so. With this said, some of us may feel this does not apply to us. If that is you, great! I pray we all are that strong, that faith filled and are truly able to stand up to life’s full furry without even a whimper or a frayed nerve. However, the majority-of-us will experience at least a moment of concern or distress during such moments. Whether, it be a hurricane or the trauma of a broken heart or a broken promise. Yes, that is correct, there are a large assortment of storms that come our way. Many are caused by Mother-Nature, yet the day-to-day storms which we all experience, are caused by human relations and human situations! Because of this, we need to consider the story of Jesus and his disciples, whom are caught up in a storm upon the sea, as more of a parable for our use then necessarily a story of an actual event! If we do so, then we are free to apply this lesson more ‘liberally’ upon our broader spectrum of life events.
Whether we are caught up in a storm of Mother-Natures doings, or in a storm of life, we can look to our parable this morning as a reminder of what we might do when such an event comes our way. Most of our storms of life, are not caused by natural causes. It may seem that way when a hurricane or such comes our way, this we can easily see. However, in our day-to-day lives most life predicaments are human made. It is either some “thing” which was created by humans or some “situation” caused by a human, which trips us up. The computer freezes-up on your busiest day at the office, usually when you have just written a creative sentence or you have just entered a string of numbers, which you have been working on for a time, without-yet having saved your priceless efforts! I have felt this more than once while working on a critic point in one of my writings. Very, disorientating when this occurs. I have seen it happen to others or heard their versions of their unhappiness over such an event!
Then there are always the ‘relational situations’ which seem to come upon stormy grounds! Most of us, by the time we become adults, have experienced this at least once! Rather than get into a litany of all the situations and emotional moments, both good and not so good, which we can create for one another, let us just say that if not handled correctly, these can, most certainly, turn into a stormy situation! I am praying that none of us here gathered know of what I am speaking from personal experience. However, my knowledge of life suggests to me, we all know, all too well, exactly what I am referring to! I shall not try to explain where hurricanes come from, nor shall I try to explain why we humans do what we do. But, I will endeavor to suggest to you we need to be more conscious of each other – as we each are creations of God. Thus, we ought to treat each other accordingly.
This has gotten us into the heart of the story. The disciples, being sorely afraid, beg upon Jesus to save them before they parish! We know that this is where Jesus admonishes them: “Why are you afraid?” /Mark 4:40/ Our response is already on the table: “we are only human.” What it feels like Jesus is trying to impress upon us is simply: that we need not be afraid, which is a rhetorical or stylistic remark! Which is quite different than simply being scolded for being afraid! And yes, once we regain ourselves, regaining our composure, especially, after the storm, we can see that we did not need to spend so much time on our emotional fears. The harsh reality is, God has not promised to protect us from our calamities, but rather to be with us in-the-midst of them. God’s constant love is promised to us all! More would listen to my voice if I gave you false promises at this juncture, yet I shall not do that. I will simply remind us all how: God, through Christ, has already promised us life after death, what more can we ask for?
In the aftermath of the storm, that time when the storm has passed, is an opportunity for us to reflect on the strength of our faith. Jesus’ remark shall give us a place to start as we begin to rebuild, repair and/or accept the changes which the storm has left us with. “Have you still no faith?” /Mark 4:40/ The clean-up and the rebuilding of the “Florida Keys” and other areas along our ‘southern’ and ‘western’ coast line, these areas will take months, years perhaps to rebuild, which is what many are starting to predict. But this must be done with knowledge of what has occurred. Thereby, learning from past building practices and codes – to strive and work toward improving the quality of homes and businesses. There is little doubt in my heart, a great many shall seek to rebuilt in these areas. Just look at the tenacity of New Orleans after Katrina hit! The lessons are there for knowledgeable folks to learn from. Let us pray this happens.
We can apply the same principles and practices… in our personal human made predicaments or calamities. We all know that when we spill a glass of milk, a small calamity, we need to count to ten then get the clean up under way, before we pour another glass. We all know the ritual! You have an accident… you clean it up. The boys put a baseball through a window there are steps that need to be taken to correct this carelessness. Hopefully, lessons are learned along the way. Once the drama of the event, and the chaos of the storm has passed, this is when our response is imperative! Clean up, initiate insurance claims, schedule repairs and all such matters need to be monitored and followed-up on, to be sure those things needing doing are done. These are the obvious things.
When you finally catch your breath, breath, then try to focus on God’s love, allowing it to nourish your spirit by remembering it is our faith which makes us stronger. So, do not be further weakened by continually acknowledging and focusing on your lapse or lack of faith. Rather, be encouraged you can take steps to strengthen it once again! This is when we can get down to the heart of our personal needs. Yes, it is important to talk about building a stronger foundation for our buildings; yet, it is also a time to talk about building up the underpinnings of our faith. Every architect and builder knows following a blue print or a plan of action – is the best way to start a new project. This is based on years of knowledge and experience.
The same is true when we look to matters of faith. We must look to the teachings of Jesus, good teachers, and good pastors, from all faiths, whom have endeavored to lay out the rudiments of faith building, throughout the ages. We must work from our base of knowledge and experience as well! God is the architect, Jesus is the primary contractor in this. Pastors and teachers are only sub-contractors. All the rest of us are ‘Day Laborers,’ without which: the work, the rebuilding and all the details that need to be followed-up on, they will never get done! It is the willingness of each one of us to do our part, if we truly want to rebuild, and endeavor to build with a stronger foundation, with all the stronger supports and structures which are needed!
We have already done the hard part. We got into the boat with Jesus. We have weathered the storm! Now it is time to reach out and seek God’s help. Pray about it. Never give up hope! God is with each one of us, day by day. God loves us.