“Trust God – Even in a Storm!”
Mark 4:35-41, June 20th, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these ancient words attributed to the teaching of Jesus, when he was with his early disciples, from the gospel according to Mark, chapter four, verses thirty-five thru forty-one.”
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?”
“Having listened with our ears to this accounting of Jesus calming the storm, let us consider the storms which rage in our own lives.”
“Trust God – Even in a Storm!”
My Father was an interesting man. When I was growing up, we lived in a little town called Leverett Massachusetts in the western portion of the state. It is in the suburbs of Amherst which housed a college, now a university I believe. Leverett was always a small town and still is, best I know. My grandfather was the Minister of Leverett, there was a Baptist church in East Leverett. Dear dad, he worked most of his life in a machine shop knocking burrs, the edges off fresh cut steal parts, small items such as screws and small hinges and such. Dirty unrewarding work as a whole. He had to punch a time clock as he went into work and punch it again when his shift was over. Thankfully, in his later years he was able to secure a janitor’s position at the then local college in Amherst. He also became a Gideon and took great pride in passing out Bibles to the students at the college. Then humble picked out of the trash the ones thrown away, in hopes he could try to find better homes for those Bibles.
Dad loved my grandfather Dixon, the Preacher, he just struggled with the theology of us moderate Christians. He, like myself believed in Christ and the love of God. It was the details where we struggled. Only after I went to Seminary did I find the language to talk with him about religion without having to disagree with his understandings, all the time. He had a smile on his face the last time I saw him. He loved to pray. I often remember how long they were and that he would pray anywhere and at any time. He once told me, when I was learning the art of public prayer, that you just talk to God, but close your eyes and say the words out loud. Remember to whom you are speaking seems to be the ultimate message he was preaching that day. His words and practice, practice, practice have caused me to be more comfortable with prayer than I first was; that is for sure. My father was a man of great faith, as was my grandfather Dixon. They are both very much a part of my faith journey.
Grandfather Dixon and my father where in many ways alike while being total opposites. Dad was willing to go to great lengths to help others. He was always reaching out to the missionaries from the Baptist church. Offering them a place to stay, feeding them and helping them financially. My Grandfather founded a summer Christian camp for boys and girls. Camp Anderson it was called. One of our members, of this congregation, Mary Lou Dragon, gave me a picture of a cabin she stayed in… back in 1948 at Camp Anderson. She must have known Old Uncle Herby as grandpas was called while at the camp. He worked countless hours, with no pay, at that church camp. He prided himself in getting scholarships for underprivileged children to come to camp. It was a two-week camp for boys, then yet another two-weeks for the girls. The camp is still there, different name, yet still serving the needs of local children. A tremendously successful ministry he initiated in that region! Because of his efforts I learned all about Mother nature and God’s nature, in that area, and I learned a lot of games. Old Uncle Herby was the master of creating children’s games. Adults enjoyed them as well.
My dad was always trying to teach me the names of the trees surrounding our home. Grandfather was always teaching me about being selfless and striving to help the underprivileged and needy. Neither were perfect, nor am I. Yet, in my heart I can feel the sincere humility of their simple faith and understanding of what it means to walk in the shoes of Jesus, as they strived to live out their faith. Gramps never saw my struggles as a young adult, yet his example now rings clearly in my heart. My relationship with my father was strained during those years of misunderstanding, yet I know in my heart that he and I were at peace before he passed over to the other side. They both put their trust in God, even during the bad times. Trusting God, even in the stormy portions of our journey is clearly what our lesson this morning is all about. But rather than having the backdrop of a small town in western Massachusetts, our scripture takes place in a different time and place.
There are all kinds of storms, like the thunderstorms that are starting to make their way back into our daily forecasts! When I first moved to Florida, my family and friends back up in New England, all warned me of the storms which come in the long, long summers in South Florida. I took on a ministry, for fourteen weeks, in North Miami. It was in June, I do believe, when I first started there. I had only been to the church once as I was living in Boca Raton. On that Sunday, my first day, I got lost in North Miami. I was in the middle of a turbulent emotional storm as I tried to find my way. I finally stopped and said a prayer, asking for God to show me the way. I made a couple more turns, and low and behold there was the church! Several people came to my car helped me with my robe and my sermon material and hurriedly rushed me to the back of the church where the choir was awaiting my arrival. Someone helped me put on my robe and we immediately processed in! My emotions settled down and that day’s storm passed. A pinch a faith, a little trust in the Spirit of God and all was well.
My sermon that first Sunday began with my talking about all the concern my family and friends had for me as I moved to Florida. It was a beautiful morning in Miami that day, about 95 degrees. I raised up the front page of the Boston Globe which had been delivered to our home in Boca that morning. It read: “Heat wave overtakes the Boston area with record highs of a hundred plus degrees.” The congregation roared that day. We had a wonderful journey together. I loved being their pastor. The summer storms came and went and yes there were many days above ninety-five degrees in Miami that summer. I baptized a few babies, did a few funerals that summer. God had allowed the analogy of stormy weather to coincide with my fluctuating emotions and I began my ministry beyond the boundaries of my training. The words of the professor that spoke of the difference between the ‘fine’ theology of seminary and the ‘folk’ theology I learned while visiting shut-ins and interacting with the needs of local people of a local church, far, far away from my home and my memories of my grandfather and my dad; the professor’s words took on new meaning for me. I began to more deeply, understand the depth of the words trust and faith in the midst a storm truly meant.
When I first came to the Sebastian Florida area, the youth group leader, of the church I was serving, wanted us to join them for a boat ride on the river. Actually. A kayak excursion. It sounded like a lot of fun, but Lois and I had never been in a kayak. He brought a truck load of kayaks and put them in the water – all we had to do was get in one. It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. Nice breeze. Perfect afternoon for an excursion on the river in a kayak. Lois and I were getting into the same boat. Lois got in first I helped her a bit. Then it was my turn. The kayak was a few feet from shore. Karoline Lewis, a trusted theologian, and writer says it so well. “The hardest thing is getting into the boat. You just have to get into the darn boat.” I finally got in. A bit wet. But not that bad. We saw a lot of beautiful sights that day. Birds, and such. A dolphin or two. Just a really nice day. When we got back, someone helped Lois from the boat. All I had to do was get out. I had dried off by then. Well, I slipped and yes, I got really wet. We got the boat out. And we all sat in the Gazebo to enjoy some sort of refreshments. I could not find my phone, not until I walked back down to where I got out of the kayak. There it was, lying at the bottom in a foot of water. “All I had to do was get in and out of the darn boat.” Yup, my cell phone got wet that day. It was a flip top. When I went to get it fixed, the fella that listened to my tale said to me, as he pointed to the trash can, “drop it there in the can and pick out a new one, I will be with you in a moment.” Yes, I had to buy a new one. That beautiful sunny day… turned into a storm for me. Yup… I finally got in! I got in the Boat!
What I got was a deep sense of understanding of those two words, trust and faith; once I had matured in my journey of ministry, I finally really got it!
Are there storms that come up in my life? You can count on it! Are their storms in your life that come up? Moments when you feel like the disciples in our scripture lesson? Of course! We all have moments of chaos or confusion and even fear that come up unexpectedly! Everyone of us have those moments when things happen or situations arise when we do lose our faith, even if only for a moment! It happens. Thankfully, you and I, we have that tiny mustard seed of faith from last weeks lesson to hold onto! All we need to do is Pause and Pray. Take that extra moment to ask God to be with you, to help you in your time, your moment of need. Trust me, it works! The problem may not go mystically away, but the peace of God can fill you heart and calm your nerves, dispelling your fears in a blink of the eyes! Trust God – Even in a storm! God is with us and will not forsake us!
Happy Father’s Day,