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Summary: Apostles, Pt. 7

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STORM IN A TEACUP (MATTHEW 14:21-33)

Storms are mostly “powerful winds in the air.” Unfortunately, our church, located along the 15/60 freeway corridor, is a street away from extremely wind-friendly Ontario, one of the windiest cities in Greater Los Angeles. Our church’s portable basketball hoop was toppled with ease. In previous years, the winds have knocked down the tree in our courtyard, forced out a panel of glass and blown down the storage door. Trying to open one’s car door without hitting a neighbor’s car is a challenge! The strongest winds in 2006, while nothing compared to Chicago’s record 88 mph winds, clocked in at 58 mph.

The strangest thing happened at my home, also located within the vicinity. It was a trash day when the winds struck. On my way out I noticed our big trash container was not on the curbside. I could not get out of my van to check due to strong winds, but returning home later, I realized the bin was really missing or stolen. The next day when I reported the stolen bin to the waste company, customer service says, “Are you sure the winds did not blow it away?” At the end of the week I found it five houses down, lying in a stranger’s front lawn. I explained to the neighbor that it was probably because we have too little trash. He said that his was full, but still it was blown a few houses down across the street!

One year (2007), the three-year old tree in front of my house was toppled by winds.

Brittanica.com says, a storm is “a generic term, popularly used to describe a large variety of atmospheric disturbances, ranging from ordinary rain showers and snowstorms to thunderstorms, wind and wind-related disturbances, such as gales, tornadoes, tropical cyclones, and sandstorms (Brittanica.com). Storms are dangerous, destructive and deadly, and they easily obliterate people, damage property and overrun protection in their path.

Just after Jesus had fed the 5,000 men, not including women and children, he sent the disciples on a boat to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd, went up a mountain and spent the night in prayer. Meanwhile, the boat, far from shore, was buffeted out at sea by the wind and the waves. Jesus went out to the disciples, but the terrified disciples thought they saw a ghost. When Peter realized it was Jesus, he asked for a miracle: to walk on water. He succeeded momentarily, but fear, panic and doubts seized him, and he sank like a rock.

Why do fears attack, weaken and immobilize our hearts, resolve and faith? Is fear a trap or a test? And how does Jesus’ presence remove the peril of fear?

Check Your Facts

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (Matt 14:21-25)

“Peanuts” character Lucy, the entrepreneurial and mercurial wannabe psychiatrist, had set up shop in the neighborhood, unfurling a banner that says, “Psychiatric Care 5 cents.” She had her hands full with her first visitor. Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, stood in anguish as she explained her fear to Lucy in anticipation of the first day at school. With her back against Lucy, wringing her hands in discomfort and wearing a flat expression on her face, she confided to Lucy: “My problem is I’m afraid of kindergarten. I don’t even know why! I try to reason it out, but I can’t...I’m just afraid.” Then she sweated profusely and was more dramatic as she concluded, “I think about it all the time...I’m really afraid...”

All the time, Lucy listened calmly, patiently and attentively with her hands holding up her face as she faced her client. Finally Lucy extended her hand and said to the kindergartener, who almost fell from her chair: “You’re no different from anyone else...five cents, please!”

In this passage, the Greek word “phobia” for “fear” or “afraid” looms large, draws close and appears menacingly - in verses 26, 27 and 30. Someone said the acronym fear stands for “false evidence appearing real.” My favorite is “Forget everything and run!” As Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It is hard to explain why people fear more than just dogs, snakes or insects. Time magazine reported that people suffer from at least 500 human fears – from acrophobia (fear of heights), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and agoraphobia (a crushing, paralyzing terror of anything outside the safety of the home) to the fear of objects, colors, animals, people, and other specific morbid fears (Time 4/2/01 “What Scares Us”).

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