Summary: A sermon about faith in the face of life's storms.
"We are Not Alone in the Boat"
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus and the disciples are hit with a storm.
No doubt, when they got into the boat, after a long day of Jesus preaching to the crowds, the surface of the water was glassy and the sky was not dark.
Jesus, exhausted, went to the rear of the boat and fell asleep on a pillow.
Then, "gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat," and water started to spill into the boat.
It looked as if they were going to sink for sure.
Understandably, the disciples panicked and rushed to Jesus, and they were shocked and perhaps a bit angry that He was sleeping through all this.
"Teacher," they cried, "don't you care that we're drowning?"
We too are dealing with all kinds of storms.
On Wednesday evening, Dylan Roof, 21 of Lexington, South Carolina walked into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
There was a peaceful prayer meeting taking place.
After an hour of sitting in on the meeting, witnesses say that the young man stood up and said: "I am here to shoot black people."
He killed nine human beings with a .45 caliber gun his dad had bought him for his 21st birthday.
Upon hearing about this, many of us might have wondered, "O, dear God; how could You allow this to happen?
Why didn't You stop it?
Don't You care?"
Due to the brutality of ISIS sources say that "There are more refugees in the world today than any time since World War 2."
Just when we thought the waters were calming between Russia and the United States, talk of war and the arms race appear to have begun again.
We might ask, "Dear God, don't you care that we are drowning?"
In our personal lives we may find that those people and things we have always relied on for security are being swept away:
...a parent loses his or her mental faculties...
...a loved one goes to the doctor and is told that they have cancer...
...someone in our family loses their job...
...a close friend is killed in a car accident...
...a spouse dies of a heart attack...
...a family member goes to prison.
When these things are happening, it can feel as if everything is falling apart beneath us.
We might wonder, "Is God asleep?"
"Doesn't He care that we're drowning?"
Each of us knows from one experience or another, what it's like to be caught in a storm, to feel alone, and, like the disciples, to be afraid.
We fear rejection, disapproval, failure, meaninglessness, illness, and of course--death--our own death, the death of those we love, and the death of people we don't know in foreign wars.
My brother-in-law recently lost his last living parent, his father.
That day I asked my sister how he was feeling...
...her answer: "Alone."
In this story, Jesus challenges the disciples and Jesus challenges us to turn to Him--the Lord of winds and waves--and trust that He is not only more powerful than the storms that rage around us, but also that we are not in the boat alone.
Jesus goes through the storms with us.
You know, as we look at this Gospel lesson this morning, it's important to note that Jesus never says that there is nothing to be afraid of.
The winds and the waves were a real and dangerous threat.
Rather, Jesus asks, "Why are you frightened?
Don't you have faith yet?"
A child wakes up in the middle of the night, terrified by some dream, scared of some monster that lives under the bed.
A mother rushes to the child's room and whispers gently, "Shhh...there's nothing to be afraid of."
But as comforting as these words are, is there really nothing to be afraid of?
Certainly there is no monster lurking under the child's bed, but there are plenty of other things in the world that are lurking...
Saying: "There is nothing to be afraid of," is very different from saying, "Don't be afraid."
Because the hard truth of the matter is that scary things are very real: isolation, pain, illness, rejection, meaninglessness, losing one's job, failure, bigotry, hatred, murder, you name it...
But as we grow in faith, we come to understand that even though such horribly fearsome things are very real, they don't have the final word!!!
They don't have ultimate power over us, because God is mightier than they are.
Time and time again, we read these words in the Bible: "Do not be afraid."
They are, you might say, the first and last words in the Gospels.
They are the first words that the angels say to the terrified shepherds when Jesus is born.
They are the first words spoken to the women at Jesus' tomb when they find it is empty.