Monday, March 28, 2011

Christ: The King of Storms

Preached March 27, 2011

Scripture readings:
Exodus 14:10-22; Mark 4:35-41

For some reason I am able to remember a number of experiences I had as a baby. For instance, I clearly remember chewing on the railing of my crib, and what the wood tasted like. I remember crying because I have sticky food on my hands. And that wasn’t because of the hot-wings I ate a couple weeks ago.

What I want to share with you is the memory of my Uncle Eddie throwing me up in the air in my Baci’s apartment. In my memory, he is laughing and I am crying, and I see the reason in my memory: because I see the ceiling coming awfully close to me and it scares me. That’s it. That’s the memory.

What I know now (what I did not know at the time) is that I was in no danger of hitting the ceiling. My Uncle Eddie meant me all the good in the world. He was giving me an adventure, and he was an athletic eighteen or nineteen-year-old at the time. He was accustomed to throwing things up in the air, and catching them, and almost never dropping them. But I didn’t know that.

The adventure of Moses and the people of Israel at the Red Sea, and the adventure of Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee, are both adventures of the same kind. They are both adventures that God’s people took at the invitation of the Lord of the wind and the waves.

In both adventures, the Lord of the wind and the waves showed his people their fears and their doubts. By doing this he showed them how really distant they were from him, in their hearts; how separated and alienated they were from God. A part of our understanding of sin is to know that the thing we call sin is a state of being, a state of mind, that creates thoughts, and feelings, and words, and actions that form barriers between ourselves and God, barriers between ourselves and the humans around us and the natural world around us, and barriers that separate us from ourselves.

With the people of Israel, and with the disciples of Jesus, we see the same barriers and separations. We see fear and doubt. We see anger. We see a cruel and sneaky cleverness at work as well.

The people of Israel said, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” (Exodus 14:11-12)

There is the same meanness of spirit in the words the disciples said to Jesus. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38)

By this time the disciples surely knew that Jesus cared about them. The fact that they raised a question about what they knew to be true is very like what the devil did in the Garden of Eden.

In tempting Adam and Eve, the devil pretended that what even he knew to be true was untrue, in order to raise doubts about the words and intentions of God. (Genesis 3:1-5) The disciples had the powerful excuse of fear in the face of a clear and present danger. But it was still a satanic question for them to ask Jesus. “Don’t you care for us?”

We ask such questions, ourselves. We ask such unjust and dishonest questions to the members of our families, and to our neighbors, and to our fellow Christians; and we ask such questions to God (the Lord of the wind and the waves). They are satanic questions; but they are also very human questions, very much a part of who we are.

The Christian thinker Oswald Chambers, early in the twentieth century, held that “the root of sin lies in ‘an incurable suspicion of God’: the suspicion that God is not good.” (Found in “Signature Sins”, by Michael Mangis; p. 19)

The adventures of God’s people by the Red Sea, and on the Sea of Galilee, aroused exactly those suspicions. Our adventures arouse the same suspicions in us. We must see this. And, when we see this, we will clearly see exactly what we are. We will see our very selves, our very hearts.

An indispensible part of faith depends on our knowing who we are. The other part of faith comes from knowing who the Lord is. In this case, he is the Lord of the wind and the waves.

The disciples were afraid of the storm, but they were terrified of Jesus when he stopped the storm. They were suddenly more afraid of Jesus than of the storm. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)

This was not a question that had not been asked before. There was no new answer to such a question. There had always been only one who could command the wind and the waves, and that is God, the maker of the wind and the waves.

The Gospel of John tells us who Jesus is, in its opening lines. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

Jesus is the word of God. Jesus is the voice of God expressing himself and expressing his purpose. In the first chapter of Genesis, telling us about the creation, Jesus is the voice (the word) of God, saying, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” (Genesis 1:9) Jesus was in the word that said to Moses, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water.” (Exodus 14:16) The word spoke and it happened just as the word said.

And so, Jesus, “got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:39) The word spoke; and it happened just as the word said.

It was an ancient answer to an ancient question. It was a question that people in storms on the seas, and on the lakes, and on the shores have often asked. The answer is God, the maker of heaven and earth. He is the Lord of the wind and the waves.

The disciples were terrified at the thought that the Lord of the wind and the waves was with them in their fishing boat. He had been with them all along, and they were ashamed of how they had acted in his presence. All the while they had thought he was only their teacher, even though he was also a healer. “Who is this?”

The east wind on the Red Sea that drove a path for God’s people through the water was a storm that saved them from their fears. It saved them from their slavery.

The wind that drove the storm on the Sea of Galilee was a part of a path the Lord was making in order to save us from our slavery and our fears. It is typical of the Lord to make a path through such storms.

The Lord of the wind and the waves was planning to face the greatest storm in the world and speak the words that would bring us peace and lead us to safety. The perfect storm that Jesus planned to face was the storm of our temptations, and the power of sin, and the tragedy of death.

On the cross he held out his hands over the greatest storm in the world, and John tells us that Jesus said, “It is finished,” and then he died. (John 19:30) That was the calming and the parting of the sea of temptation, and sin, and death. Jesus made a path through that sea in order to remove the barriers in our life that divide us from God, and the barriers between us and the people around us and the world around us, and the barriers that separate us from ourselves.

The death and resurrection of Jesus rebuked the storm and gave us a new life, a life from God.

The truth is there are still storms. In the gospels, nothing is clearer than that following Jesus often leads his disciples into storms. Following Jesus leads us into caring for the needs of others. Following Jesus leads us to stand for the truth and the right. These things take us out of our shelters and into the storms. Following Jesus can get us into trouble. And, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation (you will have trouble); but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

In our world today, there are Christians who face the storm of persecution and injustice. They do this because they follow Jesus.

But Christians also face real storms as well. There were and are Christians in Japan who suffered with everyone else: who died, or were injured, or lost homes and loved ones, in the great earthquake and the tsunami that followed. We face the same storms everyone else does. We are not immune.

Here in wheat country our worst storms are droughts. Our small communities face the storm of the loss of our institutions and our way of life. We face the storm of community quarrels and misunderstandings.

We have smaller storms that hurt us more. We have the storms of division in our families. We have the storms of accidents and sickness. We have the storms of financial struggles. We have storms in our feelings, and thoughts, and our patterns of life.

For the disciples in the boat with Jesus, in the middle of that storm, I wonder if the worst part of it was the fact that Jesus seemed ready to sleep through the storm. It is my nature to worry, and it is also my nature to concentrate on my fears more than is good for me. So I am quick to notice when the Lord seems to be not saying anything to guide me, or seems to be not doing anything to help me. I notice that really fast.

When I was in Waitsburg I remember being in the church yard. It was a church work day, and I got distracted, and thought of something else that needed to be done.

It didn’t have anything to do with the work of that day. It was some kind of elder business. I remember talking to one of the elders about it and going over the process of what needed to be done, in way too much detail. He interrupted me and said, “Dennis, don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it.” That is what the Lord says.

Ultimately, the sleeping of Jesus was a credit to his own integrity in who he was and is. Jesus, unlike me, does not worry. He knows what to do and he will take care of it.

It is important to know that the Lord does not usually make our storms happen. They just happen. The Lord created a world where storms happen. The wind can be a nuisance but the wind is good. It circulates the air of the planet. It makes the weather possible. A planet without wind would become a dead planet.

It is the same with earthquakes. They are very dangerous, like the ocean. And they are as necessary for life as the ocean. If our planet stopped having earthquakes it would be because the core of the earth had become solid and unmoving, and the earth would become a dead planet, and all life on earth, as we know it, would come to an end.

Some of the disciples were fishermen. They were often in their boats on the lake. Galilee is notorious for treacherous winds. Geographically speaking, it is a natural funnel for winds. It was inevitable that Jesus would be in a boat with his disciples in a wind storm. It was a part of life.

Storms often require something from us. There are things for us to do in a storm, but those things need to be done in faith. Anything we do in a storm will probably get done better if we do it in faith than if we don’t do it in faith. Faith is a great guarantee of quality control.

Back to the beginning of the creation: again it tells us a lot about God as the Lord of the wind and the waves. Genesis tells us this. “Darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) The Holy Spirit is often pictured as a great wind. It seems to picture the beginning of the creation as a storm. It tells us that the Holy Spirit is also the Lord of the wind and the waves.

In the work of creation, in the work of saving the people of God from slavery in Egypt, in the work of saving the disciples from the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and in the work of saving us from the storm of temptation, sin, and death the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together. All the fullness of God works; either to give us peace from the storm, or to make a path for us through the storm.

There is always the presence of the living God in every storm; to be with his people, to be with anyone who cries out to him for help, to bring them his peace, to bring them close to him.

The Lord may end a storm out of love for us. The Lord may also make a path through the storm, just as his cross, and his death, and his resurrection make a path that he walks with us. His cross, and his death, and his resurrection are his work to deal with the storms we all walk through; the storms we cannot avoid.

There are storms that we go through with the Lord for our salvation. There are storms we go through with the Lord that make us grow. In all of the stories of storms, God’s people are never alone. The Lord of the wind and the waves goes with them. He goes with us.

No comments:

Post a Comment