Psalm 89:1-9, 14-18, Mark 4:35-41
February 17, 2019
I would remind you of something I said several years ago. All throughout the Bible, the people saw “the waters” – the oceans, the waves, the storms – as the most powerful force in the natural world. In the story of creation, the spirit of God moved across “the face of the deep” – the waters. The chaos, out of which God created, was more than just formlessness. It was the fearsome power and the unbridled fury of the waters.
We can get a sense of that kind of power when we think of the hurricanes here in our part of the world. The sheer power of the wind and water and waves is beyond comparison. Then, when we see pictures of other parts of the world where they have things like typhoons and tsunamis, maybe we can get some of the understanding of the ancient people. (As I was writing this, I was looking out across the ocean, just trying to imagine it’s depth and size and power. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t “wrap my mind around it!”)
Yes, today we have ways of controlling that power. And actually, we never really can! But at least we are now better able to predict it. Now we have real time weather satellites and we astronauts looking down from orbit all the time. And we have Doppler Radar right on our smart phones, telling us exactly what the weather is doing! Maybe some of you remember what hurricanes were like when the only thing we had was communication between people. When there was one person calling another, saying, “Hey, there’s a storm here! And it’s headed your way!” Can we imagine what it was like before there was telephone or telegraph communication?
Here we have a story from that kind of time, a time when there was little warning about storms other than “reading the weather.” Sayings like “Red sky at night…” that kind of thing. And the storms on the sea of Galilee could come up with little warning, and could be violent, and could be deadly. And don’t forget, the men in this story were fishermen. Their life was on the sea. And no doubt they had seen such storms. And I’m sure they had lost many of their colleagues, their fellow fishermen, to those storms.
That’s the power of this story. Because here we have a powerful storm. It has come up unexpectedly, or I’m guessing they wouldn’t have taken the boats out. And there were several boats here. And the boats are already filling with water. It isn’t , “Hey, this could be bad!” They had reached a point where the boat they were on was in the process of sinking. It was going down! And they knew they were about to die! They didn’t say “Save us!” They didn’t expect that! They just asked, “Don’t you care that we perish?” Because Jesus was asleep, and unconcerned!
So Jesus doesn’t just calm a storm here. He stops that process of their dying. He saves their lives. And, with all their understanding of the waters being the greatest of natural powers, this was truly an honest and a heartfelt question they asked, “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?!”
Now, how does that relate to us? Well, one way is something I’ve been saying a lot lately. From this story, we can know, that Jesus is who he says he is. Or in the case of his baptism story, he is who God says he is. And again, sometimes we need that. A lot of times we need that! We need to know we’ve made the right choice in following Jesus. Those men knew that something was right about following him, though they still hadn’t gotten the full import of that decision! We see that in their question. “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?!”
The other thing we get from this is the metaphor having to do with the storms of our lives. We all have them, don’t we! Life is not just “clear sailing” all of the time. Some of the storms of our lives are unexpected and some are violent. And we need to ask ourselves, “Can Jesus calm those storms?” As I’ve said before, we often lose that connection. We think “Oh sure, Jesus can do miracles. He can calm the storms. He can heal the sick. He can raise the dead! But my problems? That’s too much. My problems are too big!”
I love God’s answer to Job. In his anguish, after all the horrific things that had happened to him, he asked “why?” And God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” In other words, “You doubt my power?” Or even more importantly, “Do you think you’re the one who’s in control here?” “Do you think I should only do things only your way?” Think about that. That’s what we want, isn’t it? We want God to do things our way.
Now please understand, I firmly believe that God wants us to tell him what we want. He wants us to pour our hearts out before him. I believe God would rather have us scream at him than ignore him. But still, he wants us to know his power, and to know that he is in charge, not us! And I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s great comfort in knowing that!
But it’s not easy! It’s much easier, or much more comforting, to think that we have all the power, that we’re in charge, that things will always go our way! (And if we pray just right, we’ll get exactly what we want!) But if we really think about it. It’s better for us that we know the one who does have all the power, who is in charge, and by whose will things will ultimately happen.” Someone once said to me, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the one who holds the future.” I think that’s a great statement we can take with us this morning. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the one who holds the future.”
So, think about these men out on the once raging sea, staring at Jesus, asking “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?!” And consider the words of the old song, “Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water. Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.”
Eternal God, whose had has formed the earth and the world, and is still evident in the forces of nature, help us to trust your power over all of creation. Help us to know that you are in control. Help us to be assured that the wind and waves still know his voice that ruled them when he dwelt below. We pray in his name, Amen.