Calming the Storm – March 16, 2015
March 16, 2015
This Lenten season, we’ve been looking at the miracles of Jesus. And we’ve been looking at them to see how they affected the people who were there to witness them. Particularly, we’ve been seeing how, the more Jesus did these miraculous things, the more some people turned against him. And we’re seeing how that eventually lead to his death.
Well, of all the miracles of Jesus – and there are too many of them to look at in this brief season – but of all of the miracles of Jesus, I didn’t want to miss this one! This is the wonderful story of Jesus calming the storm on the sea. And in this case, there were no Pharisees looking on. In this case, the people that were most affected by witnessing this miracle, were his disciples! As I alluded to a few weeks ago, they were still trying to figure out this man. They didn’t know what we know about him, and they were still learning. And when this happened, they said, “Who is this man?! Even the wind and waves obey him?!””
I want you to think about the storms you’ve encountered in your lifetime. (Sandy, Irene, Katrina. Donna? 1955?) Hurricanes are probably among the most dramatic. We’re still cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy at camp Kirkwood! I should say camp Kirkwood-Brainerd! And that storm was over 2 years ago! In Kansas, the thunderstorms of the Spring and early Summer can be most impressive. The one that hit the day before my daughter Jenny’s wedding was pretty amazing. There was no power in the church for her rehearsal! And it took a while for everyone to get there because of all the trees down across roads! Mother nature is one powerful lady!
I sometimes wonder about the days before modern weather forecasting! There was no view from space, when I was born. We just take that as a matter of course today. In fact, I often look at the radar map on my cell phone! It’s the same with medical technology! How many of you remember the term “exploratory surgery?” That was where something was wrong inside, but they couldn’t see, so they opened you up and took a look! Now there are all kinds of things they can use to see inside you, and they can also work on you from the outside with arthroscopes and laparoscopes and whatever-oscopes! It’s amazing, if you think about it!
How many of you have had cataract surgery? They used to have to sandbag your head to keep you still for a long time after that! Over a dozen years later, I’m still amazed at the modern miracle of Lasik surgery. Before I had that done, I couldn’t read anything – even in large letters! Not the tapestry over here. Not the Exit sign? Now my eyes are 20/15 and 20/10! Now I can read “Acme Exit Sign company U. S. registered patent.” Of course, now as I’ve gotten older, my near vision has lessened. It’s sometimes hard for me to read my menu in a restaurant. But I can read that guy’s!! (Excuse me, sir. Would you turn to the salads, please?)
It is an amazing world today. And of course, it’s all thanks to Star Trek! No, actually a lot of it is thanks to the space program. And I’ve been a huge advocate of that over the years! Besides the modern meteorological tools it gave us, like satellites and computers, it also gave us pictures of our own amazing planet from far away. It was a seminal moment in human history when the crew of Apollo 8 gave us the first pictures of “Earthrise” over the horizon of the moon!
Well, I could literally talk about that all day! But this amazing planet we live on is a complex environment. And some of the features and patterns that give us beautiful weather, also have the potential of giving us bad weather. And mother nature is often an unpredictable lady! And it wasn’t all that many years ago that they only things we had to predict when storms were coming, were things like wind direction, temperature, cloud patterns, and reports from other places. And even the reports from other places are a fairly modern invention. Before the widespread use of telephones – and before that, telegraph – there was no good way of warning one another of bad weather!
Well, I learned years ago that the weather on the sea of Galilee, was very hard to predict, and it still is today. Because of the topography of the land and the weather patterns in that region, storms on that sea could come up quickly, and with little warning. And those disciples knew that! They knew that lake! They knew those storms! And it’s very likely that they had lost fellow fishermen to those storms over the years. And that day, they thought they were next!
I’ll never forget the storm I once encountered when I was out on a boat with friends. We were on one of the large lakes near Lawrence Kansas, and a storm came up so quickly, and it was so powerful, it caught us all by surprise! We raced back to the docks! (And believe me, my buddy’s boat is fast!) And I’ll never forget the mayhem at the docks, with everybody trying to get their boats out of the water! Mother nature showed us that day what a violent lady she can be!
Well, thinking about that has often reminded me of this story for today. And I think the great thing about this miracle, was that the disciples didn’t think Jesus could do what he did! Oh yeah, he could heal some diseases, he fixed up that paralyzed guy, but to do anything about a violent storm that was about to drown them all… that was something else entirely! I don’t think it occurred to them that he could do anything about that! When they yelled, “Master do you not care that we are perishing?” that wasn’t really a plea to “save us!” It was more a cry of “How can you sleep when we are dying!”
Now, you already know one of the things I’m going to say about this. That is, we know the story! Because of that, we can’t quite relate to the disciples’ fear. But we can know, from this one statement, that they feared for their lives! And maybe it’s not quite the same for us. Maybe when things are tough for us, we aren’t in fear for our lives. (Then again, maybe we are in some way!) But maybe instead, we’re experiencing grief, or pain, or uncertainty. And when we experience those things, like those disciples, we too doubt God’s ability to do anything about it! I know there are times I feel that way. What about you? “Sure, Jesus can do all these miraculous things, and I believe them! But my problems, well that’s another story!”
As I’ve often said, it’s easy to trust God with the little things. Sometimes people have trivialized that trust! I actually heard a person say one time that they were having trouble figuring out which color socks to wear one day, so they asked God to help! And he did! That’s a true story! But I thought it was kind of trivial. That’s not very “deep trust.” That’s not how God wants us to trust him! It’s when we have to trust God with the big things – like our very lives – that this becomes hard. Because when things are hard, “when the going gets tough,” we tend to want to be in control of that! Or we tend to want to be the “final judge” as to whether or not it’s even possible for God to help! Sometimes it’s only when we have lost all ability to control whatever it is, that we finally turn to God. Well, the good news is that we can trust him even before that point! And that’s something that we should do!
So what I want us to take home from this story is that we can! We can trust God with the big things. We can look to him when things are tough. We can have his peace no matter what the circumstances! But notice, that’s not something that happens once – Boom! – and that’s all there is. Trusting God is something we have to learn to do, again, and again, and again. We literally have to “practice” that trust. And I hope we’ll think about that. That’s a good thing to “work on” during Lent!
For the last hymn today, I picked “Be Still My Soul,” that amazing hymn written by John Sibelius. I picked it for two reasons. First, it’s just about my favorite hymn in the whole book! And by the way, it’s also the tune for the national anthem of (?) Finland. Whenever I used it at my Kansas church, I would look out to find my one Finnish couple, the Hejtmaneks. And I would always see them singing, with tears streaming down their cheeks!
I also chose that hymn because it’s amazing in its message! And I’m going to ask you to listen closely to the words as you sing them, and see how they speak so well of the story we’re telling today. Look for these words in the second verse:
“Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake,
To guide the future, as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing break.
All now mysterious, shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know,
His voice who ruled them, while he dwelt below.”
Eternal God, ruler of the universe, help us to know that you are truly sovereign, and that we can truly trust your power in our lives. Help us to have peace and hope through whatever difficulties we might be facing. Help us to draw closer to you, and to feel your loving arms surrounding us. For this we pray in the name of Jesus, who calmed the storm, and who redeemed our lives, Amen.