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  • Writer's pictureRev. Drew Stockstill

Caught In God's Whirlwind

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

June 20, 2021 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Grace and peace to you from God our father and the lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

We have been hearing a lot about the wind lately. I am not just talking about weather reports.

On Pentecost we remembered the rush of wind that brought the holy spirit into the lives of Jesus’ followers. God was present to them in a new way! Today we have heard about Jesus calming the storm that rocked that little boat where his disciples were riding to the other side with him. Sometimes I find what is not said in the scriptures is almost as interesting as what is said. What we don’t know here is where this sea was or how big it was. If it was the Sea of Galilee – which it might have been, then it was only a small lake.

On my first trip to Israel and Palestine in 2008, we went to Galilee – that was our first stop. The sea was so beautiful and calm, and much smaller than I had imagined it to be! It was probably no wider than the Susquehanna River at the stone arch bridge. I reached down and put my hands in it, and the water was just like silk.

As I did that I was reminded that just a few miles away, there were Israeli soldiers training and preparing for war against attackers from Lebanon or Syria. A little further away there were Palestinians trying to eek out a living and protect themselves from gangs taking over their homes and families.

What about us? Sometimes our lives as Christians are like that beautiful Sea of Galilee surrounded by rolling hills and palm trees, calm and peaceful. In those moments, it is easy to believe that God is in control and that God has created a world of beauty and wonder for us to enjoy. But more often than not, we find ourselves caught in a kind of storm and wind. Like the disciples – we worry about our health, our families, and our time, and our possessions. And as Christians we worry about the church – what will we do if our resources dwindle? How can we maintain the ministries that have meant so much to so many people here in this community for so many years? Aren’t we like the disciples in that boat? They felt secure in God’s presence – until a storm came up. Then they looked to their savior to help them – to protect them – to pull them up out of those stormy seas! Jesus was asleep in the boat. In fact, we are told, that he was on a cushion! Of course, he awoke and calmed the seas.

I remember as a child, I was so impressed with this story – I could not imagine that even Jesus would have that much power! But notice Jesus’ response to the disciples’ fear – he asks why they were afraid. The question that follows is probably best translated as “do you not yet have faith?” (RSV). In other words, they do not yet know what they can expect from Jesus.

Jesus can calm the seas, and we can expect even more from the son of God – in our lives and in our church. This idea of God calming the seas –bringing order and meaning to life is found in all the scriptures for today. In the Old Testament lesson, Job, who seems to have suffered beyond almost anyone else in the bible, hears God speak out of the whirlwind – out of the disorder and evil – and tell him that God is still in charge. Finally, God speaks. In 2nd Corinthians 6:1-13, (the 2nd lesson appointed for today) Paul tells his followers that in spite of their conviction and commitment to their ministry in Corinth, they may suffer – in fact, they may suffer because of it. God’s presence is with them.

Being caught in God's whirlwind may result in being sent into places we would rather not go. But God will continue to offer us a safe place. As we open our hearts to God’s will, and just let ourselves experience that whirlwind – we can always be sure that God is with us.

Did you ever consider how many of our decisions are made out of fear? And when we read that section of the scripture where Jesus says, “why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”, we know that the disciples responded in fear, and sometimes we do too. They might have said, “Teacher, we need your help.” But instead, out of fear, they accused Jesus of not wanting to help them. What’s important here is that Jesus still calms the sea for them. And almost instantly, their fear is transformed from anxiety into calm and amazement at what Jesus can do! They were in awe of him.

If it’s true that we sometimes make decisions out of fear, what can we do to calm our fears? Of course, we pray for discernment and greater faith in God. One of the most important ways we calm our fears is through the way we relate to each other in our Christian community. We remind each other that God is greater and bigger than we thought, and God – even in the midst of the storms of our life – is calling us to greater faith. In this congregation you comfort each other – heal each other - with the news of God’s steadfast love.

When we do that, we are only doing what we see happening in so many places in the scriptures. Think of all the angels and prophets that are sent to the people of God to say: do not be afraid. We can say that to each other – just as the saints before us did. They were caught up in the spirit of God. They found courage to serve and live – not to just get by – but through Christ – to dare to serve in new ways, to expect great things, to ask for great things and to share great things.

On this Father’s Day, let us remember that at their best, earthly fathers embody the love, care, and power by which god holds and support us through life’s trials. Yet when they fail, Christ is present through others and through his very self with a voice that can calm the waves.

What if we said to each other – you are God’s beloved child; do not be afraid. If we are assured of God’s faithfulness, we don’t need to be afraid. With that assurance we can enjoy the gifts God has given us.

Many people love going to the beach - sometimes just for the sights and sounds – the sunsets, the smell of the salt air, and the sounds of the sea gulls – the beauty of God’s creation. If you have ever been at the beach during a severe storm, you know how quickly that beauty can change. It’s a reminder that God is in charge of the chaos as well as the beauty.

There are times in our lives when Jesus may seem to be “asleep in the boat”, but his power is never gone from us. Sometimes those storms help us examine our mission and ministry and sense his presence in a new way. The good news is that we are never alone in our searching for answers in what may seem like the “storm of our ministry”. As you come together through worship and meetings and classes and serving those in this community, give thanks for the wind – as it has been the way throughout the ages that God has spoken to god’s people. May we, too, be caught in God’s whirlwind and have faith in what we have yet to expect from him. Amen.

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