Rehoboth Congregational Church
September 23, 2018
The Promise Amidst The Storm
We are working our way through the book of Psalms in bible study and this week we read Psalm 91, which is an assurance of God’s protection. It calls readers to say to God (and, of course, I am paraphrasing here), “You are my refuge; I trust you, I know that I am safe.” This psalm says that God shields us from injury and protects us from danger. It tells us not to fear anything or anyone; that God will protect us from wild animals, disease and natural disasters; that we will be untouched and unharmed. “Those who love me, I will deliver,” the Psalm says, “I will protect those who know my name.”
We all kind of looked at each other quietly when the psalm was over. Finally I broke the silence and said, “Well this is a little strange to read in light of what is going on in the Carolinas right now. Everyone nodded in agreement. At the time, Hurricane Florence had downgraded, but the damage had been done.
And yet – here in scripture, there is a promise that that won’t happen.
So here’s the thing: We all reach a point at some time or another where it seems as though the promises made to us in scripture have not bene fulfilled; where bad things happen that we cannot be protected from; where we are harmed or are sick or are in danger.
I wrestled with the same thought when I realized this week’s scripture from The Year Of Mark was Jesus calming the storm. How ironic that we are reading about a moment in time when Jesus said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” and the winds ceased when people lost their homes and some even their lives last week to a storm that raged around them.
I wrote a note in my bible next to Psalm 91 that said, “How do we reconcile this with what happened during Hurricane Florence?”
I am not sure I really have an answer to this question. Because, even beyond the devastation that the hurricane caused last week, I know there are people in my life – people in this church – that are facing storms of their very own; storms at home, storms at work, storms in their communities, storms with their families and their friends. Was human beings living in this very imperfect world, we face real and hard challenges in our lives that oftentimes we are not in control of. And even though we pray to God and hope for the best possible outcome, sometimes the winds do not cease; there is no calm.
But there is still hope in this story.
I believe that even though there are moments in our lives where the Gospel seems out of reach, we still have to remember that this is the good news that brings us new life; that it is God’s gift to us, in life and beyond life. We have to hold onto the hope that the message of the Gospel, including this moment in time, where Jesus calmed the storm, will find a way to shine light into the darkest moments of our lives.
Even when the storm is still raging.
This is often overlooked, but one of the first things that jumps out at me in this story is the fact that no one is alone on the boat. Not only was Jesus there, but the disciples were together; they had one another.
This is the Body of Christ in its earliest form and it is such a powerful witness to the work that we are called to do at the church. No one should ever face a storm in life alone and this is why we are called to do church. This is why we show up; why we are the hands, the feet, the face, the voice of Christ to people in the moments when they need it most, even if there is nothing we can say or do to make it better. This is why we send donations or deploy our own work crews when disasters strike. This is why we cook and clean and run errands for people going through a difficult time. This is why surround our people with love; why we descend upon them when they are ready for tangible support and love on them from a distance when they need space. This is why we put aside petty differences and continually do the hard work that is required to strengthen who we are as the Body of Christ.
And then, in those moments when we are the ones facing the storm, we know that we are not alone.
We know that we, too, are being supported and lifted up by a tangible expression of the Gospel, by our church. We feel the love and prayers of our church family. The winds might not cease and the storms might continue rage around us, but there but by the grace of God and the Church God has called into being, we are not alone.
We are never alone.
And here is the other thing to remember about facing a storm in life. In this story, the disciples were not the ones who calmed the storm; Jesus was.
So often, we try to be the saviors in our lives and in this world, but we have to remember that Jesus already took care of that. And does that mean that bad things will never happen? No. But it does mean that it is not up to us to be in control of everything. We put so much pressure on ourselves to fix the things that are going wrong in our lives and make them better and this is something we need to let go of. Jesus will calm the storm – it may not happen the way we want it to or when we want it to, but we do not have to do it ourselves.
We need let go of the feeling that we have to.
When Jesus woke up and calmed the storm, he told the disciples not be afraid, to have faith. “Why are you afraid?” he said. “Have you still no faith?”
Notice Jesus did not say that nothing bad was going to happen. He knew that wasn’t true, anyway. Jesus saw the storm raging. He saw the great gale arise, the waves beating on the boat and the boat filling up with water.
Jesus never said nothing bad was going to happen; Jesus said, do not be afraid.
And therein lies the promise of the Gospel.
That no matter what is happening in our lives, we do not need to be afraid.
Do not be afraid I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow me; I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
I will be the first to admit that there is an element of randomness in the universe that creates circumstances that are, to some extent, beyond our control. And sometimes we pray and pray and pray some more and it seems like those prayers are not answered and the storms rage around us.
But those are the moments when we have to hold onto this promise:
That we do not have to be afraid.
That we are not alone.
That we do not have to fix everything ourselves.
Friends, if you are facing a storm in your life, do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, do not be ashamed and do not feel alone.
There are people in that boat with you. People who love you. People who are praying for you. People who will show up for you, time and time again.
Have faith that the storm will pass. That even in those moments when your faith and your reality are hard to reconcile that God is still holding you in God’s light.
Trust that the wind will cease. And that there will be a calm.
Thanks be to God!