June 21, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
We’ve all been in that dark place of fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety, and we all have fallen back on the old tried and true method of dealing with these things… panic! It is in the time of panic that we try everything imaginable to bring courage, stability, certainty, and peace. Advice from those older and more experienced than ourselves sometimes helps; but advice from our father or father figures is meant to teach more than reassure. You see, in order for the teaching to help it has to make sense, and in the middle of tragedy, who really wants to listen and learn. So if our fathers or father figures are wise in regards to God and His ways, they will encourage us to slow down, and then with a humble heart and mind, direct us to take it all to the Lord and call out to Him for help.
But what happens when we feel we’ve done that and have been doing that very thing, and nothing seems to be changing; nothing seems to be bringing us relief? Then we may be tempted to grow angry and bitter with God, or worse yet, we may doubt that He even cares. This is precisely where Job was within our Old Testament lesson. But God does see, and God does care, and to assume that He is clueless and distant is to follow a dark counsel without the wisdom of the Spirit.
This is precisely the message that God gave to Job when He declared these Words to Job, in the form of a question: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge.” When God addresses Job, He does so using His exact and personal name, Yahweh, or Jehovah. When God speaks to Job, His name tells all of us that “I Am” IS the God who knows all things and allows all things, so that in the end they will work together for the good of those He loves, for those who love Him. This all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful God then addresses Job and us, with these words of challenge. “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” In other words, this will be a contest; competition to see who it is that knows all; to see who it is alone that can declare in the end that it will be well with your soul.
Within His Words that follows, God desires to do a great work of faith, both within Job’s heart and our hearts. God desires to purge all of us of pride, and then force us to see our own sinfulness and helplessness, and then lead us to trust in God and His saving love; the love of our Eternal Father, strong to save
In our Gospel lesson (Mark 4:35–41), the disciples are being taught that exact lesson by the very Son of God, Jesus Christ. Every time I read this portion of scripture I can hear the underlying question beneath the disciples’ words recorded, and it is, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are about to die?” I think that is also our underlying question when we are going through the storms of life.
Dear saints, our central problem is not the storms of life, but instead it’s our sinful tendency to focus only on the storms. I think you will agree with me that it is hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us when our attention is consumed by the life threatening waves outside the boat that are now spilling into the boat and threatening to capsize us and pull us deeply down into the sea of despair.
Why do we so easily loose sight of Jesus in times of trouble and focus so heavily on the storms of life. Why do so many of our storms, life problems at the time seem so unsurvivable, but afterwards we can look back and see that we made it through, with even stronger faith? Because dear friends, one day, maybe sooner than we know it will be one of those storms that does end our earthly existence. Within this perspective of fear and worry, it’s hard to remember that Jesus is in the boat with us; it’s not easy to remember that God is on the job when the waves are in your face, and your boat is quickly filling with unwanted water!
Sometimes when we encounter these life storms, we can become like Job and his friends; we want to understand the storms. And so we ask, “What have I done to offend you Lord.” Or we may ask, “O Lord, don’t you care that I’m in trouble?”
We so desperately want to know the answer to things like” “Why did I lose my job, or why can’t I find a job? Why did the one I love and need so badly have to die? Why am I so sick? Will I ever get better?” Or perhaps even today we may be asking, “Oh Lord, why did you allow the evil to control that young man who killed nine of our brothers and sisters while they were praying to you at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC? We ask why because we hope that by knowing the answer to the unknown we will find a way to bring calm to our minds and peace to our souls. But the truth is that even through our best efforts of gaining knowledge we will always fall short of understanding the mysterious infinity of God’s mind and will; we will always be frustrated by the feeble limits of our own human intellect.
And to our insatiable desire to have God explain Himself, God asks us His own question: “How can you the creature ever understand I your Creator outside of what I have told you; outside of what I have decided is enough knowledge?” But this isn’t the answer we want, is it? No, secretly within our hearts we want God to explain Himself. So, our sinful nature loses sight of God’s love for us and instead of faithfully trusting in His presence and care, we begin to focus our worried minds on the unknown instead of the known.
The truth is friends, God’s love and grace sound good to us when things are going well. We will easily trust in His love, but sadly, when the storms of life come, and they will come, then the littleness of our faith appears. And when this weak faith becomes evident, Jesus speaks from within our boat and says, “Why are you being so cowardly? Don’t you have faith?”
Dear friends, the solution to our fears is to remember where Jesus is and who He is. We are reminded where He is, within His question of why we are afraid, and why we lack faith, we may be tempted to hear a scolding within the Words; that is we may receive the Words as just another accusation of God’s Law demonstrating how helpless and faithless we are. But if you hear Jesus Words that way, you have forgotten Who Jesus is. He is not speaking as a Judge, but as a Savior and a Comforter.
The Son of God is with you in the boat, traveling with you through the storm upon the sea of despair. After all, it was this Christ who told you to get into the boat with Him in the first place. He is the One Who died for all so that you would know that just as death had no power over Him, it likewise has no power over you. It’s not just the wind and sea that must listen to Him, but also sin, death, and the devil must obey Him.
Through His completed work upon the cross we are a new creation; through His Word and sacraments we are able to trust in His real presence with us, even when our own storms over power us. Through His presence, our little faith becomes strong faith, as we rest with the other disciples within this gospel ship we call the church. Because of Jesus, we don’t ever have to fear the storms of life again, because we know that through Him, God the Father is always for us and never against us. Within the waters of our own baptism we have been splashed with a power greater than all of the angry seas combined. Because the love of Christ controls us, we can trust in God’s kind heart, and through His love for us, all of our fears can be calmed and replaced with certainty.
Dear friends, in response to our cry, “Don’t you care that I am in trouble?” God doesn’t offer us understanding, but instead He offers us His presence within His precious promises. He Who said to the waves, “Thus far and no farther,” says to us, “Fear not, for I am with you always.” He assures us the He knows what we can never understand, and He is able to handle what ever we can’t.
Today dear friends Jesus tells us to stay within the Gospel Ship, even this little boat we call Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. He wants us to look around and see this truth: There is still room and time to bring more fearful and frightened sinners aboard, so that they too, along with us, can find salvation and peace. There will be storms, but Jesus will always be with us in the boat as we pass through the storms. And while He is with us, He is teaching each of us to trust Him and have faith—faith in the Fathers love for each of us. Oh sure, there will be times when it will seem as if God is silent; as if Jesus is asleep, but fear not little ones, even though He appears to sleep, He is with you in the boat. So take comfort, because the one who sleeps is also the one who never sleeps. He is the your Savior and Champion who promises to never leave nor forsake you.
He has permitted the storm to come your way so that you may know and trust Him deeper than you could ever imagine. But one day, your very last life storm will come, and that will be the perfect storm, because that will be the one that will take you to your perfect home in Paradise. Let us pray…
“O God our Defender, there are right now storms raging around us and within us, and they are causing us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us all from unbelief, unbelief that tries so hard to separate us from your eternal love. We ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!