I am at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, in Ft. Worth, this week. I’ll be lucky to get much of a sermon together for Sunday, much less post much about the lectionary texts this week. Instead of posting about each one, I am just writing a few thoughts about the Gospel text–the one I’ll be preaching from on Sunday.
This account of Jesus and the disciples caught in a storm has been mined for sermons too many times to count. It is the classic text for any pastor to reference in most any circumstance in life, as it serves as a perfect reminder of what the presence of Christ provides in the midst of any experience of chaos in life.
Jesus and the disciples had just left shore and were headed out in a boat across the lake. Jesus had requested that they go to the “other side,” probably as a way to get away from the crowds as much as to get some much-needed rest. While they were out on the water, a storm came blowing through out of nowhere, which often happened on these waters. Even though the disciples were familiar with maritime unpredictability, fear and panic filled them as quickly as the waters filled their boat. And even though the disciples were becoming familiar with the miraculous reliability of Jesus, doubt and resentment swamped their minds. Jesus was in a slumber, showing no concern, they thought, for what was happening to them.
People we will be preaching to from our pulpits on Sunday won’t need any help getting into this story. Even if they have not heard this story, it will immediately resonate with them. Most everyone has found themselves, at one time or another, in the unpredictable squall of a lifetime, experiencing the swamping of overwhelming waves. Some people will report bigger waves than others, but storms are inevitable and common to all.
If my experience is typical, most of the “all” give in to the instinctive emotions of fear and panic. And those who are honest enough with themselves or others will admit that they wonder why Jesus isn’t doing anything about the storm. He could at least help bail out the mess, we reason. We think of how helpful he has been with others, but why is he sleeping in our time of need? Some in our congregations may arrive on Sunday with these very questions and emotions.
Jesus’ words to his fellow sailors as well as to the storm were both instructive and comforting. They continue to be so for us and to those with whom we share this story with on Sunday.