When Storms Come

“When Storms Come” Mark 4:35-41
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, June 20, 2021

As we gather here for Worship on this beautiful summer day with bright blue skies, people down south in our state are still recovering from the deluge and damage of all the rain dumped on them by tropical storm Claudette. News reports on Thursday and Friday showed people down there scrambling to brace for flooding and damage from all that rain hitting in a short amount of time. The people in those parts know that storms will come and what to do to survive.

While we escaped any effects from Claudette, we are all too familiar with storms. We tend not to think about them much when all we can see is sunshine and blue skies, but when they come, they can wreak havoc on us and even threaten our very existence. Storms that take the form of health problems, financial issues, job changes, relationship challenges, and mental health struggles. I couldn’t help but think of these as I read our gospel text for today as it describes a storm Jesus and the disciples would face, one that would come out of nowhere and scare them to death. The account illustrates for us not only the danger of storms but how to weather them when they do come.

One thing Mark tells the disciples did was to look at Jesus. They could see Jesus right there in the boat with them but he was asleep. The storm was rocking their boat and about to do them in yet Jesus was snoozing. We can sense their frustration with him as he lay there, snoozing comfortably as their hearts are pounding with fear. It is worth noting, though, that they looked not only at him but to him, as they were at the point of knowing that he could do something to save them. They had, after all, seen him do so many amazing things before. Mark describes their dependence on Jesus so that his audience, hearing about the storm decades later, would know that they too could look at and to Jesus in the midst of their storms as they existed as a persecuted church.

We are even more removed from the tempest Mark described. And yet we have storms of our own these days. Like the disciples and the early church, we must also learn to look at and to Jesus when they come. Have you seen him there with you in your storms? Are we as a church today aware of the presence of Jesus in our midst in this unstable and daunting time in the world today? When we see him there, we may have the same reaction as the disciples, wondering what it is that he is doing, wondering why he isn’t as concerned about what’s going on around us as we are, perhaps thinking he helps everyone else but must be too tired or worn out when we need him the most. Or, maybe we come to the conclusion that he isn’t what we have thought him to be.

Those kinds of thoughts and reactions led to the next thing the disciples did—speaking their emotions out loud toJesus. They woke up Jesus as he lay there asleep on the cushion, saying to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” I’m thinking that Mark must have done some editing here, cleaning up their words a bit. They were obviously afraid as water was lapping over the sides and swamping out their boat. Their fear turned to anxiety and their anxiety turned to irritation. Jesus, how can you sleep right now! After Jesus takes care of the storm, he interacts back with them about their fears and doubts. The storm led them into a much needed conversation about fears, doubts, and faith.

We too are greatly helped when we interact with Jesus, even when we may see him but wonder why in the world his presence with us doesn’t seem to be helping. Have you had words with Jesus when storms arrive? Chances are, you have questioned Jesus like those in the boat that day, maybe even asking him if he cares at all that you are sinking. Even though we have seen what Jesus can do in our lives and in others, we can sometimes get into situations where fear and panic swamp our lives like whitecapping waves on the sea. We see Jesus over there, seemingly detached from us over here, forgetting who he is and what he does. If you have expressed your irritation with Jesus or forgotten the significance of his presence, you can take comfort in knowing that he doesn’t seem to get bothered by your reactions. His words come to us in ways that lead us to a deeper faith and as reminders that he remains our teacher even if we fail to realize it in our storms.

The words Jesus gave the disciples were accompanied with a visual. Before talking to them about their fears, Jesus rebuked the wind and waves, saying to the storm, “Peace, be still!” As Mark reports, the wind stopped and the chaos of the waves became a dead calm. Just like that, the storm stopped. I’m sure that with that calm came sudden relief for the disciples, maybe even followed by feelings of embarrassment for their doubts. As they looked at the now serene waters and sat in the silence of that moment, they were reminded once again of the power of Jesus and the peace he brings. Mark was intentional about wanting his audience to know that calm could be for them in the chaos and suffering in their setting from the Roman Empire and the challenges of existing as a young church.

As followers of Jesus in today’s world, we can experience the calm and peace Jesus brings into our storms. Though it is amazing how in one moment we can go from full on panic to perfect peace, sometimes the storms linger longer than we prefer. Even still, we can experience peace in knowing the words and power of Jesus are much at work on the storms and within us, enabling us to be centered and secure in knowing who has the real power. As you sit here this morning, how does it help to hear those words of Jesus, “Peace, be still!”? What hope and help can you find in knowing you are not alone as the winds blow against you? And won’t we be emboldened and encouraged to hear these words as we look at the storms going on in our world today, as we look out from our boat to see mass shootings, corruption, pandemics, insurrection, climate change, racism, and cyber warfare, just to name a few? What a difference it can make for us to experience the peace and power of Jesus who remains in our midst.

The song, “Peace, Be Still,” we sang earlier in the service contains beautiful words about the powerful reality we’ve heard about this morning. I close with them and the truth they represent for you and me as we go into this next week,

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep

Peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks.

Amen.

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