1 Samuel 17:32-49, Psalm 9:9-20, 2 Cor. 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41
It seems in the last week or so and in the last year, our experience of storms figurative and literal have been many. The Pandemic is one such storm, the fires down the east coast of Australia were another, the flooding across Australia and most recently the wind and rain that hit Victoria brought devastation to many country towns as well as affecting homes across wider Melbourne. It would be safe to say, those who are most affected have lived with the considerable stress and anxiety of many of these calamities. It would not be surprising to hear someone cry out, ‘do you not care that we are perishing’. In fact, for some, it would be hard not to lose faith.
These were the words of the disciples to Jesus, ‘do you not care that we are perishing’. The disciples were scared for their very lives. The believed it was possible they would drown that day. It was a reasonable thought. The boat they were in was taking in water, the waves were swamping the boat.
The disciples discover Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat. Asleep, during a storm with waves pounding the side of the boat. Asleep, while disciples fear for their lives. Asleep while they think Jesus does not care for them.
When Jesus awakes, he rebukes the wind and says to the sea, ‘Peace be still’. Peace, be still. Peace be still. For us this seems quite an extraordinary story. It is a metaphor for our lives, from fear to faith, from lack of trust, to trusting in the Saviour. From anxiety and worry that Jesus did not care enough to save the disciples from the storm.
Storms, as I said earlier, can be literal, like the ones many people have experienced this past year. Storms can be personal, loss of work, loss of a partner, loss of relationships. Storms often have a way of taking something from us. The recent storm across Victoria resulted in loss of power to many homes, some still needing help. Storms often result in feeling helpless, alone, finding ourselves outside of the bounds of our experience. We want someone to come and speak peace to our situation. Jesus said to the wind and the waves, Peace, be still.
One of the greatest gifts to our lives and to the lives of the disciples was that sense of the peace of God upon them. When storms come, when change is thrust upon us, when personal struggles seem to overwhelm us, we want to hear the words of Jesus speaking into our situation saying ‘Peace be still’. Even when things are not necessarily going the way we expect, ‘Peace be still’.
Now Jesus asks the disciples a question which to you and I might be entirely rational. ‘Why were you afraid?’ (Mark 6:40). Our rational minds tell us they were afraid for fear of drowning, for fear of losing their lives. Often in situations that are largely out of our control, the tendency is to feel fear. It’s a common response to the unknown around us. And yet, Jesus commands the wind and the waves to ‘be still’. Are there situations in our lives we need a word of peace. Peace, be still. Perhaps, when change comes we will be looking for a word of peace.
Jesus second question states, ‘Have you still no faith?’ Now that almost sounds like a rebuke. ‘Have you still no faith?’ Last week, the disciples were told how the kingdom of God is like seed cast into the ground, how the kingdom of God is like a mystery, just as seed growth can be a mystery. From what they heard and Jesus explained to the disciples regarding parables, their faith was renewed. Yet here we find Jesus asking, ‘Have you still no faith’. Not a little faith, now a glimmer of faith, no faith! Storms in life, whether literal or metaphorical can shake our faith.
The opposite of faith is fear. Fear of what might happen. Fear of the what if’s. The disciples succumbed to this fear, what if we drown, what if Jesus doesn’t care for us, what if we are not delivered from the storm? Jesus said to them, ‘Have you still no faith?’ Jesus has just spent quite a bit of time talking to them about the success of the Kingdom of God through parables, encouraging the disciples to realise, the Kingdom of God is in God’s hands, our job is to trust and to have faith in God. To work with God. Fear will rob us of what God has in store for us.
Storms come and go. The one the disciples experience went as soon as Jesus commanded the winds and the waves to be still. When storms come to us, when change is thrust upon us, whether it is lockdowns or changes to restrictions due to the Coronavirus in the community, or whether they are literal storms like the one just last week, will we react like the disciples, ‘do you not care that we are perishing’, or will we reach out to God in faith, believing in the love, care and compassion of God in our lives and the love that we have toward one another. Or will we hear the words of Jesus speaking to our storms saying ‘Peace be still’.
I pray that no matter what each one of us may be facing in our lives, Jesus comes to speak into our situations saying, ‘Peace be still’. Allow God to speak into your lives, into the many changes that may surround you. Bring your cares, your concerns and troubles to God. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 11: 28, ‘come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest’. In a world where there are so many things happening around us, I pray Jesus words resonate with you today. ‘Come to Jesus, all you who are weary, and God’s peace will be with you’. May fear be replaced with faith in God. Amen.