Calming our Storms

This sermon was given by our ALM Carol on Sunday 24 February 2019.

And now for the weather forecast.  Read by Mark G

Today there’ll be storms and rain, gusts of high winds, and some thunder and lightning. We advise not going out unless you really have to, and if you do then take an industrial-sized umbrella and a wetsuit!

The sea levels are likely to rise quite a bit and the water will be very choppy indeed. Definitely do not go out in a boat, and do not try to cross from one side of the local lake to another. If you have to make that journey then it’s best to take Jesus of Nazareth with you, although be prepared for the fact that he may not be perturbed by the weather and will most likely doze off while the storm rages.

Wait till things get really bad and you are all starting to run around like headless chickens, screaming in terror, and shouting, ‘We’re all gonna die! We’re all gonna die!!’ That would be a good moment to wake up the man from Nazareth and put him right on the fact that everyone is about to drown. 

Don’t panic if he takes his time getting up, plumping the cushion, he’s been using for a pillow, as he stands, and don’t be perturbed if He has a word with you about your lack of faith.

Do be amazed though when he stands in the boat, takes one look at the weather and tells it to stop making a fuss. The winds will most certainly calm down and the storm will cease immediately. Feel free to look astonished, with your mouth flapping open and closed like a large goldfish.

Spend the rest of the journey asking each other just who this man could be, that he can tell a storm like this to quieten down, and it does!

In summary then – storms, wind, choppy seas, headless chickens, Jesus of Nazareth and a miracle. And that’s all the weather today!

If you’d heard that weather forecast would you have gone out in a boat even with Jesus? Do you have the faith – the confidence to put your storms into the hands of Jesus of Nazareth knowing they will be calmed, and peace will reign once more?  After all isn’t that what faith is all about? Trust in Jesus of Nazareth and you shall have peace. What is peace?

Sometime ago I researched Peace in the Midst of a Storm and read about a major art gallery who sponsored a competition and were offering prizes for the best painting on the subject of “Peace.” The painting that won was a scene depicting the ocean in a violent storm

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“Peace in the Midst of the Storm” by Jack E. Dawson

. The sky was dark and forbidding, the lightning was cutting across the sky, and the waves were crashing against the rock walls. At first glance, the painting looks anything but peaceful. Where was the peace?

You had to look twice to understand what was going on. There, about halfway up the cliff, was a birds’ nest tucked into a tiny hollow in the rock. A mother bird was sitting on that nest with her fledglings tucked underneath her, sleeping soundly. That was peace! In the midst of a giant storm, this bird found a sanctuary, a safe place to rest her wings. A place of refuge, a place of peace. In this painting there are hidden images – The bird on the ledge; Jesus Christ – our rock; His cross- a sacrifice for our sins; His empty tomb – a promise of our resurrection; a beastly image representing evil in the world.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus’ disciples found themselves in a powerful storm on the Sea of Galilee.  They did not have radar, storm spotters or any advanced warning systems. They had no idea, as they set sail, that soon they would be rowing to save their very lives. As experienced fishermen, I am sure they had seen many storms on this lake.  This one though came upon them suddenly and it caught them totally off guard.

The wind began to rock the boat, the waves grew larger and the storm surge sent enough water into the boat, to cause them to fear they would drown.  They rowed as hard as they possibly could but got nowhere. Jesus, meanwhile, was sleeping peacefully in the boat. In desperation the disciples woke him up, “Master don’t you care about us? We’re about to perish and you’re sleeping”. Jesus got up talked to the wind and waves and calmed the storm immediately.

Storms or troubles in our own lives, are inevitable!  They can come upon us without any warning! One moment you are enjoying the good things in life and the very next moment your world turns upside down. You find yourself in the middle of an ominous and powerful storm; threatening your life and existence. We all face troubles, big and small that can sweep the winds of chaos and destruction, into our lives.  We may have to deal with many different situations which leave us feeling like we are going to drown, can’t find a way to calm those troubled waters.

We cannot avoid these storms of life, so what can we do to survive the hurricane that comes against us? Do we have an anchor that will secure us? Can we find a refuge? Do we have an authority to turn toward the storm and say “Peace, be still”?

Do we have faith in Jesus of Nazareth?

When you have done everything, you know you can do, and it gets you nowhere, in fact the situation just seems to get worse instead of better. You feel like you’re at breaking point. All human effort has failed. Have you invited Jesus into your storm? Just as the bird found refuge under a ledge in the rock in our painting, so can we find refuge in Christ, who is our rock, our strength. Peace is not just the absence of a storm but is the rest we receive when we are in the middle of it. Many of us could use that kind of peace, and it is the kind of peace that you can have right now if you’re resting where you ought to be.

It is interesting to notice, that although Jesus was with the disciples in the boat at the height of the storm, He was not actively involved, until they engaged him in their situation. Their words ring out a tone of panic, fear and desperation. Where is Jesus?  Master don’t you care if we perish?

Here we are, in this tremendous storm; are we going to wait for Jesus to come to rescue us, as the disciples did?  When all the time He is with us just waiting for us, to turn our faith towards Him. Why did the disciples wait so long, before they sought the help of Jesus?  They could have gone to him, just as easily, when the clouds thickened and the wind began to blow, instead of waiting until they were about to sink. Do we only turn to Jesus and ask for his help, when our backs are against the wall or, do we seek His wisdom and help on a daily basis?

Jesus invites us to come to him in our weariness, our sinfulness, our sickness, our brokenness, with our cares and worries. As a matter of fact, He promised to never leave or forsake us. There is no trouble that we face, that can part us from him.

A favourite verse of mine is from Psalm 46 which says “God is my refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.”  If we stop at that verse, as encouraging and uplifting as it is, we only get part of the message.  Verse 2 says “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

So even in the midst of that devastation we need not fear, for He is There! Have no fear because “God is our refuge and strength.” God lives today in those who belong to Him through faith in Jesus. Even when everything seems to be melting down, Verse 10 says “Be still, and know that I am God”

The storm didn’t bother Jesus He was sleeping. Perfect Rest, Perfect Peace. Just as the little bird found a hiding place in the cleft of the rock, we have a refuge in Jesus Christ. It was not until Jesus was awakened from his nap and rebuked the wind and the waves, that the lake became smooth as glass. Then he said to his disciples, “Why can’t you trust me?”  The disciples were not commended for their efforts during the storm but reprimanded for their lack of trust.

Trust is a very important part of any relationship both personal and spiritual.  If we trust in Jesus, He will shield us and protect us from all the troubles in our life. He will calm the storm. When we put our faith and trust in Him, He has promised to guide our steps, heal our wounds and carry our burdens. He will protect us from the storms of life just as he protected the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Do not lose faith.

Trust God completely. That is all He really asks of us, to trust him. If we are going to find our place of peace in the midst of life’s most difficult moments; we must take Him at his Word! He will be present! He will provide what we need and bring us safely to our destination.  We must let him into our storm!   Let him whisper: “Peace,…….. Be still,” because He is the Master of it all.

Trust Jesus. With so much change and so much uncertainty in our world today, it is so great to know we are safe in a relationship with Him. If you’ve never begun that relationship, tell Him you want to today. When you are nesting in the care of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can rest through any storm. You can belong to the One who gives peace in the middle of the storm.

John 16:33: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world.

Let us Pray: Heavenly Father above, I pray that we will all find refuge in your love, in your Holy power, in your strength and wisdom. No matter what the struggle or storm Lord, I pray that you send your healing hand down from heaven and create a shield (like that cliff protecting the bird). May we know that your wings are stronger than the storm and create a path to peace. Only in Christ, can we have “Peace in the Midst of the Storm.” Amen

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Painting credit Jack E. Dawson

The hidden images in this painting help us see that just as the little bird(1) found a hiding place in the cleft of the rock we have a refuge in Jesus Christ(2), our Rock. His cross(3), was a sacrifice for our sins, and his empty tomb(4) a promise of our resurrection. Yet we are not promised a life without storms. In fact we know that there is always the presence of evil(5) in the world, represented by the beastly image. Through the cross, we can overcome “because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 Only in Christ, can we have “Peace in the Midst of the Storm.”

 


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