Jesus Stills the Storm
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
~ Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)
All around the country, there has been crazy weather, with snow in places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles and even Hawaii, and torrential rains in Alabama and Tennessee. An all-time snow record was broken in Flagstaff Arizona with thirty-three inches of snow, and Seattle and Minnesota have also broken all records for February snowfall, while here in New England, though we have had some snow, our winter has been relatively mild as compared.
Our scripture reading today talks about the weather too. We are told that the disciples are out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and suddenly a storm appears. The winds begin to blow, and the waves begin crashing against the boat. Though it is referred to as the Sea of Galilee, the “Sea” of Galilee is actually a freshwater Lake, and it is about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide.
Wouldn’t you think that the disciples, since some of them were experienced fishermen, would have looked to see what the weather was like before they headed out on the water? Wouldn’t they have seen a storm like that coming? Well actually because of the positioning of the Sea of Galilee, in a very low-lying area with hills and valleys surrounding it, there is often the mixture of warm and cold fronts, and those contradictory temperatures cause sudden unexpected storms. That is just what the disciples experienced that night. Scripture says that they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a furious storm and waves swept over the boat! Even as experienced fishermen, I’m sure they were frightened.
Can you imagine being in a boat like that in the middle of the sea when a storm blows in? All around you waves are crashing and wind is blowing. Do you think you might feel a little afraid? Or worried? Or concerned? Well, it sounds like that is just how the disciples were feeling. And it was in that moment, when they were feeling helpless and hopeless, that they realized that Jesus, their teacher, wasn’t there with them. So they looked for him, and where did they find him? Sleeping in the back of the boat! So the disciples quickly ran to Jesus and they woke him up and they said to him “Lord save us, for we are going to drown!” Can you imagine the anxiety that was being felt in that moment? Imagine the fear in the disciple’s hearts! They didn’t know if they would make it through the storm, but when Jesus awoke, he sat up and said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
We have heard this story many times here in Oldtown because it happens to be one of my favorites! One of the reasons that I like it so much is that for such a short reading, there are amazing themes surrounding it. Think about it for just a minute. We could talk about fear and the things that we are afraid of. We could talk about the fact that Jesus was sleeping in the midst of the storm and how important it is for all of us to take time to rest, especially in taxing times. We could talk about moments when we lose faith and the fact that, even when we do, God never leaves us. We could talk about what to do when unexpected things happen, or when the world seems to spin out of our control. Or we could focus on Jesus and his miraculous ability to still the storm and what that means he could do in our lives.
But friends, I want us to look at the story a little bit differently today because it also teaches us the importance of looking at the world through the eyes of faith. Let’s think about what Jesus teaches for just a minute. When we choose to follow Jesus, Jesus teaches us to look for the good in things, to look for ways that you can help others, to love others no matter what, to remember that you are a Child of God and, just as you are called to be a good steward and care for all of Creation, you are also called to take care of yourself, and finally, to trust in God and not in your own understanding.
My friends, in every situation in which we find ourselves, it is up to us to decide what we see, how we feel, and how we are going to react. Now you might be thinking, “What do you mean we decide what we see? We see what is in front of us, right?” Well, yes and no. The truth is, without even knowing it, when we look at something, we bring our emotions, our opinions, and our past experiences, both positive and negative, with us, and that makes it impossible to clearly see what is in front of us.
Just think of someone driving by our church. Some might look and see an old historical building and wonder about its story and what it looks like inside. Another might drive by and, because of experiences in churches before, they might feel hurt or guilty or rejected. Another might shake their head and think that the people in that church are crazy, that they are wasting their time and energy because religion was begun to bring order to communities and has no importance to society anymore. Another might feel hungry when they drive by because they often come to our church suppers. Some may look at the church with a sense of sacredness and honor because they have experienced the presence of God in worship or in community because of the work of the church. And finally, some, including all of us, look at the church and see our home and feel a sense of unconditional love and
acceptance. There are many different ways to look at and see a simple structure built of wood and nails and glass and paint.
Friends, what we see in our everyday lives is not about our eyesight or even what is in front of us as much as what is in our hearts and minds. If we look at the world around us with a sense of fear, we find lots of things to be afraid of. If we are angry about something and we look at the world around us, we find even more to be angry about. When we are frustrated or worried, the world is filled with frustration and worry. And when we are judgmental and we look through the eyes of negativity and hate, unfortunately, that is all that we see.
In our scripture reading today, the disciples had been following Jesus. They were trying their best to do what he asked, but they were unsure and afraid, and when they found themselves in the midst of a storm, they lost sight of their faith. They didn’t know what to do. They forgot to trust in God, and their fear overtook them. And what was the first thing that Jesus said to them? “Why are you afraid, you of little faith!” They had forgotten about their faith and they let their fear overtake them.
Friends, we all carry baggage with us. We all have a tendency in uncertain times to fall back on unhealthy emotions and feeling that we have had in the past. Feeling of anger or fear, guilt or hopelessness, judgement or negativity. But our faith teaches us something very different.
In all of Jesus’ teachings, he teaches us about love and hope and compassion and grace and trusting in God, not in our own understanding. Now some of you may be thinking to yourself, “Sure, I’ll trust in God, but God’s not going to pay my bills.” Or, “I trust in God, but my mom is still sick.” Or, “I tried trusting in God but nothing ever happened.” Friends, if you think about it, the disciples had it easy. They were afraid, and Jesus calmed the storm. They were surrounded by hungry people, and Jesus multiplied the bread and fish. They stood next to the sick and the blind and the lame, and they saw Jesus heal them. They witnessed the work of Jesus first hand, and all we have are a bunch of stories to go by. But my friends, if we truly learn to look through the eyes of faith, we can still see Jesus working in our midst, because we learn to look beyond our baggage. We learn to leave our hurt and our frustration and our hate behind, and we begin to see the love and the grace and the hope of Jesus all around us.
Friends, it’s not always easy, but the choice is yours. Will you allow your baggage to weigh you down, filling you with fear and anger, judgment, hate, and frustration? Or will you learn to look at the world around you through the eyes of faith? I hope and pray that you choose wisely.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, try to look through the eyes of faith, leaving your own baggage behind. Search for love and grace and hope in each moment. And when the storms of life begin to fill you with fear and frustration, guilt and hate and negativity, trust in God, not in your own understanding, knowing that God loves you more than you will ever know!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!