Recently we have had rain . . . and rain . . . and rain until we all must feel waterlogged. There were festivals this weekend that had to be cancelled because of all the rain, and counties along the Hocking River are in a state of emergency because the flooding from the river had closed the roads. There are people in Southeastern Ohio who aren’t sure can keep their heads above the rising water.
Have you ever felt that you are just barely keeping your head above water? That you are about to sink? That you are under torrents of troubles and worries?
You aren’t the only one!
Hear what was told to you in the Gospel of Mark when the disciples were in a boat with Jesus:
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took Him with them in the boat. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41)
Now when this story occurs, the disciples had been traveling with Jesus for quite some time, and had seen Him perform miracles: driving out demons, curing the sick, feeding the masses. Yet, they did not believe. . . did not yet fully realize the power of His presence.
The troubles and challenges we go through in life are not trivial. They are life changing. They may be massive. Faith doesn’t prevent fear from occurring. Faith did not provide the disciples in their boat with a safe journey over the sea. Faith is a way of walking through fear, without giving in to its terror. Fear draws us into rage, helplessness, desperation or despair. Faith helps us find ourselves, as peaceful voices, as creators of calm. It must be just such a spirit that allows Hindus to walk across beds of hot coals without burning their feet. That allows mothers of children pinned under cars to lift those cars enough to free the child. That allowed Nelson Mandela to endure 27 years of imprisonment, emerge the victor over the government that had so abused him, and later become President of his nation. It is just that faith that allows the families of the 9 massacred members of the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston to forgive their murderer and call for love to heal their city and our nation.
To me, this story from Mark reminds us that God is there for us. That when we lose sight of God because we encounter the death of a loved one, or financial disaster, or illness, or whatever may befall us, and it feels like a massive storm is threatening to capsize our life’s boat, God is there, working in the background, carrying us when we need it. God was there when those nine people were murdered and became martyrs in Heaven. It may seem trite, it may seem convenient, but God is on our side. And so I have to acknowledge God in my life. Ask, seek, knock. The principles remain the same. He is there.
God never, ever, ever promises that life will be easy. God never promises smooth sailing and blue skies every day.
What God does promise is that when the world comes crashing down, God is right there with us. The Holy Spirit is there with us, in our sinking boat.
Just as He was in the boat with the disciples, and with the people at the Mother Emmanuel AME Church, He is with us – every day, rain or shine. And He will calm the storms of our lives if we trust Him.
So, maybe the world is crashing in on you today. Maybe you feel your about to drown in worry of fear, in pain or loneliness. Maybe it was yesterday that you felt that way. And then again, maybe it will be tomorrow.
But, whenever that happens—and it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”—whatever you think, and whatever your prayer, know that you haven’t been abandoned. God isn’t on a lunch break. He is only a thought and a prayer away.
God is with you. And all you need is enough faith to get you through to the moment when Jesus speaks, “Peace. Be still.”
The disciples finally ‘got it’ when Jesus stilled the storm – they understood just how powerful Jesus was.
And now, we must ‘get it’ – that as long as we have faith in God’s love for us, we will be okay. No matter how deep the water gets or how horrible the storms. We will not drown, we will overcome, even though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death – the rains will cease, the sun will shine, and the peace of the Lord will fill our souls.
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 21 June 2015