Points for Preaching and Teaching
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless
Speaking of storms…
It is so easy to berate the disciples in this story for panicking over the waves. I’ve seen the type of boats that were used on the Sea of Galilee during Jesus’ time (not that different from the boats that are still used today) and, let me tell you, I would be a little nervous, too! The sides aren’t more than 12-18 inches above the waterline. They were getting swamped!
I am also amazed that Jesus manages to sleep through the storm; I think we’re supposed to take our cue from that and learn something about the essence of faith. Relax, God’s gonna take care of you…or something along those lines.
That is certainly true, whether we hit the panic button or not. God is going to take care of us. Notice that Jesus’ “rebuke” to the disciples is much more gentle than that he gives to the wind and the waves. In hindsight (which, they say, is always 20/20,) I’m sure the disciples could see it all playing out much more clearly. God’s provision and care depend, not on our faith nor on our confidence, but on God’s faithfulness.
So, if you get a little scared next time your boat starts filling up — it’s okay. Try to have at least a little faith
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
I had my first real theology lesson when I was about twelve or thirteen I was working in the tobacco field with my father; he was plowing, I was hoeing. It was an unusual day in that we were out there by ourselves; usually there were several of my brothers and sisters and Mama and maybe Aunt Mildred but not today. Today, it was just us. I had my head down, concentrating on not hitting a young tobacco plant with my hoe when I realized the tractor was no longer running and Daddy was yelling for me to run to him. He pointed into the distance and then beckoned me with a wave. I looked out across the valley and saw sharp lightning and a wall of rain and hail coming our way. Then I heard the thunder and felt the wind and saw it stir the trees in the woods around the edges of the field. I ran to Daddy and together we ran to the nearest tobacco barn.
We were probably safe, but I didn’t feel safe. I felt exposed, sitting just inside the door of a fifty year old log barn with a tin roof and a dirt floor. The wind howled and the hail pounded the roof and the thunder roared and the lightning lit up the sky. Daddy sat on an old box, his long legs crossed and wrapped around each other as he took an unfiltered cigarette out of the pack and fumbled for a dry match. I shivered, from fear or wet or maybe a bit of both and asked him, “Aren’t you afraid?” (Full disclosure – I probably said, “Ain’t you scared?”) And he blew a stream of smoke and looked me in the eye and said, “Yes, I am. But I’m not in charge, he is.”(Pointing up with his index finger.) “Comes a point in life, son, where you just have to decide if you trust God or not. I trust him, so I’ll sit here ‘til this is over and then deal with what’s next.” “But, but,” I said, “Sometimes it doesn’t work out for the best. People get hurt or die.” and Daddy said, “I didn’t say I understood the Lord, son, I just said I trusted him.”
Our lessons for today are about trusting God in the midst of things we really don’t understand. The book of Job is a treatise on the question of undeserved suffering. The answer given is not really an answer. It is a response, or better yet, a rejoinder. The author’s point is often said to be, “God is the creator and we are not; who are we to question God?” What if the point is something else? What if the point is that God cannot answer us because the truth is beyond our understanding? Perhaps the underlying truth of how the world works is something we will never, ever really figure out. And so, like my Daddy, we have to figure out if we can trust God without completely understanding what God is up to in the world.
Paul talks about this kind of faith in our lesson from Second Corinthians. He talks about enduring “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.” (6:4-5) His point is that underneath all this “bad stuff,” God is working to bring about our salvation.
And in the familiar story from Mark, we find Jesus asleep in the boat in the midst of a storm. The disciples are afraid and are also a little bit upset with Jesus for not being afraid, for taking a nap when he should be doing something for crying out loud. “Don’t you care about us? Don’t you love us? You can save us and you’re doing nothing!” Jesus wakes up, tells the wind to calm down and then tells the disciples to calm down. He says to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Or, in the common tongue, “C’mon – don’t you trust me?”
All our texts call upon us to trust God in the midst of life’s difficulties. This is not an easy thing to do because life is dangerous and unpredictable and God’s involvement is often hard to see and appreciate. We often find ourselves like the disciples in the boat, or a little boy in an old barn, trying to decide if we really, really do trust God. And the witness of the church, from the first disciples down through the ages to an old farmer in a tobacco barn is that, even though we will seldom understand exactly God is doing, God can indeed be trusted, now and for eternity.
Amen and amen.