HIT BY A STORM Mark 4:35-41

A sermon with the congregation of St. John's, Storrington in the Anglican Parish of Kingston North, June 1991
by Robert Brow  (www.brow.on.ca)

Mollie and I live a few minutes' drive away from here on Dog Lake. Several of you have fished around Hickory Island which is just across from our cottage. You will remember a few years ago when the owner tried to make it across to the mainland, but he was hit by a sudden storm, his boat sank, and he was drowned as his wife watched helplessly from the shore.

In our Gospel reading today we have the story of the disciples in a storm on the Lake of Galilee. "A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped" (Mark 4:37).

You may not have faced that kind a storm on Dog Lake or Lake Ontario, but all of us have faced the storms of life. We bale as fast as we can, but the boat keeps filling with water, and Jesus seems to be unconcerned to help us.

Did you ever have a storm in your family? Things seemed to be going smoothly, and then suddenly a small matter gets one and another upset, and it looks as if the family is going to flounder. That often happens when a parent dies, there is a terrible storm about who inherits what, and brothers and sisters say they will never speak to each other again.. Children are terrified in a storm when their parents talk of getting divorced. And when we pray for peace Jesus seems to be asleep.

There can be terrible church storms. There is a happy loving Christian community, and suddenly there is a disagreement about building plans, or the furnishings for the sanctuary, or a new hymn book. I hope you never have a row in this congregation. But watch out. One person getting miffed about not getting their own way can upset a whole community.

Most of us have been hit by sickness storms. We get the flu, there are pains all over our body, and we feel we are going to die. Someone gets hit in a car accident, or a heart attack, or the doctor says that you have cancer.

There are storms in our office, or school, or hospital, or factory where we work. A new management comes in and begins upsetting things right and left. As the market changes our business begins to fail.

And then there are personal financial storms. You lose your job; the roof is leaking; the car grinds to a halt on the highway, there are huge bills to pay and the bank won't lend you a penny. Some of you still remember the depression, when the storm hit the whole country and men were riding the railroads hoping to find work, any work.

I know a friend who has been hit with a psychological storm. We used to call it nerves. This storm comes right into your mind where no one else can see it happening. They say "it is all in your head." But you can't sleep. Terrible thoughts of depression and suicide take over. It is very hard on the family, and when you pray Jesus seems to be fast asleep.

What do we do about the storms of life?

The first thing is to name it. "Hey, this is a storm that has hit me. This isn't just bad luck. The Lord knows what I am facing."

Secondly we remember that Jesus is with us in the same boat. If he seems fast asleep, it is because he is not worried about the outcome. He has all the power that it takes to calm the storm either immediately or step by step in his own time. The boat won't sink and all get drowned before his good and totally loving purpose is complete.

You also have the right to cry out to him. There is a wonderful psalm about sailors being tossed up and down in a storm. "They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed" (Psalm 107:26-29). That is only one of the many psalms that give us faith when we are hit by the storms of life. May I recommend you read the psalms, so you know them, and they will be there to help you when you need them.

Prayer in the storms of life is not fatalism. You don't give up and do nothing. Jesus does sometimes step in and calm the waters. But at other times, as the waves crash in on you, you bail like mad, and you row hard in the direction of the nearest shore. And when you make it, it is easy to imagine you did it all.

That is why thanksgiving is so important. In the psalm about sailors in the storm, it goes on "Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind" (Psalm 107:30-31). Thanksgiving helps you remember next time a storm hits you how the Lord worked things out on a previous occasion when things were just as desperate.

Prayer In a moment of silent prayer I would like you to remember one terrible storm in your life, and thank God for the way things have worked out for the good. Maybe you are facing a storm right now. Look to him to intervene and see what happens.

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