Fourth Sunday in Pentecost
Mark 4: 35-41
“Trust and Obey”
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Fishing is the most dangerous profession on earth! I have been watching Discovery Channel on TV about crab fishing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the bearing sea, from Atlantic to the deepest part of the ocean. Remember the movie Perfect Storm and other cases where fishing vessels were rescued from the big storms, hurricanes and other sea disasters?
Today, we hear about Jesus being out there with his closest friends, Peter, James and John and the other disciples. The boat was large enough to handle all of them. His three friends were experienced fishermen and they knew the mood of the water, its ugliness and its unfriendliness.
The Gospel of Mark is about challenge and excitement whenever there is danger. According to the Biblical story today, they were out there with several other boats. Jesus had become famous and so when he got into a boat and sailed out into the Sea of Galilee, everybody got into their boats and followed him, just as crowds today follow famous people like the Beatles or Justin Beaver and Lady Gaga. They were all out there in the middle of the Sea of Galilee when suddenly, along came this wind storm from the east side of the lake, down through the gullies. The waves can be suddenly five to six feet tall. A vicious storm hit and the waves started to get really big and the waves started coming over the side of the boat. These were experienced fishermen and they knew that his was panic time. And what was Jesus doing? What was Jesus doing in this panic moment? He was sleeping, sleeping in the edge of the boat maybe with a pillow under his head! The disciples were afraid. These experienced fishermen who weren’t easily frightened by storms became so afraid. They grabbed Jesus’ shirt and shouted, “Jesus, wake up, don’t you care? Don’t you care that we are perishing in this storm?” That question, “Don’t you care that we are perishing in the storm?” has echoed down through the centuries.
When an accident happens and one losses her/his hope, words that are uttered were:”Where is God?” When a debilitating cancer hits anyone, or a loss of job and security, words uttered were: “Does God care?”
Jesus woke up and said to the storm, “Be quiet. Be still,” “Magtigil ka! Or Magsitigil ka,” as if he was casting out a demon. Like when Jesus cast out demons from people, he had said, “Be quiet. Be still,” and Jesus quieted the storm inside of people. But now Jesus was quieting the storm on the lake. Suddenly, it was very calm and Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, “Why are you so afraid? Why are you so afraid of the storms of life? Don’t you have faith? Don’t you trust that I am with you during the storms of life? Where is your faith?”
And Jesus’ question as also echoed down through the centuries, “Why do you have so little faith in the midst of the storms of life?”
At yesterday’s Deanery meeting attended by clergy and lay leaders in the peninsula, held here at Holy Child and St. Martin, one of the presenters said,” the whole of God’s Christendom is in crisis! There’s a great decline of membership everywhere!”Where have all the people gone, long time passing, where have all the Christians gone long time ago? Became non believers everyone, oh when will they ever learn, oh when will we ever learn. At the end of the presentation however, the delegates were reassured about the need to be refreshed on the importance of mission and enlarging our visions to be able to reach out to the world. We have to learn how to adopt ourselves outside our comfort zones and it has to be now. Any clergy and lay leaders should be able to remove their protective hand gloves to feel the moisture of the soil. We are all called to serve and to reach out to those who are on the other side of our community. The world is changing where a dominant culture should be able to say to others, “Please have a seat in the leadership” in every congregation. A lot of times, we have been so loud about our intelligence and have been ignoring quietness and stillness with God. “Be still my soul and walk humbly with God.”
There was great stillness among the disciples because they had not seen anything like this before where somebody controlled the winds and the waves. They believed that he was the Son of God. And thus ends a great story, one of those great eyewitness stories. Simon Peter must have been the one to have told this personal story. Simon Peter knew this story because he was there, on the scene, on the lake, in the squall. He knew this story well.
This is a story which is rich with meaning. There are so many ways that this story applies to us. There is so much truth that can be unlocked in this little miracle story. Where to begin? This story for today is an invitation for us to trust God. To trust God not merely when life is good, in the the good times when we have plenty of health, cash and family around. But to trust God in the midst of the storms of life. The disciples did not realize that the power and presence of God was with them during their storm. They could have simply trusted God, trusted that God was with them. In this text, we are invited to trust God, especially during our own personal storms of life.
You see, life as we know it is filled with storms. I am not talking simply about nasty weather storms like hurricanes and earthquakes which kill people by the thousands, but wars, ethnic conflicts and starvation.
We know that life is just filled with storms. You don’t have to go to all those places like Sudan, Haiti, Guatemala, Mississippi or Iraq, but you can stay be at home and the storms are part of your life and mine. Cancer. Heart attacks. Sudden unemployment. Marriages falling apart. Storm centers are right here in our own back yard.
A week from now, one of those whom we have praying for who have been battling for cancer, will finally go home to the Philippines. She signified before that her going home would mean, all resources and scientific means have been exhausted and that there’s no more ways to stop the spread of the cancer. Her faith with God is so great that despite of that storm in life, she is ready to meet her lord. Yet another disaster happened to their family when, last week, her husband’s mother was drowned adding pain to their misery. I so believe that, like Job in the old testament, they will be redeemed by God’s love.
In the midst of all the storms of life, when the powers of Satan are all around us, our intuitive instinct is to be afraid. It is to have a panic attack. It is to ask God, “Don’t you care?” Or to say, “God, are you there at all? Are you sleeping on the job?”
Into those situations, Jesus asks a profound question, “Why are you afraid?” “Why aren’t you trusting?” “Why are you so afraid of the storms of life?”
One may ask, is there ever going to be a time in life where there are not storms? Is life created in such a way that you and I are to be immune and insulated from the storms of life? Jesus asked the question, “Why are you so afraid of storms of life?” There will always be storms and I will be there with you. I will be there to strengthen you and to care for you. Jesus calls us to trust God in the midst of the storms of life and to know that God will catch us whether we are sick or dying or afraid.
Trust God whether we are sick or diseased or dying. Life is filled with tornadoes. Life is filled with tragedies. It is always tornado time. But Jesus asked the question, “Don’t you trust me? Don’t you trust me?” When the membership of the whole Christendom is declining and there’s so much hopelessness in the world, Jesus says, “Don’t you trust me?”
There is no promise that we will be spared from the storms of life. There is no promise that we will be free from tornadoes. There is no promise that we will be freed from the little storms of life nor the big storms of life, but God did promise, “I will be with you.” Christ asleep within my boat, whipped by wind but still afloat. Life is tried by storms.”
Today, we remember the Rev. Juan Garcia. His family truly shares a great example of how love transcends beyond the grave, because they trust in God and they obey God’s words.
Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
I have asked Lyle Richardson to sing with me that hymn trust and obey. Amen