“The Eye (I) of the Storm”

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12); July 29, 2018 / Deacon Rex Watt

Genesis 9:8-17 / Ephesians 3:14-21 / Mark 6:45-56

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear Saints of Redeemer.  When things are going good in life, we often say life is like “smooth sailing.”  But things don’t always go good in life.  When we encounter things in life that are not so good, we’ll say that we are going through some “rough waters.”  And if something really bad happens, we may even say that we are in the “midst of a storm.”  Some of you this morning might be experiencing smooth sailing.  Others of you may be going through some rough waters.  I know that there are more than a couple of you who are in the midst of a storm.  I want all of you to know today, that wherever you find yourself, Jesus is here.  He is with you.  He’s “in your boat.”

Our sermon hymn, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” was written by the Rev. Edward Hopper in the 19th century when he was pastor of a New York church for mariners.  Not the baseball team!  While his parishioners often experienced the literal perils of the sea, many Christians have come to love this hymn, which speaks metaphorically of Jesus guiding us through life.  “Jesus, Savior, pilot me Over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal. Chart and compass come from Thee.  Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” (LSB 715:1)

These days, when many of us fly more often than we sail, Jesus as our pilot might suggest a different image.  In the old days, ships often found themselves trapped in the midst of storms that suddenly blew in.  Nowhere to go but to ride them out.  When you fly, radar can often enable the pilot to avoid such storms, and then guide the aircraft around them altogether.  I suppose we’d all like our Jesus to be that kind of pilot, wouldn’t we?  But it doesn’t work that way in life, does it?  No, it does not.  Our gospel lesson for today tells us that Jesus doesn’t steer us clear of every storm, but He is right there with us in the middle of them.

In the larger context of our gospel lesson for this morning, we see that Jesus’ disciples had just returned from their first ministry journey, successfully casting out demons and healing many who were sick.  That story was the Gospel lesson from three weeks ago.  It had been a long day, and Jesus, as you heard in last week’s Gospel, urged them to, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”  And so they did.  However, their “R & R” was short lived.  As soon as they got to their “desolate place” they were inundated by an army of people.  After Jesus had taught them, he fed them, 5,000 men, plus others.  Can you imagine how long it must have taken Jesus’ disciples to distribute fish and bread to over 5,000 people?  Let alone taking up the baskets full of leftovers!  It had been a long day indeed.  A really long day.

Our text for today picks up at the end of that really long day with Jesus sending his disciples back into the boat and instructing them to go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida.  The disciples do what Jesus asks.  Then Jesus goes up to a mountain to pray.  Surely Jesus, who created the wind and rain and sea, could arrange for some “smooth sailing” for his disciples after such a long day.  Jesus was praying alright, but apparently not for fair weather!

Jesus does not steer us clear of every storm in life.  He’s not the airline pilot.  Contrary to some of the popular books in Christian bookstores, Jesus didn’t come to give you your best life now.  Your best life is going to come later!  This life, the life we have now, here, in this flesh, is sometimes filled with not only rough waters, but downright storms.  And the reason for that my brothers and sisters, is Sin.  Not just your own personal sins, which may indeed cause rough waters or storms in your life, but Sin, with a capital “S”.  We live in a fallen world.  There is no promise anywhere in Holy Scripture where we, as Christian people, are exempt from the trials and tribulations of this world.  We Christians suffer the same illnesses, the same diseases, apparently the same divorce rate, and the same percentage of car crashes as the rest of the population.  And last time I checked, we die at the same rate (100%) as everyone else too!  And our deaths are not particularly less painful or easier than the deaths suffered by unbelievers.  No, Jesus doesn’t steer us clear of every storm in life.

The disciples were in the boat.  They were doing what Jesus had told them to do, but they were “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.”  Now you’d think that a boat with at least a third of its occupants, if not half, who were professional fishermen would be able to weather some rough water.  But this storm was getting the best of them.  The Gospel of John tells us that when they had rowed three for four miles, Jesus comes to them walking on the water.  When the disciples saw Jesus, they cried out in terror, for they thought He was a ghost.  “But immediately” our text says, “He spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid.’ And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.”

You may be going along in life, doing the vocation that Jesus has given you to do when storms arise.  Sometimes, they blow in out of nowhere; like an acute medical condition that throws you for a loop; or a diagnosis that you didn’t want to hear.  Sometimes, they are the result of your own doing, or maybe I should say your own undoing; like a failure to live according to God’s Commandments.  Sometimes it’s Sin (capital “S”) that brings those storms; sometimes it’s your own sin that brings those storms.  Just as the disciples were struggling mightily against the wind and the sea, you struggle in the midst of your storms.  But I want you to see something in our text that I believe is God’s word for us today.  Jesus came to the disciples; He spoke words of peace and comfort to them; and He got into the boat with them.

Jesus came to the disciples.  He not only came to the disciples, He came “for” them.  Had He not come to them, they’d probably still be rowing their boat ashore!  They’d been rowing for hours and making little headway.  And you, while you travel through this storm we call life; with its rough waters; its squalls; and even its hurricanes, Jesus comes to you.  God sent His Son, your dear Jesus, into your flesh, your sin-soaked flesh, to rescue you from your certain doom.  This Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried, for you.  And it didn’t end there!  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom4:25), this Jesus, your Jesus, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come, not only to judge the living and the dead, but to you, for you, right now, in the midst of your life’s storms.  Just as God delivered Noah and his family through the waters of the flood; just as Jesus came walking on top of the stormy waters to his disciples; Jesus comes to you in the waters of your Baptism to deliver you from death to life.  He takes waters of peril and waters of destruction and turns those waters into a water of life.  Yes, Jesus came to, and for, His disciples; and also He comes to you…and for you.

When the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus spoke to them the comforting words of the Gospel.  “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  Can there be any more blessed and comforting words than these?  Do you remember when you were a child and you experienced your first major thunder and lightening storm?  You’d been put to bed and the lights were out.  Loud crashes of thunder and bright flashes of lightening had you scared stiff.  You cried out for your parents and your mother came into the room and said, “It’s OK honey, mommies here. You don’t need to be afraid.”  Or maybe you were the parent in this scenario, and as you spoke those words you saw the calm come over your child.  Jesus says to you today, in the midst of your storm, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

“It is I.”  In the Greek, this phrase is “ego eimi” which are the same words as the famous “I Am” sayings of Jesus.  These are the words that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked God what His name was.  “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” What shall I say to them?’”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)  This Jesus, who came walking on the stormy sea toward his disciples, is none other than the God of creation who created water in the first place.  A few chapters earlier, on a previous crossing of the sea He spoke the words, “Peace! Be still!” and there was a great calm.  A little later on He spoke the words, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” and He brought a dead girl back to life.  Last week He spoke some words over two fish and five loaves of bread and fed over 5,000 people.  Today, He speaks these words, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” not only to the disciples in the boat, but to you.  Your Jesus, the creator of all creation; the One who has conquered sin, death and the devil all for you, comes to you right in the middle of your storm and says, “Peace! Arise! Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

When I was in the Air Force, I did my electronics training at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Back then the main purpose of the base was electronics training.  Today, Keesler is home to the US Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the “Hurricane Hunters.”  Their mission is to fly right into the heart of all kinds of tropical storms, including category 5 hurricanes to gauge their power and movements.  From what I understand, it’s quite the ride into and through the storm, right up until they enter the eye of the storm.  In the eye of the storm, it’s perfect calm.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the “I” of your storm.  Jesus, the “I am”, is with you in the midst of your storm, whatever it is.

 

Mark tells us that when Jesus got into the boat with them, “the wind ceased.”  For the disciples, when Jesus entered the boat, their nemesis was defeated.  When you, dear Saints, received Jesus, your nemesis was defeated.  The real storm of your life: Sin, death and the devil, has been defeated.  When Jesus hung on that Cross on Calvary, nearly 2,000 years ago bearing the sins of the world, your sins, my sins, He was defeating your nemesis, my nemesis.  When He cried out, “It is finished.”  It was!  Believe His words to you today, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”   He is with you.  He’s in your boat.  He will get you to the other side.

“When at last I near the shore And the fearful breakers roar Twixt me and the peaceful rest, Then, while leaning on Thy breast, May I hear Thee say to me, ‘Fear not, I will pilot thee.’” (LSB 517:3)

 + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. +

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

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