I gave this talk at one of my favourite churches to preach in – TubeStation which is also known as the Polzeath Community Church in Polzeath, Cornwall.
God is doing amazing things there and I would urge you to visit TubeStation if you are ever in North Cornwall. If you can’t get there in person have a look at their website: www.tubestation.org.
This talk is dated Sunday 16th August 2009.
Mark 4:35 – 41
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
It’s great to be here at Polzeath this morning and I bring you greetings from the Wood Lane Baptist Church in Dagenham. Did you know that many years ago Dagenham was a holiday destination? The famed reformer Elizabeth Fry spent several summers in a riverside cottage in Dagenham. Similarly my home town of Rainham was a resort for day trippers from London. So next time you are in Essex come and spend a day at Rainham beach.
Have you ever noticed that for some people life if plain sailing as if they were on a lily pond. Some folk never seem to have any crises in their lives and they glide serenely through life like a swan on a still river. And yet for most of us we have the storms of life to face and sometimes life is more like white water rafting. Sounds familiar?
You have probably been through some storms yourselves. You know the sort of things that happen in life: illness, disability, death, unemployment, relationship breakdowns etc.
The question is “W hat do you do in the midst of the storms of life?”
Lets see what we can learn from today’s passage from Mark 4.
First a bit of a geography lesson. The Sea of Galilee is fed by the Jordan River, rainfall and springs on the northern side. More properly designated a lake, is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. At its deepest point the lake is only 150 feet deep. The rabbis said of it, “Although God has created seven seas, yet He has chosen this one as His special delight.” At 209 metres below sea level it’s the lowest freshwater lake in the world.
The lake was very busy with fishing villages around its shores. According to Josephus a 1st century historian there were in Jesus’ time some 230 fishing boats on the lake. In those days people used nets; either small ones thrown into the shallow water or bigger ones let down into the water from a boat.
Jesus had been teaching all day and was relaxing in the boat as they set sail across the lake. Apparently all was calm as they got under way.
However the peaceful calm of the Sea of Galilee can quickly become transformed by a violent storm. Winds funnel through the east-west aligned Galilee hill country and stir up the waters quickly. More violent are the winds that come off the hills of the Golan Heights to the east. Trapped in the basin, the winds can be deadly to fishermen. A storm in March 1992 sent waves 10 feet high crashing into downtown Tiberius and causing significant damage.
But aren’t our lives often the same? All is calm and we make progress across the sea of life when suddenly out of nowhere the storm comes.
People feel unwell go to the doctor for tests and CRASH there comes the diagnosis. Lee was 28. We had meet when I conducted her grandmother’s funeral. She was full of life and devoted herself to working with handicapped children. She felt unwell and within two weeks the leukaemia had overwhelmed her and killed her.
Or as usual you go into work but by lunchtime your career is at an end and you have joined the ranks of the unemployed.
In 1996 I suddenly found I was on a list for redundancy, and from a visit to my doctor I had major problem. So in a matter of days I was redundant with a wife and four sons to support. But God was with us through that storm and indeed has done amazing things for us and through us.
Or your spouse has walked out leaving you with the children, the mortgage and all the debts.
We don’t see it coming and suddenly we’re swamped.
What are we going to do? The little storms we may be able to cope with, but what about the stuff that threatens to overwhelm us?
Let me tell you about Ron. That’s not his real name. Ron apparently has it all. The mortgage is paid off. He is in a safe job, as his is wife’s. His stepsons are in work. He is forever going on about his savings and his pension – he knows exactly what its worth and how many days till he can claim it. Everything was going great until one day the storm came. His father had a major heart attack and nearly died. It shook Ron to the core. At that moment his house, his savings, his future pension counted for nothing – they couldn’t save his father. But by the grace of God his father recovered. Ron is still relying on his trying to stay afloat, clutching at straws. Many people have tried to talk with him about Jesus and the need to be born again but so far he hasn’t listened..
Some people panic and clutch at any passing straws. Many bereaved folk have asked me about going to mediums or spiritists to make sure that their loved ones are okay. Desperate measures for desperate situations. Its like calling out to the Somali pirates to rescue you rather than the Navy or the lifeboat!
Most of the disciples were skilled fishermen who knew the lake like the back of their hands. They had,, no doubt, dealt with storms all their working lives but now there was something far worse. The only thing left is to wake Jesus and get him on the case. You feel the tension and the fear ‘The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
It seems in their terror they have forgotten who Jesus is. Jesus the son of God cares for all creation. We are reminded in Psalm 121 that God is on the case 24/7 as the Psalmist wrote “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
Jesus is described in Colossians 1:16 & 17 as follows: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Jesus, who was the creator of the universe deals with the situation as we read “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm”
Bringing Jesus into a situation radically alters it and if we allow him to act he can calm the storm that is raging around us.
And yet how many people don’t call out to God in their distress but blame him instead? Why didn’t you rescue me? Why did you let my loved one die?
A few months ago we were stranded at a service station on the M6 toll road. Our car’s starter motor had failed. I could have just sat in the car and complained that the AA didn’t come to my rescue. Well, they only knew I needed help when I phoned them and asked for assistance. Once I made that call we just had to wait for the patrol to arrive to fix the car.
Because God has given us free will we have a choice to call out to Jesus to save us or to remain silent and muddle through on our own. Jesus will not come to our rescue till we ask him. Having prayed the prayer we just have to wait on Jesus, just as I had to wait for the AA patrol to arrive having made the call.
I assume that most of you have been on the beach here and have swam or surfed in the sea. You will have seen the warning flag put up by the life guards, to keep people safe in the water. Or you will have heard the lifeguards’ warnings to either move across the beach or more urgently to get out of the water. The lifeguards are there for your safety, not to spoil your fun as some many think. Similarly God’s rules and commands are there to keep you safe and free from danger. And yet how many folk ignore God’s warning flags and promptly put themselves into dangerous stormy waters.
However when you find yourselves in one of life’s storms, you are not on your own if you have come to faith in Jesus because he has promised to be with his followers to the end of time. Even if you do not always feel his presence he is with in everything we face in life.
Jesus does care even if it appears that he hasn’t instantly calmed the storm, he will be with you in the boat and you will not go under.
God’s word to his people who face life’s trial and tribulations is Isaiah 43:1 – 3 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; “