Der Vasken's Sermon on September 3, 2017

Sep 6, 2017

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"When I was allowed back to my home, everything was washed away.  My home was gone.  The only thing that was left standing was the statue of the Virgin Mary in my front yard, but then I knew that somehow everything would be okay."  This was a quote I heard last week on a news program covering the floods.  Faith and doubt played great roles in the minds and hearts of so many of the flood area victims last week in Houston and it's natural that they would. When disasters strike on this level and lives are ruined and years of building our homes are washed away in the blink of an eye, we turn to our faith or we begin to doubt.  We plead for God's help or we wonder where God is.

In today's Bible reading a question is asked during a very similar situation. "Why are you so afraid? Are you still of no faith?" These are the words of Jesus Christ as He was woken from the back of the boat by His disciples.  The small boat was filled with His frightened disciples.  They were frightened because their boat was being tossed from side to side from the wind and the waves by a sudden storm on the sea.  The Sea of Galilee is well below sea level and is surrounded by hills.  Winds blowing across the land greatly intensify as they move closer to the sea, often causing violent and unexpected storms. 

The disciples were seasoned fishermen, who had spent their lives around this lake but during this particular storm, they panicked. So their small boat was being tossed about from the wind and the waves of a sudden storm on the sea.  And He called out to the boat of frightened men to hold onto their faith.  For the disciples the worst thing about being caught in a storm on the sea was that they thought their teacher didn't care about what was happening around them.  He was asleep in the back of the boat and so they lost their faith and trust in Him.  And they wondered:

  • "Doesn't He care about us?"
  • "Doesn't He feel like helping us?"
  • And "Doesn't He, Who we trusted, want to stand with us while facing this great storm?"

He was asleep in the back of the boat so they lost their trust in Him.  And that's the same stress and fear many of us feel with the "storms" we face in life.  We begin losing our trust in God when the storms "pour down around us."  Theirs was a physical storm but storms come in many forms.  Think about the storms in your life--those situations that cause you great stress and concern.  Whatever our difficulty, you and I have two options.   We can worry and assume that God no longer cares, or we can resist fear by putting our trust in Him all the more.  It's the same thing as asking: "Do we place our trust in our faith or in our fear?"

Most people begin losing their trust in God when the "storms of life" begin to "pour down upon them." And that's understandable.  But in those stressful days, when we are burdened with problems, in moments of anxiety when we don't know how we can possibly face what lies ahead, or when waves of doubt or fear or temptation or loneliness or depression bear down on us, or whatever it is that stresses us, we, as 21st Century Christians, know something that the 1st Century disciples didn't know.  "God's presence is closer than we think."  We just have to look through the "lens of faith" to feel His presence. 

We have to realize that it's our faith that will get us through our difficulties in life.  The Christian belief is about clinging to our faith.  Jesus Christ does not promise to "still" all our storms in life but He has promised us that He will always remain with us in "the boat" of life and never leave us.  And in His company, we can face whatever "storm" may come our way.  The presence of God in our lives does not prevent "the storms of life" from taking place, but His presence will make a difference in the way we face those storms.

May we all take a moment out of our three-day weekend to think about "the storms" we face in life.  And remember the words of Jesus Christ:  "Why are you so afraid?  Are you still of no faith?"  Today's Bible passage is about faith overcoming fear.  It's about faith being more important to us than fear.  It's about faith leaving no room for fear.  So the next time you face a situation that causes you stress and fear, remind yourself that your God is greater than what you are facing and hold on tightly to your faith.

Amen.