Der Vasken's Sermon on September 1, 2019

Sep 3, 2019

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

As our summer quickly winds down, I realized two things the other day.  It was very busy and full of activity and that I have had two opportunities this past summer to sail across two very deep bodies of water.  That is unusual for me because I don't particularly care for deep water--water so deep that I can't see the bottom.  I don't look for opportunities to engage in that type of experience.

But earlier in the summer on a small, motorized, wooden boat, I and a small group of us sailed across the deep Sea of Galilee in the Holy Land, and just last week while on a family vacation, on a modern, very heavy metal ship, we sailed across the waters of the Caribbean to visit different locations.  And all the while, I thought of this story from the Bible.  It brought me perspective and it brought me reassurance and I knew that everything would be okay. 

Faith and doubt play great roles in the minds and hearts of people when they face the uncertainties of life.  When something frightens us, when something unnerves us, when something throws us off balance, 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, Jesus asks a very powerful, personal question during a similar situation: "Why are you so afraid? He asks.  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 rests 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. As the small boat was being tossed about from the wind and the waves, He called out to the boat of frightened men to hold on to their faith.  For the disciples, the strangest thing about being caught in a storm in the middle of the sea was that they thought their Teacher was oblivious to 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 is the same trouble many of us feel with the "storms" we face in life.  We begin losing our trust in God when the storms "pour down."  Theirs was a physical storm but storms come in many tones and forms.  Think about the situations in your life--those storms 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 is the same thing as asking: "Do we place our trust in our faith or in our storm?  Most people begin losing their trust in God when the storms of life begin to rain down upon them.  And that is understandable. But in days of tension and stress, 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, fear, temptation, loneliness or depression bear down on us; or whatever it is that causes us alarm whether it is the burning Amazon Rain Forests or the damaging hurricane of floods in Florida, we, as Christians of the 21st Century, know something that the Christians of the 1st Century 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 is 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? Do you still have no faith?"  Today's Bible passage is about faith overcoming fear.  It is about faith being more important to us than fear.  It is about faith leaving no room for fear.

So the next time you face a situation that causes you fear, remind yourself that your God is greater than what causes you fear.  Your God is greater than the storms of this life and hold tightly to your faith.

Amen.