Der Vasken’s Sermon on August 29, 2021

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

Tornadoes will touch down. Hurricane level winds will begin soon and shortages of essentially everything are expected. Stay off the roads and stay at home. These were many of the headlines last weekend. As an unusual summer storm headed our way and understandably panic filled the hearts and minds of many. It’s hard to imagine that that was only a week ago. We heard of stores closing, restaurants closing and even some churches announced they would be closed on Sunday. We heard alarm and fear in voices from the top down, from the Governor of the State to the children in our homes.

Around New England, that type of storm generally doesn’t occur during the humid months of summer. We are accustomed to well-developed, high-impact winter storms. A summer storm, like they predicted, hadn’t occurred around here in over thirty years, they said.

Today’s Bible reading indicates that weather such as this does, in fact, occur in parts of the world during the warm season. Today’s Bible story talks about one of those storms and it takes place on the Sea of Galilee. It highlights how faith and doubt clash with each other in our hearts. We are familiar with this story but because of last weekend’s story threat and what is going on today in the Gulf of Mexico, we might hear its message differently today.

Faith and doubt take up great space in the hearts and minds of people when they face uncertainties in life. It is like an ongoing battle between believing and doubting within our hearts. When something frightens us, when something unnerves us and when something throws us off balance, if we don’t cling to our faith, doubt begins filling our heart. We look for God’s help and if we don’t find it, we wonder if God is even there.

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus asks a very pointed and personal question during a similar situation. “Why are you so afraid?” He asks. “Is it possible that you still do not believe?” He asked these questions when He was woken up by His frightened disciples in the back of the boat. They were frightened because their boat was swaying from side to side by powerful winds and high waves of an abrupt storm on the sea.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen, who had spent their entire lives around this body of water, but during this particular storm, they panicked. And so as their small boat was being tossed about, He called out to the frightened men to hold on to their faith and cling to their trust. It was unusual for these men to be caught in an unexpected storm on this sea. They were better than that. They were among the most experienced of fishermen. How could this be? They must have thought. But what was most concerning to them was that they began thinking that their Leader didn’t seem to care about what was happening to them.

They found Him asleep in the back of the boat and so they lost their faith and trust in Him. They wondered if He even cared about them. “Doesn’t He feel like helping us? Doesn’t He, Who we trusted, He, Who we left our families for, want to stand with us and face this great storm?”

Those are often the same questions many of us ask when we face “storms” in life. We begin questioning God when we are surrounded by storms. We all know that storms are never far away. Think about the storms going on around our country right now. We ended a war on the other side of the world but a humanitarian crisis, like we’ve never seen, has emerged in its wake. More and more people are getting vaccinated every day and yet the Delta variant numbers are heading back up. A flash flood in Tennessee leaves nearly twenty people dead and others still missing a week later. We, as a country, struggle with competing visions of who we are and who we should be. This struggle is being debated in courthouses and town halls all across the country. It will be discussed at family dinners, in school classrooms, on college campuses, at our workplaces and in our church halls. Those storms are only a few of the many storms that cause us anxiety and keep us up at night.

Whenever storms hit, you and I have two options. We can place our trust in God or we can place our trust in the storm. Most people lose their trust when they are surrounded by the storms of life and that is understandable. But in those moments of fear and doubt, we need to remember that “God’s eye is always on us.” We just have to draw on our faith to realize it. It is a solid faith in God that will help us through the storms of life.

Jesus Christ never promised to prevent the storms of life from happening but He did promise that He will always remain at our side and never leave it. With Him, we can face whatever storm comes our way.

As the summer months begin drawing to a close, think about the storms you face in life. Remember today’s biblical questions:

• Why are you so afraid?
• Is it possible that you still do not believe?

Today’s Bible passage is about faith and trust. The next time your heart fills with anxiety, remind yourself that God is greater than any storm and hold tightly to that faith. Something for all of us to believe.

Amen.

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