Der Vasken's Sermon on October 11, 2020

Oct 14, 2020

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

Listen to this quote I shared a few nights ago during our First Wednesdays discussion to the thirty people, who joined us either in-person in Johnson Hall or virtually through Zoom.  I was driving in my car, listening to talk radio like I often do and this is what I heard:  "I won't be buying a Christmas tree this year with COVID and everything else going on, there isn't anything to celebrate."  Forget the fact that the man, who spoke this quote, elevated a Christmas tree to the main point of Christmas.  What I heard was despair.  I heard hopelessness and gloom in his voice.  The reason he made this statement revolved around the fact that retail stores in the Boston area this year have already begun decorating with traditional Christmas decor and music and people were being asked about their feelings of decorating earlier than ever.

Last Wednesday evening we began talking about finding hope in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold our heads up and not feel agitated or hopeless.  We focused our conversation around the "storms" that are surrounding our lives today.  We admitted that we live in a very uncertain world surrounded by "storms":

  • With a pandemic now in its seventh month;
  • The future of Artsakh and Armenia in peril;
  • Racism in our big cities and small towns;
  • Opioid-related deaths steadily increasing;
  • Suicide on the increase;
  • Hate, anger and rage on the increase;
  • A society that encourages us to buy more but value less;
  • And a world that seeks to clean up the air but enables us to pollute our souls and on and on this list of "storms" could go.
We are surrounded by "storms" every day.

A storm is more than wind and rain and that is a thought that comes from today's Bible reading.  This story that Ann read to us is about a storm on the Sea of Galilee.  The sea has always held a strong fascination for people.  It inspires curiosity and wonder, fear and awe, thrills and even challenges.  People challenging the sea are the things of the classics--bring to mind the great novels you read over the years.

The sea implies the unknown and the uncontrollable, the unconquerable force of nature.  In the Bible, it has that same meaning.  But today's story is about a great deal more than simply the power of Jesus over the uncontrollable force of nature.  The storm in this story, in my mind, stands for the many types of storms that people face every day.  The storm on the Sea of Galilee stands for the personal storms we face in our everyday lives.

  • Our "storms" don't produce rain like Hurricane Delta did last week.
  • Our "storms" leave their wounds on our lives that often take years to erase.
  • Our "storms" find their way into our homes, our work and into the lives of our children.
  • Our "storms" bring illnesses that can knock us to our knees, temptations we can't resist and people we can't seem to please.
  • And our "storms" bring a career that leads nowhere, a past we can't forget and a future we don't want to face.
The storms of life look different for everyone but everyone will face a storm at some point in life. 

Today's Bible story gives us hope for handling these personal storms.  The first hope is that storms do end.  However intense they might be, storms pass.  Sometimes we have to wait out the storm and while we wait it out, we are reminded to cling to our prayer life because we are stronger when we stay close to God.  Difficult times are not the times to distance ourselves from prayer.  Those are the times when we need, more than ever, to remain close to God in prayer.  It is prayer that gives us the strength we need to make it through the storms and hurricanes of life.

And finally, a hope that is revealed in this story is that Christ is with us in our "boat."  When the "waves of life" come crashing over our lives, we are tempted to say the same thing the disciples said to Jesus in today's reading: "Lord, don't You care about us?"  It is a common feeling to have:

  • "Why am I in this hospital bed?"
  • "Why are my loved ones departing from my life?"
  • "Lord, why are You letting this happen?"
Storms occur.  We all know that, but when they occur to us, they are much more difficult to accept. The hope revealed in this story is a very real hope and one we should all listen to very carefully.  In all our storms, Christ is not simply next to us in the boat.  He is "inside" our lives.  It is the Christian teaching that the presence of Christ inside us is what makes all the difference and when we realize this, we can face down any storm.

Take a moment out of this beautiful October Sunday to think about the "storms" you face in life.  And remember that storms are more than wind and rain.  And ask yourself:  "Are faith and hope a real part of your life?"  And the next time you face a situation that causes your hope to face, remember today's Bible story.  Your God is greater than the "storms" you face and then hold on to that hope like you never have before.  "Are faith and hope real parts of our lives?"




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