First Reading: Job 38:1-11
Responsive Reading Psalm 124
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
There are storms in life. Sometimes actual weather related storms and sometimes the storm can be circumstances in life that are chaotic and overwhelming. It can be a broken relationship, a serious illness, a serious accident or death. I know that some of you have had those kinds of storms and I would guess that most of you have. We have good friends from India – their names are Neeraj and Nijer – they came to the US to study at the seminary. After receiving their PhDs from seminary and the Univ of Minn they returned to India and started a training center for Indian pastors and missionaries. They came back to the US to get their kids settled in school. So they were in the US when Covid hit India. And it hit their friends and family hard. In just a 2 week period in May of this year they lost 25 people who were either immediate family extended family or dear friends. They were praying for the whole situation and each day they would receive news that a father brother brother in law or close friend had died from Covid – sometimes 2 or 3 a day. They have been blessed with tremendous faith and that faith and trust in God is what has been sustaining them. But circumstances like these bring many people to ask those hard questions – are you there God? Don’t you care God? Why in the world do you let this happen Lord?
Jesus had been teaching the people of Israel and showing what the Kingdom of God is like. At the end of a long day he and his disciples are in a boat and head across the Galilean sea and over to non Jewish territory. The Sea of Galilee is hundreds of feet below sea level and surrounded by hills and mountains. So the wind can come rushing down the hillsides and cause a windstorm. And there was quite a windstorm that night. Remember that some of the disciples were experienced fishermen. They had been out in boats on this lake for years. Surely this was not their first windstorm on the Sea of Galilee. But even they were scared. Mark records that it is a GREAT storm. In the original language a mega storm. The waves were coming in over the top of the boat. It was filling with water and there was a real danger of the boat swamping and sinking. And yet with all the pitching and rolling with all the spray of water Jesus is conked out in the back of the boat. And what do the disciples do? They wake up Jesus and ask him – don’t you care that we are going to die? Don’t you care Jesus? When faced with a storm in life many people ask Are you there Lord? do you really exist – and do you care?
These can be faith shaking events. An event that shook the faith of Europe was the 1755 earthquake that struck Lisbon Portugal. An over 8 Magnitude lasted 5minutes. It caused cracks in the earth 16 ft wide right through the center of town Survivors rushed to the open space of the docks for safety – but then 40 min later a tsunami hit the harbor and downtown area, There were Candles lit in homes and churches all around the city for All Saints' Day They were knocked over, starting a fire that developed into a firestorm which burned for hours in the city, The blaze was so intense it used so much oxygen that it suffocated people up to 100 ft away from the flames. Earthquake then flood then fire – the death toll was between 30 – 50,000 in Lisbon alone plus all the death and destruction to the surrounding area. All across Europe people were wondering why a loving God would allow such destruction.
Are you there God? Do you care? The disciples wake Jesus up saying don’t you care that we are dying. Jesus responds by rebuking the wind and the waves – peace be still. This is the response we’re hoping for – we want Jesus to rebuke the wind and the waves – to rebuke the break in the relationship, rebuke the disease, rebuke the suffering and death. We want him to speak the words Peace be still. Sometimes he calms the raging sea and sometimes He doesn’t Sometimes the cure comes – maybe even in a miraculous way – and sometimes it doesn’t Sometimes life is spared – and sometimes it isn’t Sometimes the relationship is restored - and sometimes it isn’t Jesus doesn’t always give us the answer we are looking for – Sometimes it seems that He doesn’t give us an answer at all.
The Lisbon earthquake shook the faith of people all across Europe. In that crisis of faith people either turned to God or away from God. Thousands turned from God and became atheists and yet thousands turned to God and their faith grew. With modern science we have a much better understanding of the how and what of natural disasters. With modern medicine we have a better understanding of how and what of diseases. But we are still left with the question why. Are you there God, do you care, God? Throughout the Old Testament Yahweh demonstrated that he controlled creation. That He controlled the sea. In Exodus he parts the waters and the nation of Israel walks across the sea on dry land. The psalmists write of Yahweh’s power over the sea many times as in Psalm 89.9 You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them. So when Jesus stands up and rebukes the wind and the waves the disciples really become afraid. They were fearing for their lives in the storm but now they were terrified. In the original language it says they were fearing with great fear. Yahweh was the only one who did those things. "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" Throughout his ministry Jesus is demonstrating that he is Lord over creation, Lord over demons and evil, Lord over disease and death. He is revealing that He is indeed Yahweh in the flesh. AND as Yahweh in the flesh he is using his awesome power FOR others. He calms the storm For the disciples he heals FOR the sick he casts out demons FOR the demon possessed He raises the dead FOR them and their family. And we know the end of the story. We see Jesus bruised and bloody hanging on a cross taking on the sin of the world for you and me we see him rising from the grave for you and me.
There is no easy answer to the question why. Why Lord if you are good and you are powerful – why didn’t you calm the storm for me. Are you there Lord? don’t you care? Why didn’t you stop Covid from killing those 25 people in India. Why did you allow tens of thousands to die in the Lisbon earthquake. Why are you allowing millions to die from the pandemic we are facing? Yes we know there is sin in this fallen world. Apart from that there are no easy and pat answers to our whys. But in faith we look to God’s promises – and trust that this one who bled and died on a cross – knows our suffering knows our pain – that He is with us and for us. And he keeps giving himself to us – by way of His Holy Word and His body and blood.
His is there and he cares. Amen