10th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Some of you here today may have experienced a great storm on a body of water while in a boat on the water. Maybe you have witnessed a storm while on shore. I myself have never been in an area during a hurricane but I have seen the recorded devastation both during the storm and in its aftermath.
At times at sea, in the Pacific Ocean, the crew of our destroyer would sail through very rough wind and roiling sea. Even the most stalwart men and women would succumb to sea-sickness when the peaks and the troughs of the ocean would toss the ship about like a slow moving roller coaster.
Yet some of the scariest storms I have ever been in were right here on Flathead Lake. On a large ship, even with a large ocean, the fear of sinking was not as terrifying as the 8 foot waves hitting a 5 foot high boat. To see a single wave crash over the side of a boat and fill it instantly with water is quite alarming even in the middle of the day.
In the Gospel of Mark, we are told that, at three in the morning, the disciples were in a boat sailing across the lake. This is Lake Kinneret also known as the Sea of Galilee. It is 13 miles long, from north to south and 8 miles wide, from east to west. Gennesaret and Bethsaida are about 3.5 to 4 miles apart at the north end of the lake.
Some of the most violent storms are caused by the winds that blow off the Golan Heights from the east and the waves can reach up to 10 feet in height. All in all, it is much like our beloved Flathead Lake.
It was in the middle of their journey when such a storm came up. The disciples, many of them experienced fishermen, had furled their sails and were now using their oars to move the boat along, but the wind was against them.
I doubt they had life jackets and to row to shore would only endanger the boat to crash upon the rocks, therefore; their only hope was to weather the storm. With the waves filling their boat with water, I am sure they were very tired and worried.
In the midst of this chaos came our Lord, Jesus Christ, walking calmly across the water without impedance. The wind and the waves did not affect him. When the disciples see this unearthly sight, they become terrified believing they are seeing a ghost.
Jesus comes to them saying “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” [Mark 6:50b] and he steps into the boat. Immediately the wind died down…
A major difference between a lake, sea or ocean is the size. In order to move the water of an ocean in to large waves takes a great amount of energy. This energy begins with the wind. Huge storms blow long and hard across the surface of the water. You have probably seen the satellite pictures of the great funnel clouds of a hurricane. During hurricane season, the weather watchers keep a constant eye on the storms as they build up in strength, get bigger in size and begin to pick up speed.
The energy from the wind of the storm starts moving the water beneath it. The water then starts heaving and surging thus adding more energy to the tempest. This creates a resonant frequency in the water much like the vibrations on a guitar string. However, the water is not tied down at each end like a string and it continues to build up higher waves feeding on itself.
To look up from the deck of your boat or ship and see a wall of water taller than your tallest mast is very humbling and terrifying. It is so alarming because you know that you have no power whatsoever to stop this incredible force.
Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The great storm full of power and might was a force no man could calm. This is a fine example of God’s authority over His creation. Yet there was a greater storm in this world that was killing people every day, drowning them in the depths of the Sea of Sin.
This Lake of Iniquity is deeper than any sea and wider than any ocean. It can kill in an instant or slowly drain the life of a man lost in its vastness as he futilely searches for rescue. One thing is certain – the winds and waves cannot be overcome by our power.
Yet like the disciples who struggled against the tempest, our salvation lies in the power of our Lord, Christ Jesus. He comes to us in the midst of our dying and sin and says, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
With a word, Christ calms the storm; the winds die down and the water becomes smooth. With a word, Christ forgives our sin and heals our tired and beaten souls. This is another fine example of God’s authority over His creation.
God, our Father, saw us straining at the oars of life because the devil is against us. God sent His only Son into the fourth watch of the night to give his life as payment for our deserved punishment.
The death of our Lord was the death of our sin and his resurrection from the grave, three days later, was our resurrection into life eternal with our Father in heaven. Through his sacrifice,
The Adversary has been stopped and the squall that is our lives has been made smooth as glass.
We have yet to reach our port in heaven and, at times, we may become afraid in this life as we struggle against the waves, but remember who is really in control. This does not mean that we no longer need follow the commands of our Lord; in fact, it is our bound duty to do as Christ has directed.
We are to continue to tell others of His saving grace. We are to continue to baptize all people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are to pray unceasingly in thanks and praise and we are to forgive sins.
All of this will certainly bring the storming rage of the Devil against us. The Adversary of old will do everything in his power to throw us off course or to shipwreck us in the rejection of Christ Jesus.
There will be dark days and darker nights for anyone who follows Christ. This is not the work of Prince of Peace but the work of the Lord of Lies. Yet in Christ, we have hope. He is our life preserver. It is he who we tie to our bodies when we are buffeted by the storms of this world.
We will become tired and weary and maybe even afraid, but in all this we need only remember the words of our heavenly Rescuer, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
For once we have crossed over, we will land in God’s kingdom and be anchored there. God Himself will be with us and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor fear. There shall be no more pain, for all these things will have passed away. [Revelation 21:4]
As the Apostle John tells us in Revelation chapter 21 verse 1, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” [Revelation 21:1]
No more sea! No more sin! At last, we will be complete, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We who were lost at sea will then be holy as God is holy.
The love of Christ has replaced our Lake of Iniquity. As deep, as long, as wide is our sin, the love of Christ is greater. The love of Christ, the love of God through the Holy Spirit is now the wind in our sails. It is not a violent, destructive wind but a steady, guiding wind that pushes us toward God.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father.” says the apostle Paul, and he continues:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” [Eph 3:14-18]