Sermon for Second Sunday before Lent, 24 February 2019

Follows the Gospel of Luke 8: 22-25 (Reading from NIV)

A Trappist monk was allowed to say only two words every three years. After the first three years, he said to the Brother Superior, “Bad bed.” Three years later he came back to say, “Bad food.” After three more years of silence the monk said, “No TV.” Another three years passed. This time the monk appeared with robes and sandals in hand and announced, “I quit.” The Brother Superior answered, “It’s no wonder. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here!”

Its easy to complain isn’t it – we are almost encouraged to.
No such thing as an accident without blame these days.
So if you are having a hard time how do you react?
Do you blame someone?
Do you blame yourself? (I must have done something to deserve this)
Or Do you blame God?
Or do you pray for help or guidance?
If you do, how does God help us?  Directly, indirectly? What do you expect when you pray for something? Do you expect it to happen if you pray hard enough? Or is an “answer to prayer” an unexpected bonus?

And on this subject what is the stilling of the storm all about?
Jesus performs this miracle to show who he is. Rather like the miracles in John’s Gospel – the seven signs.

The disciples were afraid. They were experienced fishermen who weren’t easily frightened by storms but this storm was nasty enough to make them afraid. They grabbed Jesus’ shirt and shouted, “Jesus, wake up.” They spoke that classic line from Biblical literature when they said, “Don’t you care? Don’t you care that we are perishing in this storm?”.

That question, “Don’t you care that we are perishing in the storm?” has echoed down through the centuries. People accuse God of that all the time. Its one of the most common reasons people give for not believing in God – suffering in the world and God apparently doing nothing about it.

So, Jesus woke up and said to the storm, “Be quiet. Be still.” Jesus often quieted the storm inside of people. But now Jesus was stilling the storm on the lake. Suddenly, it was very calm and Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, (And I paraphrase) “Why are you so afraid? Why are you so afraid of the storms of life? Don’t you have faith? Don’t you trust that I am with you during the storms of life? Where is your faith?”

And Jesus’ question has also echoed down through the centuries to us, “Why do you have so little faith in the midst of the storms of life?”

The disciples were stilled because they had not seen anything like this before. That somebody controlled the winds and the waves. They then believed that he was the Son of God.

This story today is an invitation for us to trust God. To trust God not merely when life is good, when we have plenty of health, cash and family around. But to trust God in the midst of the storms of life. The disciples did not realise that the power and presence of God was with them during their storm.  They could have simply trusted God, trusted that God was with them.
Life as we know it - is filled with storms. And we cant avoid them however hard we try.

What are the storms confronting you? Money, job? Family? Personal relationships? 

I’m going to say something radical now. Something we probably wont like hearing. But something I believe to be true.

You and I are built for storms. We are not built for cosy, safe little harbours. We should head out for the storms.

One of the great perils that faces the church in our day is that we tend to steer people out of the storm.

But we are not to anchor our lives in some sheltered cove and let the storm tossed world go by.

Not to protect ourselves and look inward. But to be bold and look outwards.

God’s call is not about looking inwards. We are called not to an easier task but a greater cause. Not to a cosy harbour but to the sea of storms. We are not built for safe harbours. We are built for storms.

There you go – I told you it would be shocking.

Its certainly shocking if we have been brought up to believe that our main mission in life is to insulate ourselves from the world.

One of the amazing ironies of life is the success of “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”.  We, and I include myself in this, love watching those well known people on starvation rations being made to eat unspeakable things & be plagued by insects. I do this while I reach for another packet of crisps and another cold beer. It nice to watch – not so nice to experience!

This story reminds us that God is with us in the storms of life – but also about something else just as, if not more, important.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about our church here in Leybourne. 
What is it for? Really? Apart from the worship of God? (Which is of course a good end in itself!) Is this church about ourselves? Or should it be for a much more challenging and radical mission?

How about us being a means of Grace for people who live outside the calm harbour of Leybourne?

Just a thought.

What do you think we are for?

Father Matthew BUCHAN