I spent this past week as a counselor up at Camp Stoney. Sunday through Friday nights I lived in a cabin with 8 young men – ages 8 to 11. I won’t go into detail….but today’s gospel especially rings true after the experiences of this past week. My faith was tested over and over again. Daily. Hourly.
And to be honest, I can also relate to today’s Old Testament lesson as well. I am David. And all those beautiful – yet faith-testing – young people were my Goliath. Luckily, I had the self-control NOT to pick up a stone and wing it at my new young friends as they constantly argued about absolutely EVERYthing.
Today’s gospel, the story of Jesus calming the stormy seas is a very familiar one. It appears in all three of the synoptic gospels. Jesus and his disciples were on a boat. As Jesus took a nap a storm brewed and the sea became dangerous. Winds and waves rocked the boat. The disciples were scared and woke Jesus.
Jesus calmed the storm and then wondered aloud why his friends had been afraid? Did they still have no faith? In the gospel of Matthew Jesus accuse them of having “little faith” and in Luke he asks the big question “Where is your faith?”
The disciples were amazed Jesus was able to calm the storm. For me that begs the question – why did they wake Jesus up in the first place? If they weren’t expecting such a miracle was Jesus simply supposed to help bail buckets of water out of the boat? Did they want him to help row faster?
We do have to remember this story is written very early in the gospel of Mark. At this point, they have witnessed Jesus healing several people, but certainly they have not seen a miracle on this scale. So we should cut the disciples a little bit of slack.
Often, this story of Jesus calming the stormy sea is used as a metaphor for our tumultuous lives – full of ups and downs. Jesus is there to make things better. To save us from the tough times. You may think he’s asleep, but all you have to do is call and he’ll make it all better.
To interpret the story this way, makes it sound like all you need is faith and Jesus will miraculously make all your troubles disappear.
But what if we look at this story from a slightly different angle? What if faith is going to help you through that storm, no matter what the outcome might be?
What if we don’t look at faith as something which solves problems, but helps you cope with problems? Let’s work with that premise.
I am from Hannibal, Missouri. That little burg on the Mississippi River is known for being the hometown of a wise-cracking philosopher whose witticisms and observations are known around the world. That person is my mother, Betty Martin.
Betty had a saying for everything. And if my brother or I was upset about something or worried about an outcome, our mother would always say “Things have a way of working out.”
As a child, I took that to mean that everything would work out just fine and dandy. The problem would be solved to my satisfaction or (even better) the trouble would simply vanish.
But as I grew to adulthood, I realized my mother’s Midwestern words of wisdom were actually much deeper than I originally thought. Implicit in the statement “Things have a way of working out” is the fact that you don’t know how they are going to work out.
Things will indeed eventually resolve, but they may not end up the way you had hoped or dreamed they would. But you will need to find a way to deal with that outcome. And if you simply understand the concept of “things have a way of working out” you can prepare yourself for any eventuality while those things are working out.
So perhaps faith doesn’t mean you will always have smooth sailing after a rough patch. Perhaps faith can give us the courage to face any storm no matter what the outcome might be.
Jesus asked his disciples why they simply didn’t have faith. Maybe if they had the kind of faith he was talking about they wouldn’t have gotten so worked up. They could have dealt with the consequences of that storm even if it meant the boat would fill with water….and capsize….and crash into the rocks…and be dashed into splinters!
Maybe that’s the kind of faith Jesus was telling his disciples they needed to have.
In my homiletics class this past year we learned that a sermon should never concentrate too much on the sermon giver’s personal experience. But I have lived through something which changed my life and I’d like to share it with you because I now believe it might have quite a bit to do with what we are considering today.
Three years ago I was extremely sick with stage four non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I was in the hospital for three months receiving intensive chemotherapy. It was extremely serious.
My outcome was good. I am standing here today and talking to you. After I recovered, I shared with my husband that I never thought I was going to die. Although it was a very real possibility the disease or the treatment itself could have killed me, I never thought I was going to die.
I am no saint. I do not have a direct line to God. I do not have a perfect faith. In fact, the idea that I didn’t consider the fact that I would die didn’t actually come to me until well after I had recovered. I’m not sure where the faith came from. Maybe the huge doses of morphine I was getting helped it along.
But I can recall the night – so clearly - when that faith kicked in. I was at my absolute worst – the sickest I could possibly get. And one night I prayed what would become my mantra for the coming months.
I prayed to God….”you know what I need more than I do. Help me.”
I didn’t pray for healing. I didn’t pray for anything in particular. Somehow in the worst moment of that storm, I prayed for God to simply help me. And at the time, that help might have been absolutely any outcome. I just wanted help in that moment. I wasn’t looking at the long game.
I wanted to share that story with you because I was gifted wtih an amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of the kind of faith required to help us through any kind of storm.
So I know it’s possible.
We heard the gospel from Mark today. And only in Mark are we offered the opportunity to hear exactly what Jesus said to end the storm.
Peace. Be still.
The gospel makes it clear that Jesus spoke these words to the sea.
Peace. Be still.
But maybe it was said for his followers to hear as well.
Peace. Be still.
In finding peace….in being still…maybe that is where that amazing faith can be found – the type of faith Jesus wondered why his disciples had not yet received. The faith which will carry us through any adversity. Perhaps crying, screaming, and pleading isn’t the answer. Let us consider a quiet and calm faith as the answer.
So actually……I may not be joking about the morphine helping. In the years since my illness, I am not nearly as able to find that peace to allow my faith to actually go to work
And my crisis of faith at Camp Stoney this past week probably was the result with my desire to control the outcome of every situation instead of simply letting my faith in God let me I’d be able to handle the things which actually did happen.
So, back to the beginning of this sermon. Jesus asked his disciples why they ‘still didn’t have faith.” I propose that we DO have faith, we just need to use.
Peace. Be Still.
Don’t worry about how things will turn out. Find a peaceful space and trust you will be able to endure any outcome after a
You’ve got this.
Just use it.