I Samuel 17:41-49 and Mark 4:35-41
(Quoted Scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “ssssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.
The bird’s owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum cleaner, and opened the bag. There was Chippie – still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust, hair and all the stuff you find in a vacuum cleaner bag, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the tap, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him. A few days after the trauma, a friend who had heard about Chippie’s troubles contacted his owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore – he just sits and stares.”
Who can blame him? Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
Things happen in our lives that come along unexpectedly and we end up feeling a bit like Chippie – sucked in, washed up, and blown over – the song stolen from our heart.
The disciples felt a bit like Chippie in our gospel reading this morning. Mark 4:35-37, ‘On that day, when evening had come, he (Jesus) said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But, he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”’
I don’t think there is anybody here this morning who couldn’t stand up and give testimony to sometime in their lives when they have felt or right now feel a bit like the disciples in that boat – afraid, vulnerable, feeling like you are sinking in despair. You know what it’s like to feel as though you are in the eye of the storm, tossed this way and that, and you wonder how you are ever going to get to calmer waters.
Jesus had spent a long day beside the Sea of Galilee teaching multitudes of people about the kingdom of God.
Evening was coming and Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side.” They climbed into a small boat and started across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was tired and fell asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat.
Suddenly a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped.
Storms are very common on the Sea of Galilee. The sea is more than six hundred feet below sea level. It is a relatively small body of water, ten miles long and four miles wide. However, it is about 150 feet deep. Because the sea is so far below sea level and is surrounded by mountains, it is particularly susceptible to sudden storms. Winds sweeping across the land come up and over the mountains, creating downdrafts over the water. Combined with thunderstorms that appear suddenly over the surrounding mountains, the water can stir into violent twenty-foot waves.
It is not surprising that the wind and the waves threatened to swamp the little boat occupied by Jesus and his disciples. The fishing boats used by Galilean fishermen at that time had low sides so that the men could cast and draw in their fishing nets. Such a boat could have been easily tossed about and, given the right circumstances, completely capsized by the wind and waves.
To make matters worse, these storms usually happen at night. That probably added to the fear of the disciples. Everything appears a little scarier after the sun has set. Remember that some of these disciples were seasoned fisherman accustomed to life on the sea, so you can appreciate the ferociousness of this storm. The disciples thought they might die! They were so frightened they woke Jesus who had somehow managed to sleep through it all. Almost panic stricken, they asked him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”
Many of us have asked the same question at some time in our lives. A sudden storm arises in our life—the storm of a serious illness in our physical body or the body of a loved one, the storm of a divorce, the storm of unemployment, the storm of a financial crisis, or the storm of hopelessness and depression. We feel as if we are in the eye of the storm and Jesus seems to be asleep in the boat that threatens to swamp in the sea of despair and drown us.
We call out, ‘Jesus, do you not care that we are perishing?’ Deep down, we know Jesus cares, yet there are times when it seems as if he is sleeping in the stern of the boat we find ourselves in.
Everybody goes through storms at one time or another. The central question in life is not how many storms we encounter. The question is whether we have faith for the storms. In verse 40, Jesus asks the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Sometimes when we are in a storm it will seem as if Jesus has forsaken us. It is at such times that our faith is tested.
In the Gardiner Museum in Boston there is a painting by Rembrandt entitled “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It is Rembrandt’s interpretation of this scripture passage. It shows panic etched on the faces of the disciples, as their small vessel is being raised up on a high wave, about to be crashed down. Two of the disciples are attempting to rouse Jesus who is asleep in the stern of the boat. But if you look more closely, you will discover that there is something that is not quite right. There are too many people in the picture. You count them. There are fourteen. There should only be thirteen (twelve disciples and Jesus). But instead there are fourteen. It is then that you notice that one of the men in the boat is Rembrandt. He has painted himself into the picture. He has placed himself in the same boat.
Which is precisely what we should do. It is the way that we are supposed to interpret this passage.
We are in the boat of life with Jesus. Faithful, yet at any time we may find our self in a situation that causes fear in our very being. There is no immunity for any of us. I imagine most of us would like to be the exception. We would like to believe that storms will never come into our lives or that our faith will never fail us. But storms will come, because that’s the way life is, and our faith will waver when we think that Jesus does not hear us when we call to him in the eye of the storm.
There was a little farm boy who was taken to a neighbor’s house for the day. As night came on, the little boy went out on the porch intending to go home. He became frightened by the darkness and began to cry. There was no one to take him home and he was very worried.
After a while, he looked out of the window in the direction of his house. Suddenly his face lit up and he exclaimed, “I’m not afraid anymore!” When the neighbor asked him why, the little boy answered, “Because I can see a light in the window of our house. That means my big sister is coming for me, and I’ll not be afraid when she is with me as I walk home.”
That’s the only real answer to fear that I know. When my power to handle a scary situation is at an end, I still can say, ‘I will not be afraid because you, Almighty God, are with me and you will give me peace and bring me though this storm.
David, in our passage from 1 Samuel found himself in the eye of the storm in his battle with Goliath, and said basically the same thing to the giant Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:45-47, “But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”
The boy David could say this to Goliath, because of his experience with God. When King Saul tells David he is too young to fight Goliath, David tells him, “Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God. – the Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” (vv. 36-37)
David knew the Lord God was with him, because he had been with him so many times before. When we feel as if we are in the eye of the storm, it helps to remember the other times God was with us and it wasn’t so much that he calmed our storms; it was that he calmed the storms inside of us. When we trust God to bring us through the storms in our life, we receive the peace that only He can give.
David doesn’t seem to believe that the result is up to him; rather, he says, “This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand..” (v.46) He knows that the battle is the Lord’s. I have come to realize that my battles are the Lord’s and the minute the battle starts, the minute I feel as if I am in the eye of a storm, I start to pray and give whatever situation I find myself in, to God.
Oh, I’m tempted many times to try to save myself from the eye of the storm, and each time I fail, I realize once again, that I am not in control of the things that happen to me and God can handle them much better than I ever could. I know there are people here who have tried to get through the storms of their life on their own. I hope you have come to the same epiphany. We are not meant to do this life alone. God wants to be with us in the eye of our storms.
A little girl was about to undergo a dangerous operation. Just before the doctor administered the anesthetic, he said:” Before we can make you well, we must put you to sleep.” The girl responded: “Oh, if you are going to put me to sleep, then I must say my prayers first.”
She folded her hands, closed her eyes, and said: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Later, the surgeon admitted that he prayed that prayer that night for the first time in thirty years. *
Jesus does not promise to calm every storm in your life. Jesus does promise to calm you in every storm of life.
John Wesley could hardly have been called a faint-hearted evangelist. But there were times when even he lost his nerve. During one of Wesley’s several Atlantic crossings, a fierce storm broke out, pitching and tossing the ship about like a bathtub toy. While Wesley and others clung to their bunks and hid their heads, a community of Moravians calmly gathered to hold their daily worship service and sing praises to God. Watching these Moravians, so apparently unperturbed by the howling winds and crashing waves, Wesley realized he was witnessing a truly waterproof faith. From that moment on, John Wesley prayed that God would give him the ability to likewise ride out life’s storms with as much confidence.
You and I can do the same, when we find ourselves, In The Eye of the Storm. Remember how God has brought you through other storms in your life and trust him with this one. Let go and let God, is a good motto to go by.
When you do, you’ll find that Jesus speaks to your heart, “Peace! Be still.” Calm will permeate your very being and you will find peace, In the Eye of the Storm!
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: *Donald L. Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations, San Jose: Resource, 88