A sermon for mid-week Holy Communion
‘We’re all in the same boat’ – I like that expression because it helps us feel like we’re not alone in whatever we’re going through. In our Bible reading we see in Jesus a God who is present, a God who is there in the boat with his people. God doesn’t allow problems to happen to us and then keep his distance. He’s right there in the boat with us; he’s in the middle of the problem with us; he’s in the middle of our struggles alongside us.
On the boat in the storm, Jesus wanted his disciples to look deep inside and check where their faith was. He wasn't accusing them of not having faith, he was asking WHERE their faith was. Every now and then we leave our faith in a cupboard or under the carpet somewhere, or perhaps we leave our faith in church when we go back home or out into the world, and we try and go about our daily tasks, or even through major crises, in our own strength and with our own vision of how things should go. From time to time we hide our faith, not only from others, but also from ourselves! But we need to keep returning and trusting God especially when things are stormy or scary. God can use the storms in our lives to teach us how to live our lives with faith and trust in HIM.
The painting is Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee. Notice there are 14 people in the boat. There should only be 13 (12 disciples plus Jesus). Some believe that Rembrandt included himself on the boat, but it could be that he intended to include the viewer (you or me). Where would you be in the painting? Up to the left of the painting is a place of chaos, and down towards Jesus is a place of calm. Where do you think you live most of your daily life? If you think you live in chaos, are you able to picture yourself moving from the place of chaos (on the left) to the place of peace in front of Jesus (on the right)?
I think that fear is one of the main reasons we don’t trust Jesus as much as we probably want to trust him. But what is stronger than fear? Scripture gives us the answer: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Jesus sleeping on the storm-tossed sea reveals that the disciple’s faith had been replaced by fear. They feared for their lives even though their Lord was with them in the boat. Jesus is asleep at first, but the irony is that the disciples are revealed as asleep to Christ while he was present with them in their hour of need. The Lord is always present with us. And in our time of testing he asks us the same question he asked the disciples here: Why are you afraid? Where is your faith? Great unexpected storms arise at times in our life, threatening to overwhelm us. Every time we meet with trouble, the Lord is there with the same reassuring message: “I am with you, do not be afraid”.
What does it mean to "trust" Jesus? Trusting Jesus means no longer relying on yourself for any kind of salvation, but relying on Christ alone. When we trust that Jesus died for our sins, and we trust that our sins are forgiven, and we totally rely on his promise that he’s with us by his Spirit, then we are blessed. The Bible says in 2 Cor. 5 that when we really trust in Christ, a new life begins -- "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" As a follower of Christ, a person has to rely upon Jesus in all areas of their life, not just for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus said in John’s gospel that he is the Teacher. And he told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and guide them into all truth. God teaches us his ways and his truth. In terms of values and behaviour, when we listen, he points out the stuff in our thinking and behaviour that's not right, he shows us what the right thing is, and gives us the strength to do it. This is one of the ways God shows his love for us – by helping us when we come to him and trust in him. He is the One who knows all truth, and He wants us to build our lives on His truth.
By trusting Christ as our Teacher, through Scripture and Prayer, he shows us how to live, and will guide us in praying. When we learn what He wants from us, and endeavour to do those things, we know can rely on His strength and power through the Holy Spirit.
So being a Christian is based on trusting Jesus. God doesn’t promise a life without storms, but he has promised to be with us in the middle of the storms. The disciples were experienced fishermen, so this wasn’t the first time they had faced a storm on the sea. But this storm was so powerful that they panicked. But the disciples had underestimated the power of Jesus. Once they turned to him, Jesus immediately calmed the storm. God wants to be the calmer of our storms as well. Do we underestimate his power? We have two options when we face hard times: we can panic and worry, assuming that God doesn’t care, or we can turn to Jesus and rely on him and trust that he is with us no matter what. Amen.