4th Sunday After Pentecost (B)
Job 38:1-11; 2 Cor 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
What are you afraid of? Really afraid of? What makes that panicky feeling rise up inside you to where you aren’t sure you can fully control your response? Spiders, snakes? Heights, close spaces? You won’t measure up, aren’t good enough? Failure, death?
Regardless of what terrifies us, our fears are real and our response to fear is powerful. When you are beginning to panic, your response to your situation is entirely different than when you are calm and rational.
Jesus’ disciples are panicking. They don’t think about the fact that they really are being rather rude. They don’t think about the fact that this is Jesus in the boat with them—the man who casts our demons and heals sick people. The strength of this storm is so violent that these professional fishermen, who spend their life on this sea, are terrified because they are beginning to drown right now. They are staring death in the eye, and the darkness and chaos of the sea are about to engulf them and take them down under the waves forever.
Sometimes you can’t control what you’re afraid of. When you are experiencing fear, you are experiencing fear. So I think we can cut the disciples a little bit of slack here. I mean, I saw George Clooney in “The Perfect Storm.” I think they probably have reason to be terrified.
We can’t always control those things that terrify us. We don’t have the capability of keeping every situation in our world calm and smooth. Sometimes the chaos comes. Sometimes our lives are out of our control. Sometimes we are just afraid. That is something we cannot control.
But we don’t have to respond out of our fear.
These disciples are terrified, and with good reason. But their response to the storm and the waves comes from their fear. “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” they cry out. It’s a cry of fear, of terror. And they expect Jesus to be terrified with them. “We’re dying! Didn’t you notice? Don’t you care?” They are panicking, losing control. Their fear is dictating their words and their actions.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Jesus is in the boat with them. Their fear is stronger than their trust in him right now. The presence of the storm is more significant to them than the presence of Christ. Their response shows it.
Now Jesus stills the storm anyway. He commands the sea to be still; he rebukes the wind into calm. Immediately the storm is over and the sea gentle. Whether the disciples trusted him in this situation or not doesn’t seem to matter. Jesus is present and takes care of the situation, regardless of how the disciples panic, regardless of their lack of faith, regardless of the fact that they are more afraid of the storm than they are the one who has power over the storm. Jesus is there. He can always calm the waves.
Do you think the disciples’ response would have been different if they trusted Jesus regardless of their fear? The storm would have been the same, they’d still be in the middle of the waves and the wind. They’d still be terrified. The presence of Jesus would have been the same. The outcome would probably have been the same. But what could the disciples’ response to their fear of the storm have been?
Not that trusting Jesus means avoiding storms—absolutely not! Jesus is the one who had them get into the boat to go across to the other side of the sea. He led them into the terror of the storm! Following Jesus may lead us right into chaos and fear! But he goes with us. Trusting that he goes with us can make all the difference.
Since the storms and our fear are out of our control, perhaps our response when terrified might make a difference as to how we handle our fear. When we do face the waves that threaten to drown us, the wind that capsizes us, the fear that paralyses us, what difference might it make to trust in the presence of Jesus in the midst of that storm? How could trusting Jesus change how we approach those things that terrify us? How might our response be different?
Instead of a fearful “God, I’m dying. Don’t you care?” what might be a more trusting response? Not to get Jesus to do what they want, but an expression of their trust in the presence of Jesus in the midst of the waves and the wind and the fear. What would have been better for the disciples to shout? Really. What would have been a response coming from trust rather than from fear? . . .
Think of one for yourself. Say it to yourself. Say it again. Write it down. Say it over and over.
This is your storm prayer. This is your wind and waves prayer. This is what you can now pray when you’re frightened. This is your trusting response.
Everyone’s is going to be a little different, but everyone say their trusting response at the same time. Ready? Together!
Keep this prayer with you. Every time the waves come, pray it! Jesus is with you in the boat, now we can respond that way. What are you afraid of? Really afraid of? What makes that panicky feeling rise up inside you to where you aren’t sure you can fully control your response? Fear may be there, and the storms and the wind and the waves. But so is Jesus. Now we can respond to him when we’re afraid.
When we pray the prayers of the people later in the service, everyone use this as your response to each prayer petition.
Lord, in your mercy. . .