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  • The Rev. Dr. Brian Rajcok

With Us through the Storm

Mark 4:35-41

When I was growing up a thunderstorm was always an adventure. I have fond childhood memories of sitting with my dad and my brother in the garage and watching the rain and thunder and lightning. And it was always fun when a storm made the power go out. My brother and I felt like it was a real adventure and enjoyed the excitement of roughing it with flashlights and candles. During one storm my mom was surprised to find out that my brother had turned off the main switchboard in the basement just so we could have a power outage. To this day, whenever there’s a thunderstorm or a snowstorm, or even a hurricane, I still get a little sense of excitement and just enough anxiety to make it interesting.

The disciples didn’t seem to have any excitement or enjoyment during the storm they encountered in the Gospel reading. They were afraid. And they had good reason to be. They were certainly in a lot of danger. They didn’t have time to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the waves when every one of those waves was threatening to sink their boat! They felt fear, anxiety, stress, and panic. Jesus, on the other hand, felt so safe and at peace and relaxed during this whole thing that he was actually sleeping. Mark even mentions that Jesus was on a cushion. Obviously Jesus knew nothing was going to happen to them, that they were safely in God’s care. But the disciples were filled with panic and woke Jesus up. Then Jesus rebuked the wind and everything settled down to a dead calm. I can just imagine Jesus’ response “What were you all so worried about? Don’t you trust God?” And the disciples’ question that they ask each other is maybe even more important than the miracle itself: they ask each other “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

This is Jesus’ first nature miracle in the Gospel of Mark. It’s chapter 4 so we’re still pretty early on in the story and the disciples don’t yet really understand who Jesus is. They’ve heard him teach and watched him heal, but calming a storm is another level. They already knew he was someone special, but after this they really started to wonder about him.

The fact that Jesus trusts in the midst of the storm is an example for us to follow. He is relaxed and at peace, even asleep during the dangerous storm. How often in the storms of our lives do we cry out for God’s help like the disciples did for Jesus’ help here. They ask “Don’t you care that we are perishing!?” And when we feel like God isn’t answering us, we may ask the same thing. When we watch friends or family undergo cancer treatments or face health challenges of our own. When we or those close to us struggle with addiction or depression or trauma. When we watch the news and witness the terror of war and violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, Africa, or different parts of the world. We too might cry out to God: “Don’t you care that we are perishing!?” But what this story reveals is that in the midst of the struggles and sorrows of life we know that Jesus is with us and that Jesus does care. He may not always miraculously solve our problems, but he does promise to be with us in the midst of them.

The question of why there are storms in life, why there’s evil, pain, and suffering, is addressed in the first reading this morning we heard from the book of Job. Early in the book of Job, God is proud of what an upstanding man Job is. Then a heavenly being called ha-satan, meaning “the accuser” in Hebrew, challenges God saying Job would curse God is he lost all his blessings. And so God accepts the accuser’s challenge and allows him to take away Job’s wealth and health and family and blessings. To see if Job will continue to be so faithful. To see if misfortune will change Job and make him curse God.

Most scholars consider Job to be the most theological book in the entire Bible, exploring the question of why evil exists and wrestling with the idea that God may in some way allow it. It may not be historical (and it’s set in the land of Uz so the ancient Israelite author doesn’t seem to be claiming that it is), but it is certainly one of the most theological and philosophical ancient texts we have. Most of the book deals with Job’s friends trying to come up with reasons to justify why Job must deserve the evil that’s come his way. Job rejects the simplistic idea that good people will always have an easy life and bad people will always get what’s coming to them. It’s more complicated than that. But even still Job accepts the good with the bad, accepts whatever comes and doesn’t curse God. The passage we heard this morning is near the end of the book when God appears to Job out of a whirlwind and reveals the glory and majesty of creation to him. The book ends with God rewarding Job and rebuking his friends. God gives Job even more than he had before and the rest of Job’s life is happy, prosperous, and peaceful.

At the end of the day, the book of Job does not fully answer the problem of evil, does not come up with a satisfactory solution to why there is evil and suffering. Such an answer may not be possible to attain in this world with our current level of consciousness. So instead of offering easy answers, the book of Job gives us a model of patience and trust in the midst of the trials and pains of this life.

Likewise the Gospel does not provide an answer to why there is evil and suffering. Yes in this passage Jesus miraculously gets rid of the storm. But there will come a time when Jesus faces the storm of evil and suffering head-on and takes up his cross, fully embracing the pain and suffering of the world on Calvary.

There’s no simple answer about why evil and suffering happen. There’s no easy explanation about why we encounter the storms of this life. But we do know that Jesus is in the boat with us. Sometimes he may miraculously calm the storm and carry us to safety. And other times the storm rages and we are called to hold on tight and endure until it passes. But even then he is with us, suffering with us, and giving us strength to go on through the storm.

In a few minutes we’ll pray a blessing for our recent high school graduates. We’ll pray for God’s presence to be with them as they move into the next phase of their lives. They will hopefully experience many blessings along the way, but we know that they will also encounter some storms. Their own trials and tribulations. But we know that God will be with them through whatever they encounter. And that we, the Body of Christ, will support them in all the ups and downs of the journey ahead. Life does have its storms, but Jesus Christ is with us through them all.

And so as we walk on this journey called life, let us all trust in the grace and goodness of God to guide us. Let us always remember God’s love for us. Let us be patient in suffering and hold fast to what is good. Let us trust in God’s presence even we can’t see it or feel it. Because no matter what storms we may face, no matter how loud the storm rages, or how high the waters rise, we know that Jesus faced the storm on the cross, died and rose again, so that he could be with us through our storms also. Thanks be to God for Christ’s guidance on our journey through the sea of life, and for Christ’s presence in whatever storms we face.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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