I love storms. Some people like sitting in front a fire, watching it burn, others like looking at kittens on the Internet…I like watching storms. Well, to be honest, I love being inside where it is warm and comfortable watching a storm raging outside. I like watching the lightning and water beating on the streets, hearing the thunder and the sound of a downpour. To me there is something peaceful about sitting in a dry, warm room, watching the tempest. Or to be driving in the rain, where again I am warm and dry, but I can see the weather in turmoil outside.
Now being out in the storm is a different matter altogether. I am not a fan of being drenched by a torrential rain pour, whipped about by the wind, and subject to lightning and thunder. Storms, for me, are a spectator event, not an audience participation one if I can help it.
When the Storm Hits
I’m sure the disciples had experienced their fair share of storm in their lives. For the most part they were outdoor people. They were used to dealing with the weather, but that does not mean they liked it. They knew how dangerous a storm could be when you are on a boat. And the Sea of Galilee was known for sudden, sometimes violent storms. Most of the fishermen worked around the shores. They rarely went across it. The Sea of Galilee is 64 square miles, as compared to say, Crater Lake, which is only 33 square miles of area.
Well the disciples are crossing the Sea, and one of those storms comes up.
The disciples are freaking out, which they should because the situation is highly dangerous. They look to Jesus, because after all it was his idea to cross the lake in the evening. And Jesus is asleep! “Storm? What storm?”
He finally wakes up and looks at them as says, “Why are you afraid? Do you think that God brought me this far, just to let me die in a fishing accident? Do you think that the storm stills God’s hand? Do you think the wind blew away the Creator’s power? Do you think the Omnipotent God will melt in the rain? Why do you fret? Have you no faith?”
Actually though I identify with the disciples. The storm is not theoretical. The wind is not a Hollywood special effect. The rising and falling waves are not created by a water-park wave machine. Out on the Sea of Galilee things can get real gnarly real quick. They were right to be afraid.
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Of course, the storms we face are not always weather related. In fact, for us the weather-related storms are the easiest to bear. It is life’s other storms, the ones that rage in our lives and in our society that threaten us. And there are storms aplenty.
Some storms hit the home front, where the peaceful tranquility we strive for is threatened. Relationships take strange turns and not all of them are pleasant. Children cause heartache, and later parents do. Even the best of marriages have rough patches.
There are storms at work, where winds blow bad tidings that might affect our overall financial security. I remember when I worked for Sen. Thomas, I lost sleep in the months before every election, because I knew he could lose and I would be out of a job. Today there’s no telling when a firm will be downsized, or moved to North Dakota, leaving behind a trail of unemployed people. Perhaps some of you have experienced that.
Illness comes as a storm, whether it is ours or someone who we love. Something minor, like the flu can turn into something major, and even if it doesn’t it can create turmoil in your life. And even though we don’t like to think about it, we all know that a major illness could be just around the corner.
Major life changes, like divorce, marriage, birth of children, or grandchildren, or the death of a loved one can bring storms into our lives. Sometimes storms can be caused by positive events, like a marriage or a birth, or a retirement, because change adds stress to our lives.
And all of those things can lead to a crisis of faith. Or sometimes we can experience a crisis of faith that is not tied to any external event, but to our own internal wrestling with faith. All of sudden we can be assailed by doubts, where once we had firm beliefs. I’ll tell you a little secret–even ministers can be subject to this.
Denali, the highest mountain in North America, stands tall and alone in the midst of the Alaska Range. It creates its own weather patterns. There can be a raging tempest at the top, while the air is calm and placid all around it. Like Denali, some people create their own weather patterns. They are able to turn blue skies dark with one fell swoop. They are the storm! I once saw a sign on a co-worker’s desk that said, “I don’t suffer from stress; I am a carrier.” Let’s just say that fits a lot of people well.
I haven’t mentioned the firestorms that are going on at a national level, or even within our own community.
Like the disciples in the boat, any of us can be in a situation where one moment the skies are blue and clear, and the next we are in a deluge.
Like the disciples in the boat, we fear for our safety. Even if we are not in danger of death, the fierce winds, the battering rain, the lightning strikes around us, threaten the wellbeing of our souls.
The fact is we cannot just wish away life’s storms. In Matthew Jesus talks about two houses, one built on shifting sand and one built on solid rock and he says when the storms come, not if, but when—when the storms come only one house will stand.
What storms do you face in your lives? Not all of you are facing a storm now, but some of you are, and at some point, all of us will. What storms threaten your life, your peace, your security?
And what can you do about them?
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We Are the Calm in the Storm
What do we call this places where we worship? A sanctuary. By definition, a sanctuary is a place of refuge, and that is what this place is. If you come here with a storm brewing in your life, this is the place where you should find Jesus in the boat with you. And when I say this place is a sanctuary, I mean more than the building.
We are a sanctuary. Yes, the building can bring calm to a troubled soul, but even more we can bring calm to a troubled soul. Jesus is our sanctuary, and we are his sanctuary to the world.
Back in the ‘70s Bob Dylan sang,
I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
Come in, she said
I’ll give ya shelter from the storm
WE are the shelter from the storm.
Some of you are going through storms, and some of you are in a hurricane. Many of you are not. For those going through the storms, we are here for you. You should be able to come here on a Sunday morning, and find here a calm within the Storm.
And you should be able to come here and help to create a calm within the storm.
Jesus woke up and looked at the disciples and said, “Why are you fretting? Do you think this storm will undo you? Do you think I have no power? Do you think that because I was asleep, I had left you? Do you think God has forgotten you, that he no longer loves you, just because a storm is raging? I am here. I am here for you.”
You may be very concerned about the situation in the country or the situation in the world. Good. We need that. I am concerned to. You may be concerned about the way things are going in Medford. Good. So am I. You may be very concerned about something in your own life–you need to be. But you also need a place where you can find Shelter from the storm. The storm will rage. That is a given. But not in here, and not within our community. We are a sanctuary.