(Job 38:1-11, Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/HxWMhsTKMyA)
35On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But 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?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Our readings assigned for this week made me recall a story I once read about a fellow pastor. The pastor had traveled a lot serving the congregation to which he was called. On one of his trips, he had been on a long flight from one place to another. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: Fasten your seat belts. Then, after a while, a calm voice said, “We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened.” As he looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive. Later, the voice of the announcer said, “We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us.” And then the storm broke. The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightening lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if it were about to crash.
The pastor confessed that he shared the same discomfort and fear of those around him. He said, “As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying. The future seemed ominous and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm. Then, I suddenly saw a little girl. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat; she was reading a book and everything within her small world was calm and orderly. Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world. When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm, when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid.” The pastor could hardly believe his eyes. It was not surprising that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, the pastor lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid. The sweet child replied, “Sir, my dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home.”
The pastor’s story illustrates a couple important things that are explored in our readings for this week. First, the little girl wasn’t completely oblivious to the raging storm outside the plane. Nor was she that enthralled with her book! There isn’t a book out there that could hold a child’s attention while the plane got tossed to and fro! No, the little girl was completely aware of the panic that was all around her. But she was also aware of the calm, methodic voice of her father. As long as dad stayed calm and methodically warned the passengers of their need to keep their seatbelts on, then she knew she would be okay. It was her faith in her father’s ability to keep her safe that enabled that little girl to stay calm. Dad could have lost his faith in himself, his faith in his plane, his faith in God…but he didn’t. Dad kept his faith and his daughter kept hers.
At the same time, dad never left his travelers to wrestle with their fears while he wrestled with his own. Dad could have easily kept silent while he focused on maneuvering the plane to safety. Once they were through the storm, his people would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that they would most likely forget their pilot’s silence. But the pilot didn’t keep silent…the father didn’t keep silent. He reassured his people and his daughter that the storm wasn’t something he couldn’t handle. By keeping his faith and his calm and methodically doing his job, the pilot/father helped them keep their faith and calm.
Our reading from Job comes at the end of 37 chapters of Job wrestling with why he had been made to suffer greatly. For 37 long chapters, Job didn’t get any relief from his suffering, let alone an answer to why he had to suffer. Recall that Job’s suffering was caused by Satan who, in a wager with God, wanted to see if he could get Job to lose his faith in God. Job was a righteous, God-fearing man that didn’t deserve suffering. Satan thought that unfair and undeserved suffering could get Job to lose his faith in God. But Job endured the suffering, even in spite of his friends trying to convince him to give up his faith in God. Of course, he didn’t endure the suffering without whining and complaining along the way. God finally confronts Job and asks him unanswerable questions. God asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?” God didn’t answer why Job had to suffer but Job couldn’t answer God’s questions. God could have answered Job but didn’t while Job couldn’t answer God’s questions at all. Perhaps Job and we aren’t meant to know why there is suffering in this world, especially why bad things happen to good people. God knows things that we can’t know and perhaps shouldn’t know.
Like the father who refused to leave his travelers and daughter in silence, God chose to answer Job’s whining and complaining. Yes, God didn’t give Job answers but instead unanswerable questions but He didn’t condemn Job to silence. God spoke to Job within the storm. If anything, God gave Job questions to ponder other than the mystery of his suffering. God’s questions helped Job get his mind off of his misery. But God broke the silence. God kept the relationship alive. God keeps our relationships alive! God is eager to break silences! There is only death in silences and God breathes life into situations of death. God is life! And just as Job never lost his faith in God, God never lost his faith in Job. God walked with Job in his suffering. God walks with each of us in our suffering. God never loses faith in us. God might get angry when we allow sin into our lives. God might allow sin to ruin our lives. But God always has faith in us! God loves us too much to lose faith in us. God wants only the best for us as any loving father wants for his child. God knows what we are asked to endure in this life but God has faith in our ability to endure.
Jesus never lost his faith in his disciples. Jesus may have wondered why they behaved the way they did but he never lost faith in them. In our gospel reading, we heard how they were overwhelmed by fear and doubt amidst the storm they found themselves in. The disciples couldn’t understand how Jesus could sleep so soundly during the storm. They had lost their faith; in themselves, in their ship, in God, and in Jesus. Not one of these things could help them in their situation, or so they believed. Fear had gotten the better of them. Of course, they didn’t know that Jesus could still the storm with a mere phrase: “Peace! Be still!” Their faith was weak and undeveloped. The disciples were like all the travelers on that jostled plane, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Their lack of faith greatly hindered them. Jesus doesn’t want us to live in fear and anxiety. He spoke the phrase, “do not be afraid,” more than any other phrase throughout his earthly ministry for a reason. He knew that fear hinders our faith; faith in ourselves, faith in our abilities, faith in God and God’s abilities, and faith in God’s sure and steadfast love. Without faith, we can’t experience God’s kingdom here and now. Recall last week that faith is like a mustard seed-it grows into unimaginable opportunities and experiences. Faith enables us to do the unimaginable…be the unimaginable!! Jesus wanted his disciples to simply have faith, the same faith that he himself had. Jesus wants US to have faith! We hear of how Jesus calmed the stormy seas so that we, too, might have faith!
Eventually we all find ourselves in stormy waters or stormy airs. Life isn’t designed to be storm-free. But what the pastor reminds us and what Jesus reminds us is the importance of faith and God to carry us through those storms. God will carry us through the storms of this life. We just have to listen for His calming voice. We just have to cling to our faith in Him. God walks with each of us through the storms of our lives much the same way a loving father does. He doesn’t take our storms away from us. He tries to help whenever and however He can and sometimes, just sometimes, He manages to give just the right word or does just the right thing to help us get through. Let us be grateful for our God who is not only a calm before the storm and a calm after the storm but also…a calm in the storm.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.