Surviving the storm only to find a greater threat waiting on the beach!

On our 40th – worship at 1st Pres Wilson

Yes, this is still “Travel Week” here at Reading Between the Lines. But my travel-post will come later in the day. This morning I want to offer something more devotional, because the idea of living a life of fully-engaged faith is still the core purpose of my writing and I have a couple of thoughts I’d like to share.

Here’s the scripture:

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:36-5:4

Rebekah and I attended three worship services while on vacation. The first was with the small Anglican fellowship Andrew and Alicia are part of in Dresden, the church where our new grandson will be baptized the beginning of September. The next week we attended the historic Frauenkirche for a German-language service we did not understand verbally but completely understood spiritually. Then this past Sunday we marked our 40th wedding anniversary by worshipping with the good people at First Presbyterian Church of Wilson, North Carolina.

At Wilson, pastor Tom Watkins shared a very helpful message around the story of Jesus calming the storm. So I want to credit Tom with stimulating both my spirit and my mind with his good words; his thoughts – along with the always fresh witness of the scriptures – got the ball rolling on my post this morning.

Storms can unsettle us:

If you have ever been caught on open water in a sudden storm you know how frightening it can be. When I was a teen I thought it would be fun to row a boat in a fjord (near Bergen, Norway). Then I thought I should row all the way to the other side. Then a storm came in. I was alone, I was overwhelmed, and I didn’t know what I was doing.

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus woke up and took care of the storm. But when he offered a critique of the disciples he said nothing about their seamanship, their sin, their rightness or wrongness, their safety protocols, or their specific actions – he simply pointed out their lack of faith.

40 [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The surprise twist:

If we were “Prosperity Gospel” believers, “Name it and Claim it” Christians, or “If you believe the right way you get healed and rich”… then Jesus calming the storm would be the place to stop reading. Wrap it up and tie a ribbon on the package.

But no, not so fast! The disciples wonder in amazement, settle back in for smooth sailing, land on the other side and immediately run into a crazy man foaming at the mouth, torn chains hanging from his hands and feet, completely possessed by evil, and waiting for them on the beach.

“He came out from the tombs to meet them,” the Bible says, “he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet; no one was strong enough to subdue him.”

It turns out that pretty much every storm God deals with in the Bible brings people not to a cozy time of rest but some new threat, challenge, difficulty, danger – dare I say, “opportunity.”

Paul, Jonah, the disciples, even Noah. What faced them after the storm was every bit as daunting as the storm they had just been “rescued” from.

We know who stands with us:

Only the difference, waking up on the beach to some new and potentially overwhelming threat, is that now we know who stands with us. Now we know the only critique God is going to offer is of our faith: not our program, our doctrine, our organizational bylaws, our budget, our position papers on controversial issues. Our faith.

Now we know who stands with us.

Of course, Jesus may well be asleep in the back of the boat, murmuring under his breath, “Why are you still afraid, friends? Do you still have no faith?”

This is my word for this morning. We know who stands with us – DEREK


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