- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Thomas W. Simmons IV at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Purcellville, Va.

This has been a tough week for me. It has been distressing for me to witness the work of the General Convention — its wayward direction, dysfunctional process and inadequate outcomes. But it got worse afterward when I learned Friday that my oldest friend’s dad has died, suddenly, in very distressing circumstances.

As I witnessed and participated in these events, our Gospel reading has echoed in my mind. It’s a good one. It’s the story of a hellacious storm on the Sea of Galilee, with the disciples’ drowning in the boat and Jesus asleep in the stern.

So let’s talk about the storms of life. Life might feel like troubled waters, but for Jesus’ friends in the Gospel text, it wasn’t just a metaphor. They’re in the midst of a real-life aquatic disaster and are utterly terrified — though several of them are experienced sailors who earn their living on these waters every day.

“We are perishing,” they cry out. You know it’s bad when the salty fishermen get scared. They had done what they could, frantically bailing and sailing to keep her afloat, but now they are a wave away from death.

And in the midst of it all is Jesus — asleep. Jesus doesn’t seem to share their fear. So they waken Jesus, and seeing the chaos all around Him, He rebukes the waves and transforms the storm to stillness. If we are really going to trust Jesus, we need to know that this really happened. This happened. The disciples remembered it happening and all the details of it happening. This fact answers two of life’s biggest questions.

First, who is in control? If you don’t know who’s in control, you end up like the disciples — green and queasy, or frantic with vain effort to get control in the midst of the storm.

But while the disciples panic, Jesus doesn’t. He’s calm; He’s snoozing. Why? He knows who’s in control. So He speaks and commands the waves, “Peace. Be still.”

“Be quiet and stay quiet.” That’s how I talk to my little children. But Jesus is talking to a hurricane. And what’s even more shocking is it works. The wind stops, and the waves become “dead calm,” smooth as glass.

So, who’s in control? Here’s Jesus exercising the power that only God has. He doesn’t conjure, or wave a wand, or call on a higher power. He’s not calling on the higher power because He is the higher power, which leads to the next question:

If Jesus is in control, does He care? That’s what Peter asked: “Don’t you care that we are about to die?” And from appearances, Jesus seems more concerned with catching up on His sleep.

Life with Jesus sometimes feels that way, doesn’t it? It’s like He’s way behind in his e-mail; He’s not returning calls; His fax line is busy; and doesn’t answer your prayers. Do you ever feel like that in the midst of your personal disasters and the disasters and injustices in the world around us? If He really loved us, we wouldn’t be going through this.

But from this story I think it’s obvious God doesn’t prevent the storm. Bad things happen to good people, and we are at the mercy of the storm. Nature is violent and overwhelming, and it’s going to wear you down and destroy you. But in the midst of the storm, He is quietly there with us. He’s in the storm with them.

Jesus is Lord. He is in control. And He loves us. On that we can depend. He loves us enough to endure the cross. What greater proof of love is there? So Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid? Where’s your faith?”

So why are you afraid? Fear is typically what you feel when you lose control. In some cases, it’s instinctive, but in many instances, it’s a pattern of behavior, an attitude, a rut we get ourselves into where fear becomes such a part of their lives that we don’t even recognize it.

But Jesus is saying, “If I’m God and I have power to do this, then I also have the wisdom to let you go through things you don’t understand. I’m God. I know better than you. If you really knew I loved you, you could have been calm in the storm.”

It’s amazing to think that Jesus has more power over the churning sea than He does over our churning fear and anxiety. That’s because we have a power that the sea doesn’t. We have the power of choice, and that tends to hold things up.

Our obedience must be freely given. And to give it we need to trust God. To obey, we must believe.

That’s what Jesus was getting at when He asks, “Where’s your faith? I’ve been giving you enough evidence of My presence, power and love for you to know and trust it. Where’s your faith? Get it out now and use it.”

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