Trinity 3 2021: Calming of a storm
Mark 4. 35-41
What do you think of when you hear this Gospel story of the calming of a storm at sea?
I think of this terrible pandemic we’ve been living through. I think of us being shut out of church and shut into our homes during lockdown.
Because I think of the sermon on this story that was delivered by Pope Francis: maybe you remember it yourself. It was a bleak Friday evening at the end of winter in March 2020. It was raining and it was getting dark. Pope Francis came out alone into the empty square in front of St Peter’s to bless Rome and the world.
There were 11 million people watching. He told them to put their faith in the Lord and compared the Covid pandemic to the storm in the Gospel today.
This passage begins with the time that the events took place. It begins with When evening had come. For many weeks it had been evening for those listening to the Pope that night. Darkness and silence and a kind of void had taken over our lives. We found ourselves lost and afraid like the disciples in the Gospel caught out at sea in a sudden storm. Look back. You remember that time. All of us were in the same boat. You remember how you felt. We were fragile and disoriented.
We could identify with the disciples when they cried out, We are perishing!
But the Lord is asleep!
The disciples are alarmed. They’re desperate. And Jesus is asleep in the stern of the boat. Doesn’t He realize that’s the part of the boat that sinks first!
It’s the only time in the Gospels that we see Jesus sleeping. But in spite of the storm He sleeps on, trusting in the His Father, carefree in the care of God, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
When he wakes up, He calms the wind and the waters. And then He turns to the disciples and reproaches them: He asks them, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?”
Jesus has faith. The disciples do not. It’s not that they had stopped believing in Him. After all, its Him they call upon to save them. But they say to Him, Don’t you care that we’re perishing? Were you ever tempted to think that during the pandemic? That the Lord doesn’t care what happens to you? That He doesn’t love you? Jesus would have been shaken when the disciples accused Him of not caring.
The storm of the pandemic exposed our vulnerability. It also uncovered what was false and superfluous in our lives. It made us more aware of what truly sustains us: that is our relationships, our capacity to love and be loved, and our need for God’s love.
In this church I know how important the gifts that Gordon left have been: the online worship, and ASK, action, supplication and kindness, kept this community together, growing and loving, as Mo has testified.
Of course, though the lockdown has been lifted, the pandemic isn’t over yet…
But, with the disciples, perhaps you have already come to realise that if Jesus is on board there will be no shipwreck. At St Mary Magdalene’s we are the servants of Almighty God. What that means is that whatever happens to us, He can turn to good, even the worst things. That is the strength of Almighty God. That is what He did on the cross. And so we know that where there is a cross there is always grace. Where there is a cross there is always grace.
So we don’t need to be afraid anymore. We don’t need to be afraid of anybody or anything. [For] we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Looking back, this is what we can learn from our experience of this pandemic. And that knowledge can bring serenity into our storms whatever they may be, now and in the future.
And so I pray: Lord, may you bless this congregation and this community. Give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. And you know that our faith is weak and that we are still fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: Do not be afraid. And we will cast all our care upon you, for you care for us.
The Rev'd Dr James Lawson, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 20/06/2021