Sunday, 21 June 2015

God the Storm Calmer


In Mark’s story of the events on Galilee, there is a sense of the disciples relating to Jesus as a Father figure.  They were in trouble and they turned to the figure asleep in the back of their boat.  The one who they had come to belief could fix anything.  It also seems that they bothered him until he woke up.  But there is so much more to this story than just that. 

Mark shows us here that even the forces of nature answer to Jesus.  This fits right into Jesus’ role as leading the final exodus.  Just as God is seen saving the Israelites from the Egyptians when they had to cross the red sea (you’ll find that in Exodus Ch 14).  Jesus here commands the forces of nature, and they immediately obey.  It is clear then that Mark is making the claim that Jesus is none other than the God of Israel come in human form.  No wonder the apostles were terrified.  Jesus as a nice friendly and loving human is one thing.  Jesus as the diving, passionate and holy God who throws out demons and commands the forces of nature, has power over death, is quite another matter indeed.

It is worth considering that for a moment.

How often do we ask the Holy Spirit to come among us?  How often do we ask Jesus to lead us? How often to we pray to the Father to intervene?  You see, this is exactly what the apostles were doing here.  Did they just want Jesus to wake up because that would make them feel less afraid, knowing that he was by their side? And yet, Jesus, on waking, calms the storm, and the rather surprising response of the apostles is to exchange one fear for another.

Maybe that is at the heart of Jesus’ rebuke, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  We often read this is being directed to their fear of losing their life in the storm; but it is worth noting that Jesus’ comment is AFTER the storm is calmed.  Is Jesus addressing a natural fear of drowning which we have tended to be the case, or is he addressing their reaction to him which Mark makes clear in the very next sentence, “They became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"”

This story then speaks inevitably of storms that are both physical and metaphorical.  Storms that can injure us physically, and storms in our lives that can hurt us emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps then it makes sense that the most common command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid” 

Fear is the normal human reaction to impending injury or danger, and these can be both physical and emotional.  Sometimes, the fear of what might happen can be more damaging to an individual than the event itself.  Imagine not going to see the dentist because you were too afraid, and then suffered pain and bad breath due to tooth decay.  Fear is the prime emotion at the heart of storms, and it drives our reactions; sometimes aggravating the storm in the process.

I wonder what you are afraid of.  I have a fear of drowning, heights and of spiders.  Nasty creepy crawly things. I did manage to get to the top of the Empire state building when I visited New York some years ago, but whilst the others were happy taking photos from the edge, I was sitting on the ground holding on to the wall for dear life.

I was glad to have made it to the top, but the physical response of my body, driven by the fear, stopped me from moving.  I am sure that each one of you probably have similar stories you could share.

You know, we have a God who drives out fear.  He is the calm point in the centre of the storm.  Storms of all types answer to Jesus, to whom all authority on Earth and in Heaven has been given.  Can there be a bigger clue to Jesus’ identity than that?  ALL authority on Earth and in Heaven is given to Jesus.  This means quite simply that Jesus has the power to calm the storms in your life and in mine in just the same way that he calmed the storm on Galilee that night.  This doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you, and perhaps we ask the wrong question when we ask Jesus to take away the pain or the problem situation.  Perhaps what we should be doing is responding to Jesus’ call to be with him.  Holding on to him we find ourselves at the centre of the storm in the calm point with him.  In relationship with Jesus, our perspective of the world changes, because we learn and begin to see it through Jesus’ eyes.

With his resurrection, Jesus announced Judgement on evil one and the arrival of the renewed Creation.  The kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  It is here now, and it is growing!  In heaven there is joy unlimited; anguish, pain and fear do not exist.  Now is the time to hold onto Jesus and to let him enfold you and infuse you with the Holy Spirit.  Allow Jesus to walk with you on your journey, gradually changing you into the image of God that you were meant to be.  It is a process that is not completed overnight, so don’t be too upset when you stumble or mess up or feel that you aren’t getting anywhere.  You may not see the progress, but I can assure you that God does.  Gradually you will see your fears diminish as the Kingdom of Heaven grows around you and becomes more and more part of you.

Trust therefore in the Storm Calmer.  He is the divine, passionate and Holy God of the burning bush, but his call to us is “Do not be afraid”, for I am with you always to the end of time.  Let Jesus, the Storm Calmer, calm your personal fears and storms as only he can.  Allow him to delve into your darkest and mouldiest and stormy crevices, for ALL authority on Earth and in Heaven is given to Jesus, the Storm Calmer.

So, Lord enter us now we pray, calm our individual and corporate storms, take us by the hand and lead us to safety Lord, and don’t let us let go.

In Jesus’ name


Sunday, 7 June 2015

O king

O King, we come to praise you in the highest heavens and in the lowest points of our lives
We praise you for the beauty of creation, from the delight in the smallest flower or snowflake to the grandeur and power of a stupendous galaxy
We bow at your feet, not out of fear but out of love and gratitude because you have saved us from ourselves.  You have forgiven us in your Son, in his life, death and resurrection.
We therefore shout your name from the rooftops, we lift your name on high.  Take our lives Lord and let them be consecrated to you and you alone.

And when we mess up, Lord you don’t lord it over us, you never say with haughty pride – I told you so!  No, you stoop and gently lift us back up and sometimes carry us until we regain our feet.  Lord we are sorry, thankful and stand in awe of you for your holiness, your mercy, your ongoing forgiveness and your love filled Grace.

In Jesus Name


Who do you say Jesus is?

Theme  - Who do you say Jesus is?

Who do you say Jesus is?  There are those who would say that he is a figment of our imagination, that he didn’t really exist at all, that the question itself is therefore irrelevant.  It is just a warped enquiry from those of us who don’t have the mental awareness to forge our own destiny.  Others say that Jesus was a good man, a talented teacher, an ethicist or great renown, but most certainly not God.  To the Muslims, he is a prophet second only to Mohammed.  To the Hindus he is one among many gods.

There seemed to be confusion even among those who saw, heard and followed Jesus.  We find in Mark 8, when Jesus asked his closest group of followers who he was, they answer “well, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah and others say you are one of the other prophets”  It seems that the jury was out even among these people who had met and who knew Jesus.   It is no surprise therefore to see attitudes today to be in some ways similar. 

It must be discomforting though, to those who would rather Jesus was an irrelevance to see him causing just as much commotion today as he did in the 1st Century.  The debates continue to rage between faith and secularism.  Whilst mainstream Church attendance has to continually answer to the statistical analysis that suggests we are on our way out, the evangelic fellowships are enjoying a time of significant growth.  The symbol of his death is worn by countless people followers and non-followers alike and is a staple product of jewellery shops and rap artistes.  His name has become part of the vernacular and the profane, sadly to the point that a number of people actually think that the surname of Jesus was Christ.

C.S. Lewis one of the great apologists of the last century gets to the point when he cautions us to consider the following.  Jesus acted in ways and made claims about himself that in truth were so alarming that one is left with the only option of being to accept that he was who he claimed to be or that we was a raving lunatic–or worse.  We are not left with any other option, indeed he never intended to leave us with the soft option that we in danger of swallowing.

Earlier in Mark’s Gospel, we have heard this morning about Jesus coming up against opposition from a number of sources.  The teachers of the law suggest that he is casting out demons because he is himself possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.  Members of his own family think that he is “out of his mind”, perhaps part of the rationale behind Jesus’ pointed remarks later in v 31, when he points to the limits of loyalty to tribe or family as opposed to loyalty to God.

Who do you say Jesus is?

The protectors of the law see Jesus as a threat due in part to his enduring popularity among the poor and his challenge to the purity and cleanliness laws of the day; effectively bypassing the role of the Temple in worshipping God.  Jesus is portrayed then as a political and economic threat to the prosperity of the rich and powerful in Jerusalem.  Who did they think Jesus was?

His own family (at least some of this brothers) may have been concerned for their own safety as well as his.  If Jesus is seen stirring up opposition, any punishment from the state would likely cause harm to the family as well.  Who did they think Jesus was?

In due course, at least two of his brothers came to be powerful followers of Jesus, James being the leader of the Jerusalem Church in the time immediately after Jesus’ death, until his own martyrdom in AD 62.

Too often we choose the leader we want who we would be comfortable with.  We don’t like too much change.  In 1 Samuel we see that the Israelites were demanding a King for themselves.  Historically this may have made them feel more like a proper nation.  We see today now political parties, groups of countries, football teams flock around a leader, as long as he is successful and brings them the kind of success they want.  God was against Israel having a King for the reason being that they had one already, God himself.  God warns them through Samuel that giving power to one person won’t end well.  That they will be abused, stolen from and defrauded.  Sound familiar?  But in spite of all this, the Israelites have bought the lie.  They have been taken with the vision that having a King; one that they can see and perhaps control is what they want.  So God tells Samuel to warn them of the consequences but if they still insist to give them what they want. 

It is interesting that we often hear that God in the Old Testament is seen as a jealous God, or as a wrathful God, but here God is saying I am your King and you don’t want me.  OK, I will give you what you want.  This is Israel deposing God as their King.  He knows that they will regret this in the long term. 

Seeing this, Who do you think Jesus is?

Jesus acted and spoke as though he was in charge.  He didn’t claim authority from the Jewish leadership, he claimed instead that God had given him all authority in heaven and on earth and then went around behaving as though that was the case.  Once again the people – in truth those in power- decided that they didn’t want to be replaced and this certainly wasn’t the kind of King that had in mind.  Jesus was far too rebellious for the world that they were in.  He was more likely to bring down the wrath of Rome than free them from Roman bondage, at least from their perspective. So they killed him and thought they had solved the problem; they still did not understand what they were doing. 

When we see that God is king, how does that make us feel?  Do you feel threatened?  Do you feel concerned that Jesus will order you around? That he will curtail your freedoms?  That he will take away your independence?  Do you feel that way because that is what we are used to our leaders doing?

And yet Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  Do you trust him?  If Jesus is king, what sort of kingship do you see?  Emperor or servant.  Killer or healer.  Judge or saviour.

Who do you think Jesus is?

In Jesus name