12 Sunday B: Jesus In the Storms of our Life



Michel DeVerteuil
Scripture comments
Unlike the passages of the last two weeks, this Sunday’s passage is, in one sense, a single story and we must read it as a whole. But in another sense, it tells two stories – one of Jesus and one of the apostles. Each has its movement that we can enter into, and there is a striking contrast between the attitudes shown in each.
it's nowAs you meditate, observe how you are situating yourself in relation to the passage: which of the two stories are you identifying with, the one of Jesus or the one of the apostles? Is it your personal story or the story of someone who has touched your life? Does Jesus remind you of some person or of God himself? Is this something that is happening now or something that has happened in the past?
Answering these questions will help you enter into the story.

Scriptural prayers
Lord, humanity finds itself in a bad way:
• recurrent famines in parts of Africa together and surplus food in Europe;
• an unending spiral of violence in the Middle East;
• no way out of poverty and unemployment in every country;
• the constant threat of nuclear disaster and terrorism.
The waves are breaking into our boat so that it is almost swamped
and we have the impression that we are going down.
power of compassionAll this time the values of Jesus are there within our reach
– compassion, trust, love of enemies, honesty –
but we have left them in the back of the boat, unused.
We pray that we may turn to these values in this moment of need,
that like the apostles we may discover with awe
that these values can command the winds and the seas.
Lord, we thank you for the great people of faith we have known,
An uncle or aunt, a little tradesman in the village,
The granny of the community, the kind of person who could sleep
Comfortably because they trust in you.
How often we have been condescending towards them,
Taking charge of them as the apostles took chage of Jedsus,
And they went along with us.
Then it began to blow a gale, and we felt we were going down,
We turned to them and experienced their power.
Lord, modern people have confidence in brute force;
We look on trust as weak and ineffectual.
We thank you that you sent us someone like Gandhi.
He showed the world that trust is a mighty power,
One that could rebuke the wind and the sea, and say to them,
Quiet now! Be calm!” and the whole world was in awe, saying,
“Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”
church leaders
Lord, we who are leaders in the church, we talk easily about faith.
But every one in a while you say to us,
“Let us cross over to the other side” and make us leave the crowd behind us
– inviting us to make a retreat;
– letting us experience failure or infidelity.
Then, on the open sea, without our usual supports,
We experience how frail we are, how easily we could go down.
That is a moment of grace for us as we realize
That we have been living on the surface of ourselves,
Trusting in success and popularity,
And deep within ourselves, Jesus was asleep.
Now with him awake we have the resources
To calm the winds and the sea.
Lord, our rulers often act
as if the destiny of the country is in their hands.
Teach them that Jesus is in the little people
Forgotten in the back of the boat
And if we turn to them we will discover to our surprise
That they have the resources to calm the storm
And we will get safely to the other side.
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 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
wonder of creationEach Sunday we gather together as the church for many reasons. One of the basic reasons is to give thanks to God for the wonder of the creation. We live in a creation that is the Father’s gift; it has come into existence through his Son, Jesus our Lord, for it is through him all things were made, and over the creation hovers the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, imparting life to it. And, in today’s gospel we shall hear a story that reminds us that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is Lord of all creation. So today we have to be thankful.
But we often act as if the creation is not God’s gift but is ‘just there’ for us to use as we like; we often think that how we behave in the creation is not important to God; we often forget that wonder and praise is needed if we are to understand the uriiverse. So today, remembering that the Christ is the Lord of all creation, we have also to be sorry for our carelessness.

Homily notes
1. The miracle of Jesus stilling the sea has been an embarrassment to many western Christians since the late-eighteenth century. All miracles became simply frauds for the simple, but while (1) ‘healing miracles’ could be tolerated as somehow linked to religion as personal, or psychological, phenomena, and (2) ‘feeding miracles’ could be passed over as having a moral to teach us — they could be reduced to Jesus preaching famine relief and seeking to develop social awareness among his followers, that third group, the ‘nature true1miracles’ (and this was seen as the worst example of the type) were seen as wholly the product of a naïve, superstitious and gullible age. Miracles like that in today’s gospel were, for liberals, to be quietly forgotten as belonging to the silly end of religion. At the other extreme were the fundamentalists, where proving the occurrence of an actual event two thousand years ago became the focus of attention: truth was simply ‘did it happen?’
2. The truth of the gospel lies in that it can lead us towards God, a mysterious leading that involves a fuller understanding of God’s universe, a fuller engagement as human beings within the universe, and towards a fuller life in union with God. So does this story help us? Hearing this story should help us to reflect in three distinct ways on our identity and way of life as the community of Jesus.
Jesus gives3. First, we have a tendency to be so busy working in the creation that we forget its creator. Moreover, we hear so often that Jesus is a ‘moral leader’ that we forget that while non- Christians might see him as just one more teacher, for us, his people, he is the Son of God living among us, he is the Word through whom ‘all things were made’. We not only greet him as a teacher and guide, but we greet him as the Lord of all creation. It is because Jesus is the Word made flesh, and, as we profess in the creed, it is in him that all things came into being, that we Christians cannot be indifferent to any abuses or destruction of the environment.
4. Second, we move through life as Christians, not just a bunch of individuals, but as a community that is cared for by the Lord. The disciples in the boat calling on the Lord remind us that we are a community who call upon the Lord to help us in our distress. When we call out Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, we are engaging in the same activity as the disciples in the boat who called on him when they were frightened.
5. Third, because we are disciples of the Christ, the Lord of the creation, we are called to acknowledge our human duty to be stewards of creation. We are supposed to be the people who have a very clear and precise appreciation of the value and beauty of the creation. This means that today we should be in the forefront of reminding people of the importance of caring for the earth.
6. When we hear this gospel as if it were a ‘news item’, we ask questions about whether we think something happened long ago on a little lake in Palestine; when we as a community of disciples hear this with our hearts and our minds, we recall:
• who we are as a people;
• what we profess about Jesus;
• what we must do as inhabitants of the planet.
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Sean GoanGospel Notes
The dramatic story of the storm at sea brings into focus in a very vivid manner the challenge of being in a relationship of faith with Jesus. He has just finished teaching them about the kingdom and its presence when he suggests that they cross to the other side.
Abraham and Sarah - Journey in faith with God
Abraham and Sarah – Journey in faith with God
This is a dangerous suggestion for he is asking them, as it grows dark, to journey into the unknown, the pagan or Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee. Soon they find themselves in the midst of a storm with the waves swamping their small boat and their master asleep, apparently unconcerned. Their question to him says it all: ‘Do you not care?’ This plea gathers up the prayers of many who feel they are drowning in what can be a harsh and cruel world. Jesus hears their cry and, like God in the reading from Job, manifests his power by bringing calm into chaos. However, he also challenges them with a question that equals theirs for its relevance: ‘Have you still no faith?’ They have already seen him heal the sick, teach with authority and perform exorcisms, but something is missing as regards their attachment to him; a deep trust that indeed he does care.

Reflection
The storm at sea offers the perfect metaphor for expressing our doubts about faith. The power of nature can leave us feeling utterly insignificant; we are left powerless and totally at the mercy of the elements. So too life can appear incredibly difficult because of illness, bereavement, broken relationships and shattered dreams. At times, the image of sailing in a small boat, on a dark night, into the eye of a storm, perfectly describes how we are. At such times Jesus invites us to trust and it is only by doing it that we learn how.
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From the CONNECTIONS:

THE WORD:                                                       
The Sea of Galilee is really a land-locked lake 600 feet below sea level.  Ravines in the hills and mountains surrounding the Galilee act as natural wind tunnels.  In the evening, as the warm air of the day rises above the water, cool air rushes in through the ravines.  The effect is amazing: the tranquil lake is whipped into a fury of white-capped six-foot waves.  In the midst of this terrorizing experience, Jesus calms both the sea and his disciples' fear.
The evangelist is recounting this story to a terrified and persecuted community.  Today's Gospel is intended to reassure them of the Risen Christ's constant presence in the storms they struggle through for the sake of their faith in his reign to come.
 
HOMILY NOTES:
The wisdom and grace of the “awakened” Jesus is present to us throughout the journeys of our lives to “calm” the adversities and tragedies that can either help us grow in understanding life or consume us in despair and hopelessness. 
In our stormy whirlwind lives, we need to make time for peace, for stillness, for quiet in order to hear the voice of God within us.
The grace of the Risen Christ enables us to discern the presence of God amid the roar of anger and mistrust and to see the light of God in the darkness of selflessness and prejudice.

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1) “No! Jesus who calmed the storm will save me!”
The Mississippi River was flooding its banks, and the waters were rising swiftly around Dorothy's house. The waters had gotten to the level of the front porch where Dorothy was standing when a man in a rowboat came by and called to Dorothy, "Hop in and I'll take you to high ground." Dorothy replied, "No, Jesus who calmed the storm in the sea will save me from flood waters!" The river continued to rise to the second story windows and Dorothy, looking out, saw a powerboat come up. The man in the powerboat called to Dorothy, "Hop in and I'll take you to high ground." Dorothy replied, "No, my Jesus will save me!" The river had now risen to the roof of the house. Dorothy was sitting on the ridge at the top of the house with the waters swirling around his feet. She saw a helicopter fly over, and the people inside yelled over a bull horn, "Grab the rope and climb in, and we'll take you to high ground." Dorothy replied, "No, Jesus will save me!" The river continued to rise. Finally the floodwaters engulfed the house and Dorothy was drowned. The next thing Dorothy knew, she was standing before Jesus. In anger, she asked Jesus, "I put my trust in you. Why have you forsaken me?" And to her Jesus replied, "What do you want from me? I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat, and a helicopter!" (http://www.inspiration.com). Today’s gospel tells us that we have to act promptly, trusting in the power of Jesus and seeking his help as the apostles did.

2) Edmund Fitzgerald buried in the Lake Superior:
In 1976, the songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recorded a haunting ballad in honor of, and as a tribute to, a ship and its crew members who lost their lives. He called it “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The Edmund Fitzgerald was a giant ore-freighter, 729 feet in length. It was the largest carrier on the Great Lakes from 1958 until 1971. The Fitzgerald was labeled “the pride of the American Flag.” On November 10, 1975, the Fitzgerald was hauling a heavy load of ore to Detroit, Michigan, when it ran into a severe storm. This storm generated 27-30-foot waves. During the evening hours the ship disappeared from radar screens; apparently it sank in a matter of minutes. It now rests on the bottom of Lake Superior broken in two with the bow upright and the stern upside down still loaded with its cargo of ore and all 29 hands. Today’s gospel describes how Jesus saved his apostles from a possible wreck in the Sea of Galilee. (Anecdotes # 3 & # 4 at the end).

3) “The Karate Kid:”
One of my favorite movies is The Karate Kid. It is about a teenager who feels alone and unprotected in the hostile environment of his school and community. He is scared - unable to defend himself against the hoodlums of his neighborhood. It happens that the lad, whose name is Daniel, meets an old man, Mr. Meogi, who has a black belt in Karate. The old man agrees that he will teach him what he knows so that Daniel can protect himself. On the first day of his lessons the old man asks Daniel to wax and polish several old cars that he owns - wax on - wax off. All day the lad labors to follow these instructions - Wax on - Wax off. On the second day the old man asks the boy to paint his fence -- paint up - paint down. Again it takes all day. On the third day the master asked him to sand the wooden floor of his verandah - in a circular fashion - and again it takes all day. At the end of the third day the boy is very angry – “I've done all this work for you,” he says, “and you still haven't taught me anything to defend myself.” At this point the master tells Daniel to stand in front of him and do the motion for wax on - wax off. As he does this, the master tries to hit him – but his blows are deflected by the boy’s arms. The boy's work for Mr. Meogi - his obedience - has made him ready for his first lesson in how to face danger. It has prepared him for the lessons, and the dangers, to follow. In the course of our lives there are many things that arise and frighten us. There are giants who are hostile to us and all that we hold dear. There are storms that threaten to overwhelm us. Today’s gospel about Jesus’ calming the storm reminds us that a firm conviction of the living presence of Jesus in our lives and a dynamic relationship with him by prayer – listening to him and talking to him – will save us from unexpected storms of our lives. (Rev. Richard Fairchild).

 4) The eagle and the storm:
Do you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. When the storms of life come upon us - and all of us will experience them -- we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief on God. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God's power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment into our lives. We can soar above the storm. We need to remember that it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, but how we handle them. The Bible says, "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" Isaiah 40:31.  

5) “Who is this man?
Even the winds and the sea obey him! Four women were sitting discussing their sons. The first proudly stated that her son was a bishop, so when he enters a room, people address him as "Your Excellency."
The second, not to be outdone, said that her son is an archbishop, so when he enters the room, people address him as "Your Grace."

 
The third quietly stated that her son was a cardinal, so when he enters the room, the people say: "Your Eminence."
The fourth woman said: "Well my son is 7 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 430 pounds, and when he walks into a room people say: "My God!"
 

 

6) The hurricane prayer:

A hurricane had struck. People were huddled together in a church building for safety. A preacher was praying with great oratorical effects in the midst of this violent storm, crying out "Send us the Spirit of the children of Israel, the children of Moses, the children of the Promised land." At this, an old man with less oratory but more directness prayed, "Lord, don’t send nobody. Come yourself. This ain’t no time for children.”


7) He trusted his wife:
A man and his wife were sitting in the living room watching the TV and he said to her, “Honey, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.” His wife got up, unplugged the TV and threw out all of his beer.

Life messages

1) Accommodate Jesus in the boat of your life: All of us making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity. Hence it is natural that, occasionally, we all experience different types of violent storms in our lives: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubt, anxiety, worry, temptation and passion. The storms we encounter in life are often what make us or break us. These storms can either bring us closer to God and one another or alienate us from God and others. But only Jesus can still these storms. Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow. When we are totally depressed with sorrow Jesus assures us of the glory of the life to come. Jesus consoles us at the loss of our dear ones with the assurance of eternal life for them in the heavenly home of God the Father where we, too, will live one day. When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of our faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us his divinity and the authority behind the words of the Holy Scripture. Jesus gives us peace in a tempest of doubt, tension and uncertainty, provided we humbly submit to Jesus' guidance. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worry about ourselves, about the unknown future and about those we love. Jesus calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers.
 
2) “Lord, don’t you care about us?” Sure, He does! Is Christ asleep? We might often be tempted to think so when we sit by, helplessly watching the sufferings of a loved one, or in the face of personal tragedy, or in times of depression or natural disaster. In such moments we instinctively turn to God and yet sometimes we don’t find Him or he seems far away, apparently busy with other matters. But in our Gospel passage today, Jesus does calm the storm. And that’s just it. Jesus does calm the storm -- not all storms forever, but each storm individually at the right moment, just when calming is needed. In AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, and in all the dependency groups based on the AA Model), there is a slogan which says "Let Go - and Let God.” It is a marvelously liberating thing to let go, and to let God -- to trust God to make things come out right instead of worrying about how we are going to make this happen ourselves, to decide to act in His will instead of worrying about how to do what we want to do, instead of trying to fix everything on our own.
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From Fr. Jude Botelho:


Reflection

The first reading from the book of Job, projects Job full of questions at what he perceives are the injustices that God allows in his world. "Why doesn't God do something?" In return, God questions Job. Does Job understand the many simple mysteries of nature: Who sets the limits for the seas? How does it happen? If Job cannot answer the simple questions of nature, how can he question God about the complexities of life? In the bible the sea is seen as the refuge of evil powers; human suffering can be described as a storm. But has not God created and mastered the sea? Do we put God to the test when we are in difficulty? Do we have the right to demand answers?

"I say my prayers when it's calm."
There is a story of about a captain who in his retirement skippered a boat taking day trippers to Shetland Islands. On one trip the boat was full of young people. They laughed at the old captain when they saw him saying a prayer before sailing out, because the day was fine and the sea was calm. However they weren't long at sea when a storm suddenly blew up and the boat began to pitch violently. The terrified passengers came to the captain and asked him to join them in prayer. But he replied, "I say my prayers when it's calm. When it's rough I attend to my ship." -There is here a lesson for us. If we cannot and will not seek God in quiet moments of our lives, we are not likely to find him when trouble strikes. But if we learn to seek him in quiet moments, then most certainly we will find him when the going gets rough.
Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

In today's gospel Mark tells us that Jesus was right there with his disciples, in the boat, in the middle of the storm, sleeping. It was he who took the initiative of crossing the lake. After the fatigue of the day, he fell asleep. He slept even when it began to blow a gale -which caused panic among his companions. The disciples failed to understand how Jesus could sleep through it all. They could not comprehend that the presence of Jesus didn't mean that they would never encounter difficulties. But they did know that when problems arose they could call on him. They woke him up and said to him. "Master do you not care? We are going down!" After Jesus is awakened he stands up and as though he were exorcising a demon, rebukes the powers of death which batter against the boat. He questions his disciples: "Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?" Suddenly all is calm again while a religious awe descends on the disciples. 'Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him?"

God is like a lifebelt?
One day while on a journey across country a man came to a river. While attempting to cross the river, the current swept him off his feet, and to his horror he found himself being carried down river. Unable to swim all he could do was cry out for help. Luckily an alert passer-by heard his cries and threw a lifebelt to him. He grabbed the lifebelt and held on for dear life with both hands until he was pulled ashore. There he quickly recovered from the shock. Then he put the lifebelt back in its place on the riverbank and resumed his journey. -Everyone turns to God in times of danger. We see this example in today's Gospel. In their grave need the apostles cry out to Jesus for help: "Lord save us. We are going down." There are some who turn to God only then. For such people God is their lifebelt -useful in crisis but otherwise useless. But for people of faith God is the air they breathe, the bread they eat, the path they walk, everything.
Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

Amazing Grace
John Newton was the son of an English sea captain. When John was ten his mother died and he went to sea with his father. The boy learnt the sea backward and forward. At 17 he rebelled against his father, left the ship, and began living a wild life. Eventually John took a job on a cargo ship that carried slaves from Africa to America. He was promoted rapidly and soon became captain of the ship. Newton never worried whether slave trade was right or wrong. He just did it. It was a way to make money. Then something happened that changed all that. One night a violent storm blew up at sea. The waves grew to the size of mountains. They picked up Newton's ship and threw it around like a toy. Everyone on board was filled with panic. Then Newton did something he hadn't done since his leaving his father's ship. He prayed. Shouting at the top of his voice, he said, "God, if only you save us, I promise to be your slave forever." God heard his prayer and the ship survived. When Newton reached land he kept his promise and quit the slave trade. Later he studied for ministry and was ordained pastor of a small church in Olney, England. There he won fame as a preacher and as a composer of hymns. One of the most moving hymns that Newton wrote is the one that praises God for his conversion, Amazing Grace. The words read: Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now I am found - Was blind, but now I see…
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

Lord I'm Sinking…
"Artists have used the image of the boat in today's gospel to symbolize the Church. Since the parish and individual families within the parish are the Church in miniature, the boat is also an apt symbol to represent us. Many times storms toss us around like tiny corks on the ocean, causing us to cry out in fear. "Lord do you not care? Doesn't it matter to you that we are going down?  We feel that our boat is at breaking point and that we're going under. But if we have faith in the Lord's power to control these seemingly uncontrollable forces in our lives, we can ride the storm and reach the farther shore. Who control's our destiny? The Lord does, if only we let him steady our hands and steer our ship."
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

Why Worry?
When Bulstrode Whitelock was about to embark as Cromwell's envoy to Sweden in 1655, he was much disturbed in mind as he rested in Harwich on the preceding night, which was very stormy, while he reflected on the distracted state of the nation. It happened that a confidential servant slept in an adjacent bed, who finding that his master could not sleep said: "Pray, sir, will you give me leave to ask you a question?" "Certainly", replied Whitelock. "Pray, sir, don't you think God governed the world very well before you came into it?" "Undoubtedly!" "And pray, sir, don't you think he can take care of it while you are in it?" To this question Whitelock had nothing to reply, but turning about, soon fell asleep.
Anthony Castle in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

On Eagle's Wings…
The story is told of a mother eagle that had built her nest on the ledge of a rock jutting precariously over a steep and dangerous precipice. Soaring through the air one day, returning to her nest, she was startled by what she saw. Clinging desperately to the jagged edge of a rock at the top of the canyon was her baby eagle, struggling to prevent a fall that was sure to crush its body more than a thousand feet below. Unable to get to the ledge before her little one would fall, the mother eagle, with the speed of lightening, swooped low beneath the jutting rock, spread her strong wings to break the fall of her darling, and with her precious cargo clinging to the feathers of her mighty wings glided safely to the canyon below.
Anonymous

He is always with us and for us
A young Indian boy approached manhood and, as the custom with his tribe, he had to undergo several tests to prove his bravery, before acceptance into the fighting braves of the tribe. He was brought out into the middle of a jungle and left there alone all night. He was terrified. Every leaf that fell, every branch that creaked, every movement in the underground caused his heart to pound. He never knew a night could be so long. On several occasions, he would have run away, but where does one run in a jungle in the middle of the night? After what seemed an eternity, the light of dawn began to filter through the trees. In a relatively short time his eyes got used to the growing light, and soon he was able to see clearly. He moved from where he was and as he approached the nearest tree he was amazed to find his father standing there with a gun. He had stood there on guard all night long. The young lad's instant response was to think, 'If I had known that my father was watching over me like that, I would have slept soundly all night'. When you die, you will discover that your Father was standing guard there all the time.
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth!'

May our trust in Him grow through every storm that we face in life!

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From Sermons.com




Mark 4:35-41 - "Calming of the Tempest"
Mark 4:35-41 - "Stand by Me" by Leonard Sweet
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Victor Hugo, who is famous for his novel the Hunchback of Notre Dame, also wrote a story called "Ninety-Three." It tells of a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the frightened sailors heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this new noise came from a cannon, part of the ship's cargo, that had broken loose. It was moving back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact. Knowing that it could cause the ship to sink, two brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from the cannon was greater than the fury of the storm.
That is like human life. Storms of life may blow about us, but it is not these exterior storms that pose the gravest danger. It is the terrible corruption that can exist within us which can overwhelm us. The furious storm outside may be overwhelming but what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our lives. Our only hope lies in conquering that wild enemy...
1. Storms Come Suddenly.
2. Storms Can Make You Lose Direction.
3. Our Fear of the Storm Has the Power to Paralyze.
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As summer heats up it is important to always bring a sweater with you.
Huh?! (Yes, I know a sweater is something your mother puts on you when she is cold!)
Likewise if you head to Minnesota in mid-winter you would be wise to bring something lightweight and with short sleeves.
Crazy?!
These seemingly illogical suggestion are actually good ideas. Why? Because our culture is addicted to "climate control." Air conditioning and central heating make it possible for us to create any kind of climate, any sort of indoor "weather," we want. Since we still cannot control what kind of weather we encounter outside, in the real world, we over-compensate in our encapsulated climates - our homes, shopping malls, restaurants, office buildings, airplanes...
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Unanswered Prayer

To someone like me, who was rescued from drowning in wind and wave, the imagery is very powerful without even descending to a symbolic level. I can recall being physically tossed about by powerful waves and buffeted by the cold wind; I know what it is like to be sinking in the sea for what seems to be the very last time, although in my case I didn't have the benefit of a boat to slow my demise. I understand with absolute clarity how the disciples must have felt as disaster overtook them while their Master slept.

I lived out this Bible story on March 12, 1967 in a very literal way.

Since then, I have had several occasions to live it out in a metaphorical way, and I am ashamed that I still haven't learned my lesson despite all these years.

You know what I am talking about: there are times in your life when you know a great upheaval is coming. The wind rises ominously and the clouds don't look right. People suddenly start doing and saying strange things and you know something is afoot. Relatives fall prey to strange persuasions; your health might even fail. The news on television starts sounding Biblical, and there are rumors the like of which you haven't heard before. Your life is tossed upon the waves like a small ship on an angry sea. Panic sets in as you decide that the end of something is near; if not your family, if not your finances, if not your career, then maybe the whole world!

"Master, Master," you cry to God, "Don't you even care that I am perishing?"

And you sit in your quiet room and stare at the ceiling, as if all your prayers never got past that point, and the silence from heaven is deafening. At most points in your life, if you heard an audible voice in answer to your prayer, you'd smile and look for the person who's playing a joke on you. Or perhaps you'd search the yellow pages for a good psychiatrist who specializes in auditory hallucinations; but today in your distress there is a part of you that demands to hear what you've never heard, to see what you've never seen, because you are scared to your innermost being and you need comfort and rescue, and you need it now.

How impudent of God not to answer. Doesn't He know what you're going through?

Kenneth W. Collins, 'Unanswered' Prayer?
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Fearful Times

When I was a kid, I was terrified of spiders. Even Daddy Long Legs, which I now understand are not, technically, spiders but have a very spiderly look about them, scared me to death. Once, almost literally, when one leapt out of a half bushel of peaches we had just bought by a road side stand, I leapt out of the car into the road. Fear can do that.

My sisters and brother didn't help. They enjoyed picking Daddy Long Legs up by a long leg and chasing me around the yard!

Since then, my fears have grown up a little. Now I fear things that really can hurt me like the national debt and global warming. Yesterday, the headlines named another fear, terrorists, this time, U.S. citizens, independent, guided by some 5,000 do-it-yourself terrorist self-help websites.

On top of these overwhelming world fears, each of us carries personal fears - a deadline, a pink slip, a visa bill, a doctor's appointment. We all have spiders - some fear that gets us in the gut.

These are fearful times, but then - they always have been. You would think, if ever there were a time and people who would be fearless it would be the disciples, walking and living in the very presence of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, Light of the World, 2000 years ago. But as Mark tells it, they could panic right along with the best of us.

Heather Entrekin, When We Are Afraid
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Listen for the Questions

The Scriptures include a significant number of life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose and value in life. Consider some of the questions posed by Scripture:

What will it profit us if we gain the whole world but forfeit our life? (Matthew 16:26)
Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15)
What are you looking for? (John 1:38)
Who is my neighbor? (Like 10:29)
What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17)
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:35)
Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (Mark 10:38)
Which commandment is the first of all? (Mark 12:28)
Where can I go from your Spirit? (Psalm 139:7).
What is this new teaching, with authority? (Mark 1:27)
Who is this about whom I hear such things? (Luke 9:9)
What is truth? (John 18:38)

And this morning's Gospel lesson ends with the question, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41). Who is this Jesus, the one who speaks with a new level of authority, the one who is able to bring calm into the storms of life, the one who comes among us as prince of peace, suffering servant, fount of compassion and grace?

Joel D. Kline, Listen for the Questions
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Humor: Sucked In, Washed Up, Blown Over

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

The bird's owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum cleaner, and opened the bag. There was Chippie - still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust, hair and all the stuff you find in a dust bag, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the tap, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, a friend who had heard about Chippie's troubles contacted his owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore - he just sits and stares."

Who can blame him? Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

Things happen in our lives that come along unexpectedly and we end up feeling a bit like Chippie - sucked in, washed up, and blown over - the song stolen from the stoutest of hearts.

I reckon there are very few here this morning who couldn't stand up and give testimony to some aspect of their lives where they feel a bit like the disciples in that boat - afraid, vulnerable, a decidedly sinking feeling! You know what it's like to feel as though you are in the middle of a storm, tossed this way and that, and you wonder how you're ever going to get to calmer waters.

Vince Gerhardy, Calm in a Storm
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Hard Work Is Required

Somewhere in my past, it was pointed out to me that having the wind stop is disastrous for sail boats. It means that the sailors have to do hard, manual labor to move the boat to where it is going. Even the presence of Christ and his great miracles may still mean a lot of hard work on our part to get where Christ wants us to go. If Jesus wanted the disciples on the other side of the lake, why not just "beam them over," rather than have them go through a storm and then to row the boat to shore?

While we may pray that Jesus would work miracles in our lives and in our world and in our neighborhoods, the miracles that come probably won't let us off the hook from doing some of the hard work required to do what Jesus has called us to do.

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
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Courage in the Midst of Fear

I have several books on the shelves in my office that have stories of genuine heroes in them. These are people who have performed remarkable acts of courage. I find their stories thrilling. I also find them a little unsettling. How do people do those things? In a real crisis, what is to keep me from running in the other direction? The stories I like best are the ones that talk about courage in the midst of fear. Those are people I can really admire ... people who are scared to death and still do what needs to be done.

One such person was Marshall Ney, a captain in Napoleon's army. Napoleon often referred to Marshall Ney as the bravest man he had ever known. Yet, the captain's knees trembled so badly one morning before a battle that he had trouble getting on his horse. When he was finally in the saddle, he looked at his knees and said with disgust, "Shake away, knees. You would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you." Now that's a man I can really like!

Kristin Borsgard Wee, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Do You Love Me?, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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The Four Chaplains

On a cold February 4, 1943, the American ship, the Dorchester, was carrying several hundred soldiers off the coast of Greenland. Suddenly, an enemy torpedo ripped into its hull. Within minutes the ship would go under. Amid the panic and confusion, four chaplains, Alex Good, Jewish; John Washington, Catholic; Clark Poling and George Fox, Protestants, stood together with their life belts on. Many of the soldiers had none. Without lifeboats, their chances for survival were nil. Quickly, the chaplains took off their belts and gave them to four men. As the ship sank, the chaplains, with hands firmly clasped, prayed the Lord's prayer. The chaplains gave their lives for the others, because One other had first stood in for them. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12) That's a tall order. Well, not so unreal, considering his love stands taller than life itself.

James Weekley, Tilted Haloes, CSS Publishing Company
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Why Not You?

A ministerial colleague tells of a conversation he had one day with a female medical assistant in a doctor's office, as he was waiting to see the doctor. The woman recognized him because she had occasionally attended his church, though she was a member of another church. "I want to tell you about my experience," she said. "I got saved in the Assemblies of God Church ... I gave my life to God ... and guess what? ... Life tumbled in! I developed a heart problem. My husband lost his executive job ... and he recently died of cancer." The minister says he tried to mumble a few theological sounding explanatory words about God's mysterious ways, thinking that was what the woman wanted. But she went right on with her story, indicating that she had repeatedly asked God, "Why me?" "And what do you think God told me?" she continued. "'Why not you?' That's what God said. 'Why should you be spared all the crises of life that everyone else must go through?'" Then she wound up her story saying, "One day I said to God, 'Lord, you've forgiven me. Now I forgive you.'"

There is a woman who, from my point of view, has a healthy faith. Her faith is not a series of propositions, it is a relationship, and as in all relationships, it is one that changes and can tolerate challenges. It is vital because it is honest.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company
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Porcupines

Pastor John Ortberg has a delight discussion on porcupines in his book, Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them. Porcupines are members of the rodent family, says Ortberg. They have around 30,000 quills attached to their bodies. Each quill can be driven into an enemy, and the enemy's body heat will cause the microscopic barb to expand and become more firmly embedded. The wounds can fester; the more dangerous ones, affecting vital organs, can be fatal.

The porcupine is not generally regarded as a lovable animal, Ortberg continues. Books and movies celebrate almost every other conceivable ani­mal. Dogs, cats, horses, pigs like Babe or Arnold Ziffel in the old TV show Green Acres, spiders as in Charlotte's Web, dolphins like Flipper, bears like Gentle Ben, and killer whales as in Free Willy. Even skunks have Pepe Le Pew. There are no famous porcupines.

"As a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling rela­tionships: withdrawal and attack...