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
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
1. Storms Come
2. Storms Can Make You Lose
3. Our Fear of the Storm
Has the Power to Paralyze.
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.
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...
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
"Master, Master," you cry to God, "Don't you even care that I am
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?
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!
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.
Entrekin, When We Are Afraid ___________________________
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
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 ______________________________________
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
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
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.
Calm in a Storm _____________________________________
Hard Work Is
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
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
Courage in the Midst of
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. _____________________________
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 _______________________
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
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.
a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling relationships:
withdrawal and attack...