“Whatever May Come” – Rev. Tony Romaine
“The Gust” by Willem van de Velde the Younger, a 17th Century Dutch painter of marine art is my favorite painting at the Rijkstad museum in Amsterdam. If you could see the painting (link in the endnotes) you see a ship that has been caught by surprise in stormy seas and the gust that is now battering it came up so quickly, the sailors on board did not have time to square the rigging or put away the sails. Or maybe they knew a storm was coming and were working to figure things out, but still were not prepared for the immensity of the gust. Either way, the ship is now shuddering on stormy seas.
Fittingly, today’s Gospel is also about a boat being tossed about in a stormy sea, as the disciples and Jesus head to the other side of the sea of Galilee, and Jesus sleeps in the back, the winds and waves begin to rage and the disciples are caught off guard and facing what they presume to be a life and death situation all alone. A little context here would do us well as we speak about this Gospel narrative. You see, Jesus, in this part of the Gospel of Mark, had just finished telling of the parables of the mustard seed, the lamp under a bushel, and the Sower, and in fact has also told us that the parables are intended to instill trust in what Jesus is calling us to, or as Jesus says in Mark 4:12, “they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”
So, after hearing all of this and being taught even the purpose of the parables, Jesus and the disciples encounter a storm. Here we need even more context, because Mark is writing from a Jewish apostolic perspective and when he means storm, he literally does mean a life and death situation. Briefly, so as to not cover apostolic teaching which would take more time than we have here today; in the world there is order and chaos, and whenever chaos comes about, God’s order works to counter it. But, possibly more importantly for our purposes today, when one is said to be sleeping, like Jesus in this passage today, that could also be interpreted as dead. And so, when the chaos or storm hits this boat that the disciples are in and they feel all alone, and Jesus is “sleeping,” aka not with them, they panic and wake him to save them. And when Jesus awakens, or is resurrected, he stills the storm and calms the seas and then asks the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Whatever May Come!
See, this Gospel passage is more than just Jesus calming the seas and saving the disciples, but it is also a call to us to have faith and to trust and believe. Like the boat we see in the painting from van de Vilde, when life tosses us about and the storms of life are bringing chaos and disorder, where will our faith lead us? And the real question is, will we let fear conquer our faith? You see, fear is a powerful thing, because if someone can make us afraid, or if our fears can override our faith, then we will follow anyone or anything that we think brings us through. We will put our trust in the boat, or the sails, or the oars, or our own abilities. When in fact, God is calling us to a deeper trust, one where we indeed can rest with God and believe that He will calm the storms.
Moreover, when we let fear conquer our faith, then we move from a place where we are open to the love and forgiveness of God, to a place where we hold tightly to every little thing we have, thinking that is what God would want us to do. When we live in fear, we shrink our imaginations of what God can accomplish; which would be contrary to the very thing God indeed is calling us to…to be open and love one another, to trust God in the storms, to live in faith with one another, and to rest in the belief that God has us whatever may come.
And you don’t need me to stand up here and tell you that storms will come, right?! Many of us have already experienced the storms of life, many of us have already felt the pains that come through our human existence, many of us know chaos and disorder. And not to be negative, but for those who have only known calm seas, storms will come. So the real question for us is, when those times happen or those storms come, where do we turn?
Do we turn in deeper faith to the arms of our God or do we run in fear to the earthly things that bring us comfort? Do we walk out in front of the giant in front of us and stand in faith and trust in our God as David did against Goliath, or do we cower in fear like Saul? Do we trust in the military might that we can produce as a nation and do we go to war, or do we trust in the love of God and the peace of Christ? Do we endure in faith and truly believe in Jesus our Savior to come and save us from the hardships, from the labors, from that long list that Mike read from 2 Corinthians of afflictions, burdens, and calamities, or do we turn in fear to the first thing that will bring us what we think is order, only to be betrayed by the finitude of time; only to have a fleeting moment of comfort?
Whatever May Come!
God is calling us through whatever may come to put our trust in Him, that our Father will not abandon us to these persecutions, to the world, to the pains that may wrack our bodies or torment our minds. Our God is calling us to slay the giants in our lives; the giants of injustice that prevent people from feeling or knowing the love of God, the giants of systemic abuses that only make people more afraid or make people turn away even more from the love of God, the giants in our lives of those who spit hatred and violence and fear in the name of God who are the hypocrites who prevent people from accessing the love of God, the giants in our lives which we face every day as we try to conquer our fears and face this world that needs our hands and feet of love even more…
Whatever May Come!
Whatever may come, our God is calling us to get into the boat and cast ourselves from the comforts of our shoreline, to trust that when the storm comes, hear me there, not if, but when the storm comes, that we will stand tall and proud and in complete trust of our God, our Father, who will not abandon us, but be right there with us in every chaos of our lives. To be able to go forth and face our world and say to it that no matter what may come, no matter what you may throw at me, I am not afraid, for my God has conquered death, my God has forgiven my sins, and my God loves me into eternity…
See, I hear the Gospel passage for today, and I see the painting by van de Vilde, and I do not see negativity, pessimism, or doubt. No, I see a call to trust in our Father, our God, who has instilled in us the great lessons of perseverance, of faith, of trust, of hope, and thanks to Jesus Christ, love.
So on this Father’s Day, think of your father, whoever or wherever they may be. Think of how all they longed for was for you to be protected, provided for, and loved. Now think of your God and the great love He has for you. That no matter what may come, you can trust in his ever-loving arms to calm the winds, steady the seas, and love you eternally, Amen!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.