Gotta have faith

by | Jun 25, 2018

Mark 4:35-41

Jesus calming the storm

As a teenager I shovelled snow for my neighbours. It made a bit of money and helped my neighbours who couldn’t shovel it for themselves. One of the neighbours I shovelled for was particularly demanding – the drive and walk had to be perfect, swept clean of snow – even in the middle of a snowstorm. I would often rather leave it to clear later if it was still coming down and wasn’t too bad first thing in the morning. But I quickly learned that if I didn’t shovel it she would ring up the house while I was at school and speak to my mom: ‘Doesn’t Robin want to shovel my driveway anymore?’ she would ask. My mother would try to explain. We generally found it amusing, but also frustrating. If she had rung up and said she was going out in the morning, so could I make sure it was clear before I went to school… then that would have been no problem. But instead she would jump to conclusions, she lacked faith that I would come and sort it out.

Even in industry faith is important – faith in those you work for and in your colleagues. I was always fiercely loyal to those with whom I worked. It was very difficult to work when I lacked faith in my colleagues. There were times I had managers who I knew would stick by me and support me. Even if I made a mistake, I knew that they would help me put it right. They wouldn’t immediately go to everybody else and sell me out.

In a family – whatever it’s shape – faith is also an important thing – faith in those who care for us, that they will be there for us no matter what. Faith that we are loved unconditionally – faith not that they will fix everything for us – but that they will love us no matter what has happened.

In the Gospel we have this classic story of Jesus calming the storm. This story comes immediately after the parables about the Kingdom that we heard last week. The parables of the scattered seed which grows, though the sower knows not how, and the parable of the tiny mustard seed which grows into the large and noble tree. Later that day, Jesus heads off across the lake in a group of boats. The storm builds up, the waves swamping the boat. Jesus seems to sleep comfortably, unaware, at the back. The disciples come to him asking, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ Jesus wakes up and calms the storm. He then turns to the disciples and questions them – ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ It’s easy to get caught up in Jesus’ miracles. The disciples do: ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

But as much as Mark is full of miracles – his point is not about miracles – Jesus is not being portrayed as some conjurer of tricks! He wasn’t questioning their faith that he could get up and calm the storm. That understanding leads to serious problems with our understanding of God’s love – that it is reliant on our faith. No God is steadfast, God is loyal, it’s our faith that is understandably shaken at times. The disciples were being a bit like my neighbour, assuming that because I hadn’t come and shovelled her drive, that I had decided I wouldn’t work for her. Jesus was questioning their belief that he’d need to calm the storm, and that his sleeping was some how a sign that God had forsaken them. He was questioning their faith in the Kingdom he had just been telling them about earlier that day. He was questioning their faith in the Grace of God that no matter what happened in the storm – they were beloved by God and that God would not desert them. That not life nor death could separate them from the Love of God.

In a way this passage speaks to the problem of suffering. Not because Jesus snaps his finger and ends all suffering. But because in the midst of suffering what we must remember is that God loves us. That God loves those who are suffering, even if they feel unloved and forgotten. Where is God in the midst of that? he is right beside you. He is in the small things, the cup of tea a friend makes, or the ear of a counsellor or therapist. Is it enough? In the moment, it probably doesn’t feel it. But then there is also the faith of what is to come, that things will get better, that God is infinite, and that we are ultimately part of something bigger than this temporal existence. That ultimately God has more in store.

What Jesus wants is for us to have our eyes set on the Kingdom. Not that we ignore the suffering, far from it. But witnessing the needs of the world, that we set our eyes on what God wants for the world. That we seek that horizon beyond this earthly world. That we don’t loose faith, but rather grip onto it like a life ring. And we work to be the kingdom. To live as if we are already there. With our eyes firmly fixed on who we are. People of God – full of grace and love, not seeking to condemn but to be the stilling presence of God’s peace in the world.
Looking for those opportunities to live out our Kingdom values of patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love and truthful speech.

Faith is no easy thing. Jesus rebukes the disciples for a lack of faith or a loss of faith, not because God needs our faithfulness to love us, but because God has absolute and unwavering faithfulness in us. because God loves us unconditionally, and it is by realising that we can have faith in God’s faithfulness to us that we can be set from from all that holds us down to live a life of hope and joy and love!

The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams

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