“Jesus Can Calm Every Storm”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – June 24, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 9:9-20; Mark 4:35-41


    This morning, we are going to consider a familiar episode from the Gospel of Mark where the disciples encountered a storm that threatened the safety of the crew.  As the episode of the storm unfolded around these seasoned fishermen who were stabilizing their boat, one of them yelled, "Teacher, don't you care that we are about to die?!"

     Jesus immediately awakened, stood up, told the winds to be quiet and the waves to be still.  Instantly, the severe weather ceased.  Jesus turned to them and asked, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"  They began to say among themselves, "Who is this man?  Even the winds and waves obey him."

     Today, could Jesus control a category-4 tornado by telling it to stop?  We must decide how each of us wants to interpret this event.  Some people might believe that Jesus could do such a thing and others might use such a story as one of the reasons why they left Christianity.  The reason would follow that if Jesus were superhuman, how could anyone follow him?

     Was his seemingly miraculous control over the weather conditions part of Jesus' mission?    More than likely, after centuries of transcribing this misadventure of Jesus and his disciples, another explanation might seem more plausible.

     What may have been meant by the telling of this story is that Jesus had the ability to teach people the art of being calm in the midst of an emotional crisis.  Mark emphasized this theme by citing numerous examples of faith-shattering episodes that immediately followed our lesson today.

     An official of the local synagogue approached Jesus and pleaded, "My young daughter is very sick.  Please come and lay your hands on her so that she will get well and live."  (Mark 5:23)   Shortly after this request was made, another person arrived from the synagogue and said, "Don't bother the master any longer, your daughter has died." 

     Jesus said, "Pay no attention to his words.  Don't be afraid.  Have faith."  Upon their arrival at the man's home, Jesus found professional mourners crying inside. After inviting them to leave, he said, "She is only sleeping."  They did not believe him. 

     Jesus walked over to the girl's bed, took her hand, and asked the twelve-year old to get up.  She awakened and got up.  Jesus asked others to give her something to eat.  (Mark 5:5:35f) The man's overwhelming emotional storm came to a heartwarming end.

     Next, Mark wrote about the woman who had been hemorrhaging for years. She imagined that if she could touch Jesus' clothing, her twelve years of emotional imprisonment could come to an end.   When the woman followed through, Mark wrote that Jesus actually felt his power leaving his body.  Jesus asked, "Who touched me?"  The trembling woman came forward and confessed that she was the one who had touched him.  Jesus said, "Your faith has made you well."  (Mark 5:25f)

     No readers of the Scriptures need to engage in a struggle over which stories were accurately described and which ones were exaggerated-expansions of what happened. Clarity comes to our decision-making by understanding Jesus' mission of teaching people how faith helps them to get through their rough patches.

     Jesus was not into grandstanding by demonstrating how he could control the weather patterns.  He was not into destroying a farmer's livelihood by sending demons into two thousand hogs that rushed into a lake and drowned. (Mark 5:11f) He was not into changing water into vintage wine even though such an act calmed the storm his mother was experiencing because the wedding-planners were running out of wine for their guests. (John 2:1f)

     Jesus' mission was to point with his life and words how people could live emotionally and spiritually stable lives while living in the material world that was swirling with changes over which they had no control.

     As was mentioned in last week's sermon, Jesus was full of insights and information that no one in his audience was capable of understanding. His knowledge was beyond anything his listeners had been exposed to.  (Matthew 7:28f)

     One of the master teachers in Israel found his explanations of life-management difficult to grasp. (John 3:10-12) Jesus was telling him that people have to change their attitudes, moods, thoughts, and feelings so completely that it is like being born again.

     Some years ago, parents asked me to speak with their daughter who was attending middle school.  She had grown quite despondent, aloof, and preoccupied.  The parents thought that she might open up to me.  During my first meeting with her she told me what some of her friends were saying about her. 

     She was living on another level of awareness from other students her age.  Because of her brilliance, she could see and understand things that her friends were not interested in.  Today, we could characterize the attitudes and behavior of her friends as bullying her.

     She was dying emotionally a little bit every day from experiencing constant rejection.  I asked her what her straight A's meant to her, what she thought about herself, and what she dreamed of doing when she reached adulthood.  After listening to her thoughtful responses, I said:

     Never, ever allow someone's opinion of you to become more important than the opinion that you have of yourself.  You are one-of-a-kind that this world one day will need. Your friends do not understand you because they are unable to do so. 

     Practice being who you are and allow your friends to be whatever they want to be.  Make achieving this a fun game that you look forward to playing every day.  Try it between now and when we meet again.

     She agreed to play the game. She succeeded and found playing the game great fun. She could even invent the rules and change the responses she used when others tried to ostracize her from their group.

     I had reminded her of those who rejected Jesus all during his ministry.  He lived with rejection.  Many of his followers abandoned him. They said, "Your teaching makes no sense to us. We are wasting our time listening to you. We are leaving." Jesus' emotional pain must have been excruciating. 

     Imagine having great knowledge that everyone needs to know and others cannot hear it.  He asked his little group of disciples, "And what about you?  Are you also going to leave me?" They said, "Absolutely not.  We know who you are. You are the only one who can teach us how to live in God's Kingdom." (John 6:66f)

     One of the discoveries about human behavior during the last fifty years is that every ten years, all of us go through a realignment of our identities.  A well-known name for one of these periods that many of us are familiar with is when people have a midlife crisis.  People develop the need for a different look, new toys like a fancy car, an out of character dress code, getting in shape at the gym, and having lots of fantasies about being young and physically attractive.

     If we do not have the mantra that Jesus used with his disciples and others during his ministry, we can easily have emotional problems and lose our orientation in life.  That mantra was: "Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?"

     Just as teenagers can be a target of bullying, adults can torment themselves by their own thoughts.  People attach fearful definitions to what is happening to their bodies or to the changes happening in their relationships or work environment.  These are the times when our stormy weather conditions occur.

     These occasions are when one of Jesus' lessons speaks the loudest to us, "Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also." (Matthew 6:21)   We all know this teaching but often we do not know how to apply it to ourselves.

     Without realizing it, our treasure can be in our physical attractiveness that eventually we can no longer maintain.   How do we feel about wrinkles, belly fat, age spots, thinning skin that displays all our blue veins, graying hair, the loss of energy, and our inability to remember people's names?

     What happens when our talent is being replaced and surpassed by younger newcomers, when our popularity begins to lose its fan-base, and when our financial resources no longer infuse our identities with confidence?    

    We have to remember that we are evolving spiritually in a material world that can easily make us emotional prisoners by our being afraid of very natural changes.  These bodies of ours were not of a design that lasts forever.  We need to adjust peacefully to the unfolding process of our aging. There will come a time when most of the markers that once defined us will no longer bring to us the same satisfaction. We all have our moments when life can overwhelm us. 

     One day Jesus reached his own breaking point while praying in a garden.  His fears were now attacking him.  He had to listen to his own words, "Why are you afraid?  Do you still trust God for the outcome of all things?"  (Luke 22:44) Jesus won this battle and his fears left his mind and became replaced by total confidence. 

    Fear is an interesting and intriguing emotion that we never experienced prior to our arrival on earth.  Perhaps some of us incarnate here just to experience what fear feels like.  Fear opens the door to feelings of insecurity that never tormented us until we entered the limited forms of our temporary existence.  If we positively knew exactly who we are by overcoming our amnesia, nothing happening in this world would phase us.  (I Corinthians 15:51f) 

     Remember how I started the service with Jesus' words:

You cannot deal with the disturbing issues that you are facing because you lack faith. I assure you that if you had faith no larger than a mustard seed, you would be able to tell the yonder mountain to be cast into the sea and it would happen.  What you do not know and what you cannot fathom is that you have the power to do anything that you want to do.   (Matthew 17:20)

     Jesus had come to this awareness and later he provided the evidence that faith in the unimaginable is what all of us need to develop.  This interpretation of life helps us to be in control over all the phases of our lives. We have all known high profile people that seemingly had everything that this life has to offer.  However, if this orientation toward life is not an arrow in their quiver, the chances are good that their movie will eventually become a horror show.

     As I was writing this sermon earlier this week, I put together a list of legendary personalities during my lifetime who have left us way too early.  Each of their puzzles had a missing piece.  Elvis Presley, 42, Michael Jackson 50, Whitney Houston, 48, Heath Ledger, 28, Chris Farley, 27, Amy Winehouse, 27, and John Denver, 53.  Just recently we had to add the names of Anthony Bourdain, 61 and Kate Spade, 55, both who took their own lives.

    What Jesus taught was an orientation toward life that enables people to send their human energies toward others in service.  Remember Jesus' mantra, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" (Mark 4:40)   Jesus knew that we are fearless spirit-beings who, for a brief time, have forgotten who we are. 

     We need to awaken to this reality the moment any fears begin seeping into our consciousness.  Let us find the confidence to follow him as we discover what is awaiting us in our own yet-to-be-discovered destiny.



Loving and always faithful God, our experiences often teach us that life happens while we are busy making other plans.  We have learned that life-reversals can often become stepping-stones to our next adventure. We have learned that a significant loss often becomes the doorway to a vital discovery.  You have called us to look at life as a journey to a promised-land.   We thank you for giving us moments when we must wait for the next phase of our lives to take form. Thank you for the eyes of spirit that allow us to perceive your guidance with peace, faith, and trust.   Amen.               



Thank you, God, for sending us new horizons toward which to walk, new problems to solve and new fragile moments that challenge us to find the tools to heal our wounds. Thank you for the times when the symbols of security dissolved around us, and once again, our thoughts must find peace in the unfolding of something unexpected.  If it were not for the moments when we have to wait for the results of such times, there would be no need for faith and trust.

Why is it, O God, that we so quickly respond with frustration when we have to wait because other people have adversely affected some desire that we have?  Why is it that we find detours in life so unattractive?  Why is it that we conclude that some experiences in life are unfair?  Has not hindsight repeatedly shown that some of those detours took us to places that we needed to go? Too many times, O God, we forget who you created us to be and we ignore living our faith when circumstances could not be more perfect to let our lights shine.

As we reflect on our lives, who could have known ahead of time that we would be where we are?  It has been interesting as we have looked back on our lives to realize how each unplanned piece has fit so neatly into all the others.  As we anticipate our future, may our faith help us to realize that in every moment we have the opportunity to reflect the qualities of our spirit to an audience of onlookers whose names we may never know.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .