Ready for the Storm: Thoughts on not being so afraid.

Ready for the Storm

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on our back porch when the wind started picking up.

I thought maybe one of those summer storms might pop up.

What made me sure of it was what my dogs, Lucy and Roxy did.

They got ready.

They don’t like thunderstorms.

Lucy and Roxy respond to thunderstorms differently.

Lucy paces and pants.

She seems unable to settle herself, so she sits at our feet and paws at us until we start to pet her – comfort her – until the storm passes.

Roxy has a different plan.

For Roxy, there is only one place that is safe in a thunderstorm.

At the first flash of lightning or rumble of thunder, she trots into the first-floor powder room and crawls behind the toilet.

There she stays until the storm passes.

That’s what they did that evening.

As soon as the wind started blowing, Lucy was at my feet, panting and pleading for comfort.

Roxy was trotting into the bathroom.

They were getting ready for the storm.

Our scripture reading is about a storm.

It makes me think of a song recorded by the late Rich Mullins.

Some of you might know of him.

He was what many called a “contemporary Christian musician”.

If you have not heard any of his music, you really should.

On one of his CDs, he recorded a song written by Scottish songwriter Dougie MacLean called “Ready for the Storm”.

Mullins did not cover many songs written by others, but I can see why he did this one.

Mullins made one small tweak to the lyrics that made me think that the story of Jesus calming a storm was on his mind when he sang.

It certainly comes to my mind when I hear it.

Here are the lyrics:

The waves crash in
The tide rolls out
It’s an angry sea
But there is no doubt
That the lighthouse
Will keep shining out
To warn a lonely sailor

And the lightning strikes
And the wind cuts cold
Through the sailor’s bones
Through the sailor’s soul
‘Til there’s nothing left
That he can hold
Except a rolling ocean

Oh, I am ready for the storm
Yes, sir, ready
I am ready for the storm
I’m ready for the storm

Oh, give me mercy
For my dreams
‘Cause every confrontation seems
To tell me
What it really means
To be this lonely sailor

And when the sky begins to clear
The sun it melts away my fear
And I cry a silent weary tear
For those who mean to love me

Oh, I am ready for the storm
Yes, sir, ready
I am ready for the storm
I’m ready for the storm

The distance it is no real friend
And time will take its time
And you will find that in the end
It brings you me
This lonely sailor

And when You take me by the hand
And You love me, Lord, You love me
And I should have realized
I had no reasons to be frightened

Oh, I am ready for the storm
Yes, sir, ready
I am ready for the storm
Yes, sir, ready
I am ready for the storm
Yes, sir, ready
I am ready for the storm
I’m ready for the storm

In our text today, Jesus calms a storm his disciples seemed unready for.

Mark 4: 35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Did you hear the lyrics to “Ready for the Storm”?

The song is about a sailor who is sailing on a stormy sea.

And he is ready for the storm.

Ready because:

… the lighthouse
Will keep shining out
To warn a lonely sailor

And you will find that in the end
It brings you me
This lonely sailor

And when You take me by the hand
And You love me, Lord, You love me
And I should have realized
I had no reasons to be frightened

This lonely storm-surrounded sailor is ready because he is loved, by God and all those others who love him.

It’s a kind of faith, right?

Seemingly alone in the middle of a storm, we have faith that we are not alone.

That we are loved.

By God.

By others.

But there’s something else interesting about those lyrics.

MacLean does not say the sailor is not afraid.

The sailor is just ready.

Ready to hang on to the light from the lighthouse and the love of God and all those who love him.

That’s what gets him through.

And only when the storm is over does he realize that regardless of the outcome, he continues to be loved, and there was, if only in retrospect, no reason to be frightened.

I think that is what Jesus was getting to in our text today.

The disciples were justifiably afraid when the storm came up on the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is a fairly shallow body of water that sits in the basin of hill country.

When the wind gets cranked up, the water turns into a torrent of waves and spray.

These storms usually come up in the afternoon, so the fishermen went out in the early morning, evening or during the night.

These storms were fearsome.

And here we have a storm that came up unexpectedly late in the day.

It was a fierce one.

The waves were crashing over the boat and it looked like the boat might sink.

In a storm like that, there was little hope the disciples could swim for long.

But there was something even more fearsome for the disciples.

To them, this wasn’t just a storm.

This was a demonic attack.

They were being attacked by the sea.

In the view of the disciples, water was the home of chaos.

The “deep” was where bedlam and anarchy reigned.

The stormy sea was a spiritual battle.

That’s the way the disciples would have thought about the gale on the Sea of Galilee.

That’s what the Psalmist would have thought, too.

The Psalmist repeatedly calls on God to calm the waters that are threatening the people.

Listen to Psalm 93 from the NIV.

3 The seas have lifted up, O Lord,
   the seas have lifted up their voice;
   the seas lift up their roaring.
4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters,
   more majestic than the waves of the sea,
   majestic on high is the Lord!

It is only God who can save us from the chaos of the seas.

But the disciples aren’t prepared.

They could have gathered around in a circle and chanted Psalm 67.

5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
   O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
   and of the farthest seas.
6 By your strength you established the mountains;
   you are girded with might.
7 You silence the roaring of the seas,
   the roaring of their waves,
   the tumult of the peoples.

But that is not what they did.

They panicked.

They looked to Jesus and cried out the words of Psalm 44:

23 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
   Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
   Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

26 Rise up, come to our help.
   Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

“What the heck, Jesus?

You are the guy whose very words made things happen.

Don’t you care?

Get up and do something!”

And Jesus says nothing to them.

He gets up and speaks.

“Quiet. Be still.”

He’s not talking to the disciples.

He’s talking to the roaring and foamy waves and wind.

And the roaring and foamy waves and wind stopped.

It became dead calm.

Then Jesus finally speaks to the disciples.

“Why are you so afraid?

Do you still have no faith?”

Note an important point here.

Jesus does not ask them why they were afraid.

He knows that it was normal and reasonable for the disciples to be afraid.

He asks them why they are “so” afraid.

Why they despaired.

Why they had no hope.

Why they had no faith.

Why weren’t they looking to the lighthouse.

Why not focused on the love of God.

The love of others?

They should have known that they were not alone.

They were with Jesus.

In his kingdom.

Which is what he had been teaching them for a while.

And now the disciples were now afraid for a different reason.

“Who is this guy?

We just wanted a bit of encouragement.

A bit of help.

But we did not expect this!

He speaks and the seas listen.

He does things only God can do.”

Maybe then they realized that, like the sailor in MacLean’s song, there was no reason to be frightened – because they should have realized they were ready for that storm.

They had Jesus.

The one they had perhaps inadvertently ccall on with the words of Psalm 44.

They were not alone.

So what is really happening here?

What does this all mean?

I think it is something like this.

When the storms come, I get Roxy from the behind the toilet and hold her.

I keep my hand on Lucy.

I comfort them and let them know there is no reason for them to be so afraid.

I let them know that I am with them.

It’s kind of like when your child is scared.

You hold him.

Tell her you are with her.

Let them know that they are not alone.

That there is no reason for them to be so afraid.

Jesus is doing the same thing.

He is telling his disciples to have a little faith with their fear.

Faith that they are not alone.

Jesus is right there.

He can still the storm with a word.

And he will, if and when necessary.

I find this story important in July of 2020.

We are in stormy times aren’t we.

We are in the middle of a pandemic.

We are in the middle of a cultural upheaval about racism and governmental powers.

We are in the middle of a highly charged and polarizing political campaign.

We are in the middle of an economic crisis for many.

Some are in the middle of difficult and even tragic family circumstances.

We cannot be with our family.

We cannot assemble for celebrations.

We cannot gather to mourn.

And none of us knows how any of this is going to turn out.

We are like sailors trying to survive the storm.

Battening down the hatches.

Securing the sails.

Hanging on for dear life in the wind and waves.

We are like the disciples in the middle of the stormy sea screaming, “God, I’m sinking! Don’t you care?”

What does Jesus say?

Not that we should not be afraid.

We can’t help that!

He says don’t despair.

Don’t lose hope.

There is no reason for you to be so afraid.

Jesus says have faith that you are not alone.

“I am with you,” Jesus says.

And so are all those who love you.

That is what I think Jesus is telling his disciples.

I like the way Gary W. Charles puts it in his essay, “No More the Sea”.

He describes the sea as an enemy whose presence seems constant.

He writes this as the lesson from today’s text.

No more the sea. God does not sleep. No more the sea. God hears us. No more the sea. God cares about us. No more the sea. God loves us. No more the sea. God leads us beside the still waters. No more the sea. “He is not here. He is risen. He is going ahead of you.” Trust, then, in this world and in the world to come – there is no more the sea.

How do we make ourselves ready for the storm?

He is risen.

He will be with you till the end of time.

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