Sermon by Fr. Joshua Bell SSC, Sunday 20th June 2021
Readings: Job 31:1,8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
In 2010 there was a report that placed fishing as the country’s most dangerous profession – it suggested that the odds of a fisherman losing his or her life on the job, over the course of a working life, was one in twenty.
Our country, bounded as it is by water, has always had an appreciation for the joys, as well as the dangers, of a life on the ocean wave. The Book of Common Prayer, in its section of “prayers to be said at sea”, includes a whole order of service for prayers before or after a storm.
At least four of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen, and three of them – Peter, James, and John – formed Jesus’s inner circle of confidantes. So it’s no surprise that the calming of the storm elicits such a strong reaction from them.
It is a power that speaks directly to them – as surely as if Jesus had brought refreshing rain to farmers plagued by drought.
The readings at Mass today all point to the same thing: God is the creator of all that is, seen and unseen, as the creed says – and creation is in his hand.
In the first reading, God shows off his mastery of all created things to Job, asking him, “Where were you when I did this?”
And in the Psalm, we hear how God stirs up the deep, and these sailors are filled with fear, until God calms the sea in answer to their prayers.
Both of these readings tell us clearly: both that God is master of the universe – and that we are not. This is a lesson that humanity has sometimes forgotten, I think – we have, at times, told ourselves that if we just strive hard enough, or develop for a few more years, we can be masters of the earth – bringing peace to humanity through orur own efforts, having absolute control over the forces of nature.
But in truth this is not the case. We are not God, and we cannot do by our own power what he does by his.
But far from being a disappointment, I think that this is rather a relief. It means that we do not need to be defeated when things happen in spite of our efforts. And it is also an encouragement to us to trust in God.
That is the basis of our second reading, from St. Paul. The same principal applies here. Belinda Carlisle used to sing that “they say in heaven, love comes first – we’ll make heaven a place on earth” – and how many times have we trieed to create earthly paradises? St. Paul makes it clear that it is the work of Christ who brings us into the eternal life – nothing else works. Jesus, who is one with God the Father, is master over the winds and waves, because all things were created through him. As a human, he redeems and restores humanity. As God, he ushers in the new creation.
We all encounter storms in our lives: difficult times that we think are going to overwhelm us. The Book of Job is the story of one enormous storm for Job, who loses everything he has, and spends most of the book trying to answer the question, “Why?” He feels that God has turned his back on him. And sometimes, in the storm, it may feel like we are in the boat, trying to bail out the water and stop ourselves from drowning, while all the while Jesus is just sleeping at the back, apparently unconcerned. But God heard the cries of Job. Jesus heard the pleas of his disciples. And they both experienced the calm of God.
In the same way, when we are tossed by the storm, and we can’t see the way out, we can call on Jesus. While he sleeps in the stern of the boat, his head on a cushion, he is utterly unconcerned by th storm – an island of peace amidst all the chaos. If he is sleeping, then perhaps we can sleep, too – but at a word from us, his followers, he will rise to be with us, and the storm, like the one on the Sea of Galilee, will pass.