In the days before we bought all of our books online. I used to go into bookshops a lot. And for a long time in waterstones and Borders and foyles - cash till - little book of calm - platitudes and comforting words.
Recently i rewatched the opening episode of Dylan Moran’s comedy series Black Books. Moran plays a hopeless bookshop owner called Brendan Black. The first time we meet Bill Bailey’s character Manny is when he rushes into the bookshop agitated and panic stricken and desperately asking for ‘little book of calm’. Later in the episode Manny accidentally ingests the little book of calm after it falls into his cup of chunky soup and having absorbed the book becomes this ethereal guru bestowing platitudes and advice for calmness.
i wonder what would be your advice for keeping calm?
The very topical theme of our passage this afternoon is FEAR
Jesus rebukes his disciples for misplaced faith in the face of fear.
we all know what it is don’t we to encounter fear and anxiety. i recall the couple of occasions when my children were very young and i thought they had wandered off in the street, disappeared under my care and the sudden throat rush of panic which then begins to level out into my worst fears.
sometimes the bottom really does fall out of our world. bad news of an uncertain future.
perhaps more usually fear sits within us in the sickening anxieties and dread of decisions and responsibilities and unknowns.
We are a culture marked by suppressed fear. reservoir under surface. makes us very Fragile.
Why are we afraid? What causes fear?
2 things always present when you’re afraid
1. the fact that you have no control over your life
2. the fact that the world is a dangerous place, place of trouble..
that’s why we fear
think about every scary movie and those two elements are always in place
there’s a scary monster in the house, and you don’t know where he is, and you have no way of protecting yourself and at any moment he can jump out of the wardrobe - boo!
You are not in control and the world’s a dangerous place. If either of those were sorted - if you had eyes in the back of your head, perfectly knew the future so you could prepare - or if the world was basically good and whole - then there’d be nothing to be afraid of, there’d be no more scary movies. But as it is life can become a scary movie at any point.
In such a world we have to find some way of dealing with fear so that we don’t simply become paralysed by it. Right and good. But the problem is we tend to deal with fear in ways that don’t actually help us. We deal with fear through escape into all kinds of distractions - work, pleasure, endless activity. We deal with fear by creating the illusion that we are actually in control - so we fill our lives and we fill our calendars and we plan our futures and we tell ourselves that everything’s gonna be ok in the end but how do you know that?
It’s a recipe for disaster clinging to a false belief. Actually we leave ourselves hopelessly unprepared and under-resourced for living in the real world.
S Cali, Eucalyptus trees. Tall impressive, ‘widow makers.’ Lookstrong and impressive but shallow roots and the least storm sends them crashing down. Describes us in our culture. Young Londoners. On the surface of things v strong, v impressive v together but no roots really. And deep down we know it and we’re a reservoir of fear and then when the doctor does break the news, ‘im sorry its a tumor’ or when the organization that you’ve just spent 15 years building your reputation in just goes belly up or when something happens to our children… when our world falls apart we fall apart as well … crashing down..
And all of this is what makes this encounter in Luke chapter 8 so essential. Because here we do not find platitudes for feeling better, relaxation techniques - the Bible is not a a little book of calm. On the contray this passage of Scripture is an encounter the God who drives out fear. If you come to know - better and better - the God of Luke 8. Then you will be able to say with the Psalmist even when your whole world falls apart - we will not fear.
How do we begin to get there?
Think about the passage in 3 parts
1. vv22-23 Knowing God does not remove you from fearful times
Get into the boat with Jesus and the storm may still come down. The life threatening, earth shattering storm. Jesus does not promise to protect you from the storm. Christians are not immune to suffering and stress and danger. Christians go through the storm.
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
Notice that’s it’s Jesus who suggests the journey! Jesus leads them into the boat. Jesus leads them into the storm.
In Jewish thought dry ground and particularly mountains symbolised security, protection, solidiity. The sea on the other hand symbolised chaos, danger fear - forces against nature and against God’s people. So listen to Psalm 46 for example
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
This is Hebrew for - the bottom has just fallen out of my world- the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. The raging sea - chaos, fear, opposition. This is why in the book of revelation when John looks at the New Creation - the world perfect and restored and he says ‘there is no longer any sea!’ - bad news for beach lovers but he’s talking about the absence of FEAR
the disciples get into a boat with Jesus and as sometimes happens on the sea of Galilee because of its size and topography storms can blow up at any moment. And this is a storm like no other - violent and life threatening.
Knowing God in this present age does not remove you from fearful times.
The question is - what will you do with your fear?
2. Make God your refuge
When my kids were smaller we used to go quite often to the Natural history museum. Dinosaurs. Screech from our 4 year old little lad. End 12’ animatronic T REX gnashing teeth.. ‘very little arms’ helps.. but approach .. getting darker and the roars louder.. ‘Daddy carry’ Daddy is big enough (then at least) to pick up that 4 year old and make it possible to go past that TRex and not be afraid. See I was his refuge to run to in the face of animatronic dinasours]
But what about in the face of this worlds dangers? Beyond our control when the world is falling apart. Who? Who is big enough to pick you up and make it possible to go past that monster and not be afraid.. ?
We all have refuges that we run to..
Jesus’ disciples several of them were experienced fishermen. They knoew these waters. They knew how to sail. They’d weathered storms before. They knew what to do. What does Jesus know? Lying asleep while we sail the boat. Imagine … as the storm blows up they turn from one failing solution to the next to the next until the boat is just about breaking up; until they are in great danger. Only then do they finally turn to Jesus and wake him up. In the other gospels: ‘Master don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Perhaps they want Jesus to grab a bucket and start pailing too. all hands on deck. or grab a rope to try and hold the creaking boat together. To assist them in their solutions.
In the face of fear we seek our own refuges it might be our work that we construct to be our refuge or our possessions our home that’s where i can run to. Or perhaps relationships - our family. But of course the problem is when we take those things and make those things give us ultimate meaning … the problem is, i mean its obvious, those things themselves are vulnerable to the uncertainties and dangers of this world. The problem is when we make anything other than God our refuge (and we do this all the time) we’re more vulnerable to fear than we ever were before.
i have 3 children. Bring great joy and great worry. Things i could listen to on the radio in the past .. now i have to switch off, walk out - knife crime; bullying addictions - walk out - because i think that could be my kids!! And i have to think about that, go back to God. Because here’s the thing - if i make my family my refuge and strength my all in life then two things will happen.. 1. i will be a reservoir of worry and will seek to control my kids (looking into convents) and 2 if and when my children do become victims of the things i so deeply fear then it will crush me and i will never recover. No do you see when we try and make good things ultimate things that just perpetuates our fear. These things do not have the strength to shield us. ONLY God. Only God has the strength. He is the sovereign, The king of the world. Only God is big enough.
v24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm
BUT Why does God sleep while we are in trouble? Is he not interested? Does he not care about our fear? Of course he cares. But Jesus sleeps in the midst of the storm - such a contrast - because He is not afraid of the things we are afraid of. He sleeps like a baby because he’s not worried. HE can handle these things ….can’t he? with a word.. the violent wind and waves obey him instantly .. ‘down!”
BUT why did Jesus allow such terror? why didn’t Jesus come to their aid sooner? They didn’t ask him. They didn’t wake him. They wanted to handle it themselves. They took refuge in; put their faith in their own resourcefulness It’s only when things are absolutely desperate; when the terrors of death are upon them that they think to wake Jesus…
“Where is your faith?” he asks them. After he makes the waves “sit!” like an obedient puppy.
listen again to Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging
what are you afraid of at the moment?
how are you trying to solve that fear?
how well is that working out for you?
Jesus is present in the boat
He is not afraid of the things that you are afraid of
He can handle these things
the question is ‘Where is your faith?’
Will you wake him up? see what he might do?
The Lord almighty is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.
3. vv24-25 Fear Jesus.
See him exalted
Enter again for a final time into this scene
As they sailed, Jesus fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
the disciples fear is transferred isn’t it? to a new and different kind of fear
It’s a bit like the fear of FIRE. we are rightly afraid of fire aren’t we? it’s powerful. It can kill. We are taught to fear it. But the fear of a fire raging through your house is different to the fear of a fire raging in your fireplace. One is a fear that leads to flight - causing you to run from the flames. the other is a fear that leads to wonder and causes you to draw near to the flames to gaze at their beauty and enjoy their warmth.
Be amazed at Jesus’ power. Even the wind and the waves obey him. The nations in uproar. Destructive forces are at his beck and call. See him exalted as King over all. Fear him.
BUT even this is not what is most amazing about Jesus.
See, Is God only powerful? Does he not know what it is to be afraid? Because if he doesn’t, if he’s only ever in complete poise and control …well that makes him very distant to us. He doesn’t understand us. Does God know what it is to be afraid?
Yes he does. In fact he has known fear unlike anything we have ever known. In that Garden …just before he died …he encountered the terror - not of his imminent death, that would not frighten Jesus. No, he faced the reality of what uniquely was to happen in his death. That he would bear HELL - the righteous punishments for the sins of the whole world - to win our forgiveness. There the chaos would fully break upon him. And he would know no refuge as God the Father would turn his back on our sin. Abandoned …for us.
So often our fears don’t actually materialise into the things that we’re most afraid of. Jesus suffered a fear so great that the fear itself nearly killed him. AND he met the full realisationof those fears on the cross for us.
He did it so that you and I should not be afraid - though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, nothing NOW can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Be amazed at Jesus power
But be amazed at his love
Where is your faith? Fear Him alone. Call on him. Draw near to him.