SBD 23rd June 2019
A few years ago I read an article in the Guardian with the title: “Are we having more natural disasters?”
It went on to talk about hurricanes, floods, earthquakes – we might think of Hurricane Florence in the US last year – the wildfires in Greece last summer – or the tsunami in Indonesia.
The article said in one year there were 128 major floods, 121 hurricanes and 42 earthquakes and tsunamis. If you add avalanches, forest fires and locust plagues then there were 360 official natural disasters that year.
The article comments – “Watch television a lot, and you would think that the world is lurching from one disaster to another.”
Now in this country natural disasters are thankfully rare. And so they can feel rather distant and removed from us.
But it can happen - the falling tree, black ice on the road, fire at home.
I remember reading about Abbie Livingstone – who died when she was 3 years old – digging a hole on a beach with her brother - when a hole collapsed and they couldn’t get her out. Strangely - I read about that when I was on a beach and Jacob was a toddler – and it immediately look up – where is he? Is he safe?
It’s rare but this is our world – and it could be us who are hit by disaster.
So tonight we are going to look at Jesus and see what he has to say about disasters.
This is like a scene from “The Perfect Storm” – have you seen that film? George Clooney as a fisherman – goes fishing – they hit a storm. It’s pretty simple plot line. But it’s got terrifying scenes of the power of the sea - waves swamping the boat. That’s the sort of thing we’ve talking about here – look at v25 READ.
I remember being taken sailing years ago – the wind blew, the boat started to lean really far over – so I leant over the side - trying to balance the boat – getting really worried - meanwhile the others were just chatting – relaxed – seemingly unaware that I was saving us all from drowning.
My point is I’d never been sailing before – I scared very easily. But some of these guys were professional fisherman – their experienced opinion was – the boat was going down and they were going to die. So we’ve got a serious storm here.
Now I want to pause for a moment and do something a bit different – and reflect on how we talk about and understand our world and disasters like this?
Jo and I have just been to the Wye valley for a night. Beautiful area. As we walked I was thinking about this sermon – and made me think – why is I’m enjoying this view – the hill, the sunlight, the trees? How is it I find a flower beautiful. Or water and reflections, and wood and forests and all that.
Similarly – why is it we call this storm a disaster? What story of the world have we got which explains why we find some things a delight, or some things a disaster?
I was talking to a friend of mine a while ago – he’s an atheist – believes in evolution, science, but there’s no bigger story of the world than that. I asked – I’ve forgotten exactly what it was but it was something like – why do we find someone attractive – or why do we enjoy the Wye valley?
He said – I suppose it must give us evolutionary advantage.
I thought – wow – your story of the world can only give a sort of functional – utilitarian - explanation of things. Aside from whether there is any evidence for that evolutionary explanation – I was struck by that was the only terms he had on offer.
For him life is an accident. Time passes, science does its thing and some adapt and survive. That’s the story.
So when it comes to a disaster – or a delight – you can’t really use those terms – or not with any deep meaning – because what really matters is the affect on evolution.
I find the Christian story much more compelling. We don’t have time to get into this very much – but a creator who makes us – via evolution – but he creates us like him – so we have his values, appreciate his creation, we are creative ourselves. That explains why we enjoyed the Wye valley. It’s not just a functional advantage – the way we’re made means we love the world and how it reflects something of our creator.
And then in the Bible’s story we get rebellion against God – so that the world is thrown out of synch – and you get storms – disasters. Which we can then describe as disastrous – not how things were meant to be.
Now – that also raises big questions – why does God allow these disasters – which we certainly don’t have time for tonight. My point is – the Christian story much more compelling in how it enables us to talk about the world – and talk about things being a delight or a disaster.
Now was a pause. Back to the story – we left it when a huge wave was about to hit the boat and the disciples think they are going to die – v25-26 READ.
2) Evidence of the king of the world
Jesus speaks to the wind and waves like he’s telling off a child. Only when we say ‘stop it’ to a child doesn’t always do much - but here Jesus says ‘stop it’ – and the wind and waves stop.
Imagine what it must have been like for the disciples. One moment they are terrified as a huge wave charges towards them – then a voice speaks – and the wave goes flat and the sun comes out.
And so they turn from the wave – ex-wave – and look at the person next to them and say – v27.
And if you know the Bible the answer is clear. Psalm 89 says “O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You rule over the surging sea, when its waves mount up, you still them”
The only one who can control creation – is the one who made it. Only God can do this.
Some people are cynical about Jesus’ miracles – they talk about David Blaine or Dynamo doing some tricks and Jesus’ miracles being a bit like that. Well with respect to those magicians – they didn’t turn up in Florida and stop hurricane Florence. I don’t blame him for that.
My point being - this is of a different order. This is no clever trick. This is authority over creation itself – this is giving the elements orders – and very simply it is evidence this man Jesus is God himself.
If you’re not sure about Jesus – what to make of him – I’d start here. Here’s a man acting like God – showing us he’s God. I know we probably want to ask how can trust this account and that sort of thing – and there’s lots to say about that. But I hope you can see there’s no one like Jesus – acting like God – giving us evidence he is the creator – your creator. And so I’d urge you to look into him more – do ask me if you want some more on that.
However, Jesus isn’t just showing us he’s the king of the world – he is also giving us,
3) A picture of a world put right
The disciples are about to die – Jesus speaks – the sea goes flat, wind stops. Jesus rescues them from disaster – rescues them from this gone wrong world – and for a brief moment they enjoy the world as it was meant to be.
After this the storms carry on – but for a moment we get a picture of a world put right.
We’ve said over the last two weeks God has promised a perfect new world – remember the party from Isaiah – where everything is put right. A perfect world with no death.
Here Jesus is giving us a picture of that future - a glimpse, a proof – he can make that happen.
For a while I lived down in Borough and there was a huge amount of flats being built. They always follow the same pattern. The building site starts – it’s a mess – cranes, and mud everywhere. And then while it’s still chaos – a sign appears – show home open. And you can walk through the scaffolding, and the mess, and there is a flat – finished. And it looks fabulous – and you really like it – mainly because they’ve filled with stuff you could never afford.
The point is - you can see what the whole place is going to be like - from the show-home. It’s chaos at the moment but here in the middle is an example of how what it will be.
Well Jesus has promised he will put this world right – it will be wonderful.
But he doesn’t just promise – he then gives us a picture.
We’ve seen that picture in the healings as Jesus defeats disease and death. Now he does the same with a disaster - as he calms the storm - it’s like a show-world. The rest of the world is messy and chaotic, but here in the middle we get a taste of the future. A picture of what Jesus will do when he puts this world right.
I was thinking about disaster movies this week – and rescue scenes. I don’t know if you’ve seen Volcano – if you haven’t I wouldn’t bother. It stars Tommy Lee Jones, and a volcano just outside LA. At the end of the film the volcano has erupted and Tommy Lee Jones is trapped with the lava flowing towards him – in a matter of moments he will die. But they lower a ladder from a fire truck – and he is hoisted to safety just in time – as the lava flows on.
That is typical of rescue films isn’t it – someone pulled to safety just in time.
It made me think how different Jesus’ rescue is. So often rescues are about escaping disaster. Getting out of the way of disaster. But Jesus doesn’t air-lift the disciples out of the storm. He doesn’t ride ahead of the storm to safety.
No - he stands up and tells the storm to stop. So he doesn’t just escape from disaster – he overcomes disaster. He reverses disaster. He speaks and changes this world – and makes it what it was meant to be.
And that is what he will do one day - he will speak and storms never take lives. He will speak and there will be no earthquakes or hurricanes. There’ll be no need for disaster appeals, of food parcels. The phone will never ring in the middle of the night and you find out your loved one isn’t coming home. His rescue is complete – he will create a world where the accident, the disaster – never happens.
It’s a lot to believe isn’t it? But here is the evidence – here is the show-world. “Stop it” and “it was completely calm.”
Let’s finish by thinking how we should respond to this?
4) Is there evidence we trust the king?
Here are the two possibilities for the disciples – fear or faith. And they flow from whatever is more real to them – the threat of nature – disaster. Or Jesus – the king – who will bring a perfect new world.
Now the disciples do have some faith - they do go to Jesus for help. But their faith is little – they are afraid of disaster. The storm is more real than Jesus.
Jesus calms the storm, shows them he’s the king – he’s in charge. Shows them what he’s going to do – gives them a tour of the show-world.
And so - v27 READ. They are amazed at him – Jesus gets bigger in their minds – he’s bigger than the storm - Jesus as king gets more real to them. As he gets bigger their fears get smaller.
So what do we see in us – faith in Jesus or fear of this world?
As we ask that we have to be clear what we’re trusting Jesus to do for us. Because this isn’t promising that Jesus will save us from all natural disasters today. I imagine there were Christians killed in the hurricane Florence or in fires in Greece. Jesus doesn’t promise to rescue us from all disaster today.
As we’ve said this shows us Jesus is king of this world – in charge. And it shows us Jesus will one day put this world right.
So do we trust as that – the king now – who will put things right.
Say we read about natural disasters around the world do we just feel depressed at the relentless horror of this world? Or do we think – this is terrible but I know Jesus is bigger – and one day he will speak and it will all end.
If our friend, loved one, is late coming home one night and we wonder what has happened to them – as we feel the fear of that – can we say - I know someone who is bigger than this – I know someone who is king – and I know a new world is coming.
If the phone rings in the middle of the night do you feel nothing but terror – or do you think whatever this is – I know Jesus is king now – and will one day overcome it.
In other words which is more real to us – this world’s disasters? Or Jesus – and his future perfect world?
If you’re anything like me it’s often this world – we have little faith.
So let’s look at Jesus tonight with the disciples and marvel at him. Let’s dwell on him so that Jesus being king isn’t an abstract idea, or concept, but we feel he really is the king of this world – bigger than all we can see.
And so we know that one day he will speak and every storm will stop and this world will be right.
Let’s not be afraid, let’s have faith.