Joseph M. Constant June 21, 2015 Pentecost 4, Proper 7, Year B St. John’s Episcopal Church in Beltsville Where are you God? Where are you as we go through the storms of our life? Am I alone in this fight? Why do you allow so much suffering in my life? Why do you allow bad things to happen to good people? These are questions we wrestle with at one point or another especially in a week like this past one. How can one person be allowed to take the life of nine people? What right does he have to take away lives that he did not give? The shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church leave many of us with conflicted feelings. Our brothers and sisters in Christ gathered for bible study after a long day of work. They were in their place of refuge, their church studying the word of God. And then here comes this stranger entering the church. His presence was unexpected. In spite of the love and hospitality extended to him, he still carried out his plan. In an instant, he took the lives of nine people and purposely spared others to bear witness to his evil purpose. This man was used as a conduit of the evil in our world. In our faith and in our doubt, we cry out to God. In today’s gospel passage (Mark 4:35-41), we find the disciples crying out to Jesus. On their way to the other side of the lake, the disciples encounter a fierce storm so chaotic that it threatens their lives. They too question Jesus, where are you? Don’t you care about us? At this point in the gospel, Jesus has turned his focus on preparing the disciples for their ministry. The disciples left everything behind to follow Jesus. They’ve been with Jesus for some time now, watching him preach the good news, healing the sick and curing diseases. After an exhausting day of preaching, Jesus says to them, let’s go on the other side of the lake. Jesus and the disciples got on a boat making their way to the other side of the lake. Mark tells us, on the way, Jesus rest his head on the pillow and falls asleep. Suddenly a fierce storm came up. The raging storm threatens the life of the disciples. The boat starts to sink. The disciples are afraid for their lives. They feel abandoned. Doubt came over them. They realize they need Jesus. They go looking for him. Don’t you care about us, they cry out to him? Why do you leave us alone dealing with this storm on our own? Jesus commands the storm, “Peace! Be still.” At once, the stormy water is back to its natural form. The wind obeys Jesus’ command. The disciples find themselves in complete awe and wonder, asking who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him? “Peace! Be still”, Jesus rebukes the wind as if the wind was a demon. Jesus chastises the disciples for their lack of faith. Do you still have no faith? Don’t you realize I am here with you? In quieting the storm, Jesus demonstrates his divine power. My brothers and sisters, we serve a God who calms the stormy waters of life. The disciples said to one another, who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him? While the disciples are seemingly devoted to Jesus, having given up everything to follow him, they still don’t know Jesus. They still don’t know that the person in the boat with them is the Son of God who was with God the Father in creation. In our faith and in our doubt, Jesus calls us to trust in him In the gospel of John, we are told “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” In Genesis, we find that when God created the world, God spoke and it came to be. Jesus is the Word of God. It is through Jesus that God created the world the first time around. Jesus spoke the word and was able to control the raging waters of the storm. Through Jesus, God is creating the world anew bringing light to our world of darkness. Jesus offers us a model for those times when the future seems uncertain. In our vulnerability and doubt, Jesus calls us to hold on to our faith and trust in him. Jesus teaches us that when the stormy waters of life rages on, we need to turn to God in prayer. Yes, our faith will be battered by the storms of life. The waves of hatred and prejudice and fear will attempt to control our lives. We will vacillate from time to time between faith and doubt. But that’s ok. God loves us anyway. With God’s help, we will make it to the other side. It is perfectly fine to question God’s presence. God where are you? Why do you allow bad things to happen to good people? Why do you allow suffering in our world? Don’t you care if we drown in the depths of our grief and distress? Wherever you find yourself on your faith journey, Jesus calls us to trust in him. Jesus is endowed with God’s divine power. Jesus’ rebuke of the storm “Quiet! Be still!” reminds us of the creator through his word commands creation to enfold, let there be light and there was light. In Psalm 46:10, the bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” My brothers and sisters, Jesus is with us at all times and in all places. Jesus is the Son of God who promised us that he will never leave us even when the storm of life rages on around us. Amidst the chaos that exists in the world and creeps into our lives, Jesus assures us of his presence. Jesus assures us that we will never have to go through the storm alone. In faith and confidence, we pray through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand precious Lord, lead me on. As long as we live on this side of the Kingdom, we will experience moments when our faith will be tested. We will experience moments of fear and doubt when we may find ourselves unable to feel Jesus’ presence among us, but rest assured, he is among us. Listen closely for his word of encouragement, be of good courage my son, my daughter, I am Jesus, the Son of God, you don’t have to be afraid. On this Father’s day, we give thanks for our father in heaven who sent his one and only begotten son to show us what true love feels and looks like. We give thanks for our father in heaven who empowers us to love. On this Father’s Day, we remember the fathers who have touched our lives. Each of us has had a different journey – a different experience in life that has led us here to St. John’s. And it is this great diversity of journeys that we celebrate today here at St. John’s. On this International Sunday, we remember that Jesus’ call has brought us here and now Jesus has commissioned us to go to all the nations and bring people of all races and languages and culture into the Christian family. It is heartwarming to see all the flags in the parish hall representing the nations of the world. On this day, I pray that we will renew our commitment to live into our mission statement to be “a beacon of Christ’s love, offering hospitality and sustenance to all on their spiritual journey.” My brothers and sisters, Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel AME Church are certain of this; that Jesus is with them even in this time of uncertainty, grief and sadness. Jesus comes to us amidst the storms of our lives. We can be confident this morning that the storms of death and hatred will not overtake us. As we continue of this journey, we know that we will experience unexpected dangers. The devil will not stop trying to interfere with God’s work of creation. This morning, Jesus assures us that we will never have to go through the storm alone. And so, in faith and confidence, we pray through the storm, through the night, lead us on to the light, take our hands precious Lord, lead us on, lead us on. Amen! Copyright 2015 by Joseph M. Constant. Photo: DIGITALVISION/THINKSTOCK

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