Second Sunday before Lent

February 24, 2019

Introduction and Call to Worship

In our worship today we have before us an old question. Who is Jesus? In the Gospel story he demonstrates by stilling a storm on the lake.

 

Today’s Readings

 

First Reading Genesis 2:4b-9. 15-25

Our first reading is part of the story of creation as recorded in the book of Genesis. Man is given his tasks in the Garden of Eden and woman is created.

 

Second Reading Revelation 4

This reading, from the last book of the New Testament, is one of seven visions of a great new era which will follow the present age of suffering.

 

Gospel Luke 8:22-25

St Luke tells how Jesus shows his command of the elements in stilling a storm on the Lake of Galilee.

 

HOMILY       “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water?”  (Luke 8:25)

 

Disasters have been the subject of film-goers' fascination since the time of silent epics; from Towering Inferno to Earthquake, The Day after Tomorrow to 2012, their catastrophes can take so many different forms, man-made or natural; environmental disasters, accidents, terrorism and even the possibility of alien invasion, viruses unleashed or technology gone awry. Along with showing the spectacular disaster, these films concentrate on the chaotic events that follow and often the heroic endeavours of some to save life. Such disasters also include storms! Those saved often ask of their saviour, “Who are you?” Have you noticed in the Gospel readings that time and time again people who meet or hear Jesus end up asking a fundamental question of faith: “Who is this?”

 

“Who are you; who is this?” We may well have repeated this question in one form or another: Who is God? Although human beings seem to have forgotten this basic truth, that we are dependent upon the world, the creation in which we live and move and have our being, God has not forgotten us. From the dawn of creation people have been in a special relationship with their creator. Jesus, who shows us what God is really like in human form, reveals that relationship in its fullest sense. God is willing to give up his life in order that we may live. So, our special relationship with God is made visible, incarnate through Jesus. We here at St Mary’s have the gift of the scriptures and 2000 years of theological study to guide us. That breadth of experience of being in relationship with God helps us today to understand our place in creation and our relationship to God and to Jesus his Son our Lord. But those who encountered Jesus in first century Palestine and Israel were often left with the age-old question: “Who is this?” Who is Jesus to you?

 

Throughout our Lord’s ministry, people flocked to hear him preach, teach and see him work miracles and signs. In six weeks’ time we will recall the events of Palm Sunday, when crowds flocked to see their promised Messiah enter Jerusalem amount a donkey. They sang ‘Hosanna’ as we do with every Eucharist. But they also asked, “Who is this?” The Gospel narratives keenly identify who Jesus really is: God’s Son – the Emmanuel – God with us. They describe the miracles: changing water into wine, feeding the five thousand, raising Lazarus. Pontius Pilate questions Jesus too, on the night before he was crucified in the life and death moment of his trial, asking the same: “Who are you?” And now we hear the question again, but this time the disciples fear they will perish as the storm lashes the boat and they cower in fear. 

 

They had set off in what was probably a fishing boat to cross the lake. We may think of it as a simple journey, but the geography of the surrounding mountains and hills, and a microclimate of its own, means that this lake can be a dangerous place with storms whipping up from seemingly nowhere. Jesus seems relaxed enough, lying down to take a nap while the experts chart a course across the sea. In Mark’s Gospel we have the added detail that Jesus lays on a cushion – in other words he is comfortable. The peace of this moment’s rest doesn’t last as a nasty storm blows up, and it must be a bad one as the disciples, some of them experienced fishermen no less, are frightened. Indeed, the boat begins to fill with water.

 

Amid the tumult, Jesus is asleep, head on the cushion. The disciples feel out of their depth and out of options – their only hope is to trust in their relationship with God, with Jesus, and ask for his help and intervention. “Master!” they shout, above the roar of the water and howl of the wind, “Master, wake up! We are perishing!” Perhaps there has been a time in your life when you have cried out for help. Somewhere you may have experienced a life or death situation when you simply couldn’t have survived on your own, without the help of another or the love of God. Our Lord wakes up, recognises the impending situation, rebukes the wind and the waves, and suddenly, unmistakable silence follows. Everything is still – danger averted, and lives are saved. For that’s the truth about the Christian faith handed onto us today: Jesus saves. He looks at his disciples and asks a shocking and searching question of them: “Where’s your faith?”

 

It feels like we are in the midst of a storm right now. BREXIT is an obvious example but there are many more besides, not least the harsh realities of being human and our bodies getting older; sickness, suffering and loss of many kinds. No doubt you, like me, have had your moments of asking Jesus to hear your prayer during your own tumult. Like the disciples, we seek reassurance that Jesus is in the boat with us – that God is not passively sleeping but active in our lives and our world. That is indeed God’s nature, as brought into being in creation, revealed in human form in the incarnation and empowered through the action of the Spirit at work in our lives today. Friends, God is active, at work and longing for us to participate in his plan of salvation. And Jesus has the same question for us today as he did for those fearful disciples in a sinking boat: “Where’s your faith?”

 

God gave us dominion over the creation, but he also gave us a relationship of absolute love to guide us through the challenges of life, the disasters and epics. That gift is faith, tested by life but given nonetheless, so we can trust the Lord is with us and hears us. All we need do is be willing to pray faithfully as we seek to care for his creation and love others as he has taught us to love. This gift of relationship, as mirrored in the Trinity of love itself, calms all the storms of life and brings faith. This gift is for each of us and must be shared with others. This gift is more than a life jacket – it is the very presence of God, the creator, the one who longs through His Son to save us too. Amen.

 

SUMMARY

  1. Disaster movies are popular, and the hero is often asked, “Who are you?” In the Gospels people ask “who is this?” when confronted with the reality of the Emmanuel – Jesus.

  2. Our Lord is a window onto God – he reveals more of the creator for us. We also have 2000 years of people since his death and resurrection who have lived in the knowledge and presence of God. We face challenges and testing – even disasters, but we are never abandoned.

  3. Many ask the same question today: “Who is Jesus?” It took a storm on the Lake of Galilee to reveal before the disciples God’s very presence. Jesus longs to reveal his identity to us also, his very presence with us in the Eucharist.

  4. When we cry out in struggle, pain, anguish, loss and so much more, it is Jesus who hears our cry for salvation and longs to calm the storms of our lives.

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