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Epiphany 4 – Matthew 8:23-27

by pastorjuhl ~ January 27th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

When the storms of life comes thrashing, to whom do you turn? For Jesus’ disciples there wasn’t much of a choice. They were in a boat in the middle of a sea. The only one they could turn was Jesus. But [Jesus] was asleep. If Jesus is asleep and there’s a storm raging, then there is no one to turn to in this time of need.

That’s the way it is with you sometimes, isn’t it. God’s Word teaches you to call upon God in every hour of need. Psalm 50 says, Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. Today’s Introit exclaims, they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

These psalms just gave away the ending to today’s Gospel. Even though there is a happy ending for the disciples, perhaps you don’t have a happy ending for a few times you’ve called on our heavenly Father in the day of trouble. Prayers for deliverance have gone unanswered, at least unanswered as you see it this side of heaven. When shame and vice come screaming into your life, perhaps God gets the blame. After all, He’s in the boat with you, just as you learned in Sunday School and Confirmation instruction.

Perhaps you’ve cried out, “What have I done to deserve this? Why has God allowed this to happen to me? I wish He’d help me out of this one, but the last time I asked, He didn’t come through.” The people on the boat with Jonah asked the same questions. They asked, for whose cause is this trouble upon us? It’s not God’s fault. Here we recall the explanation to the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. The first four words are, “God tempts no one.”

Who tempts? The devil, the world, and our sinful nature. One of Blessed Martin Luther’s Christian Questions with their Answers asks “But what should you do if you are not aware of this need [for the Sacrament] and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” Another way of asking the question would be, “What should I do if I think God is tempting me and I need help to know whether or not to receive the Lord’s Supper?” The answer to the question is, first, to touch your body to see if you still have flesh and blood. If you have flesh and blood, then you have human nature. Next, look around and see whether you are still in the world. There is no lack of sin and trouble in the world. Scripture says so. Same for your human nature. Scripture says human nature is corrupted with sin. Last of all, if you have a human nature and are in the world, then the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you.

Wondering whether Jesus is in the boat of human life is natural for sinners, even recovering sinners like us. It’s not as if you expected calm seas and sunny skies when you became a Christian. Or did you? Beloved, when you believe in Jesus Christ and are baptized, a target goes on your back. Satan desires to sift you like wheat. He wants you to believe that Jesus is napping until Judgment Day. He wants you to think we have a clockmaker God who started the action of the heavens and the earth, but sits back and watches His creation mess it up. He won’t get His hands dirty in our mess. He shakes His head and wonders why He lets us go on the way we do.

This is not the God we have. Though Jesus may seem like He’s sleeping, He’s in total control of the situation. After all, Jesus is both God and man. The same Word that brought creation into being also controls creation. All the squalling the disciples make wakes up Jesus. The first words out of His mouth are, Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? It’s a fair question. Why are you afraid? Even with a little faith, that same faith can move mountains.

Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him? This is Jesus, who is our port in the storm. We sang in the processional hymn, “Hail Him Who saves you by His grace/And crown Him Lord of all.” We can’t calm turbulent waters by merely willing them to stop. That gets us nowhere but in trouble. Jesus can calm turbulent waters, and He does, even when we don’t deserve it. The storms should rage, the waters should roar and foam against us, and the winds should knock us down and drag us through the tumult. They don’t. Jesus is in the boat.

Psalm 46 says, Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. The Chief Hymn says, “All helpers failed; /This Man prevailed, /The God-man and none other.” Jesus Christ stills all turbulent times by applying His atoning blood and His innocent suffering and death to those who fear of perishing in the storms of life. Jesus rescued you from drowning amid the seas of sin and death. He put you safe in the ark of the Church, the boat that sails through this world and nurtures you with forgiveness and life. You are dry. You are saved. You are fortified with sustenance in preaching, absolution, and Supper that brings salvation now and at the hour of your death.

There is a great peace amid the raging waters. That great peace is found only in Jesus Christ, Who cleanses you from all sin and makes you a new creation ready to love one another as Christ first loved you. As we sang a while ago: “You are my Lord; /Your precious Word/Shall guide my way/And help me stay/Forever in Your presence.” Be still. Do not be afraid. Jesus is in the boat. Believe it for His sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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