The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B

“Grow Your Faith”

A sermon by parishioner Jessica Moynihan ~

Happy Father’s Day y’all! Who here is salivating thinking about the food they’re going to be eating later today in celebration of this beautiful holiday honoring the most important men in our lives because I know I sure am! I’m excited too, but before we go off and stuff our faces with caloric food, I want to talk about something that will feed that hunger in your soul – faith!

Alrighty, Let’s dive into today’s passage from Mark about Jesus calming the storm:

So, Jesus wants to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, BUT, THESE are not normal circumstances we are looking at, right? If we rewind back a little, we see that not only is it the end of the day, but it’s a day when Jesus has been preaching and healing people all day. He is tired, his disciples are tired. Everyone probably just wants to relax and at minimum take a nap! But alas, their teacher has made a request and they must follow.

And of course we know what happens next, while out on the sea, they’re just sailing along innocently trying to get to the other side, and then strong winds come. Now I imagine that the disciples are starting to panic. The sky has opened up and water is everywhere! The waves are crashing around them and water is spilling into the boat from all sides, chaos is amiss. The boat is rocking, the fear is sinking in, the panic, the anxiety, the worry, the racing thoughts. And where is Jesus? Oh don’t worry! He’s sleeping off that day of hard work and healing. So, the disciples wake Him up and express that fear to their teacher.

And then Jesus simply gets up, raises his arms, and tells the storm to stop. And that famous question is asked by Jesus “Have you still no faith?” He could have ranted on to them – “do you really not know the power of God and that He is in me? Do you not have faith in the fact that God controls everything you see, whether it seems logical or not? HE is the almighty, HE is the all knowing. You MUST HAVE FAITH!” But Jesus didn’t go on and on explaining what they should know and believe. Instead Jesus showed them so that they could see with their own eyes. They were shocked and I think they now had faith in what He was truly capable of. The disciples had just witnessed Jesus calming a literal storm of winds. He controlled the weather itself. An act only God could do. They witnessed His true power and I believe their fears had surely calmed down.

See to us, knowing what we know today, we cannot always understand the disciples’ fear since they had Jesus right there in the boat with them. But let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples, in that moment where all of those negative emotions came to the surface and the most prominent feeling that was coursing through their bones and beings was PANIC. How would YOU have felt at that moment? The same right? Because WE are not the almighty and all knowing. We cannot see what is coming and we often forget the power that God has. So we are tasked to have Faith during those storms because God will certainly put us to the test. Only Jesus can calm the storm. We panic and worry, but God never does. We do it because we don’t know, like He does.

Reading this passage put me into deep reflection. I look back at all of the storms that I have been through over the years because there have been many and I am the QUEEN of anxiety. God has certainly made sure that life is a rollercoaster for all of us and taught us some mighty fine lessons, myself included. The most obvious and strongest one that sticks out to me NOW was back when I had stomach ulcers for a 2nd time back in my early 20s. Yes, the 2nd time around was when I got thrown deep under water because the first time around did not teach me my lesson. My first bout of stomach ulcers, they healed so quickly. All I needed was 2 weeks of medication and a few diet alterations. However, after I was healed, I went back to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and eating anything I pleased. I disregarded all the things He was trying to tell me – “respect your body,” “you’re not a pleasant drunk,” “you’ll get fat and unhealthy if you keep eating like that.” I ignored it all and got myself sick again. BADLY! To put into perspective how sick I was, I went from 148 pounds to 118 pounds in a very short period of time. Days of sickness turned into weeks, and then months. My doctor’s couldn’t figure out the right medication combination to help me get better. It got harder and harder to even leave the house because I was so weak and in so much pain. And then I was forced to withdraw from school and take a semester off.

And you know what I did on a daily basis? Have panic attacks because I didn’t know what was coming and that He would heal me. The storm felt like years and it was a treacherous road. I had to put my best foot forward to make a change and see everything He wanted me to do. I finally stopped drinking alcohol, started eating a more balanced diet, I started seeing a therapist regularly, and I listened to my mother and did what she said when she encouraged me to do things that seemed impossible at the time. And at the time, I didn’t know it, but it was God leading me through and stopping the storm for me. I wasn’t listening to Jesus in my heart because at the time, it wasn’t as obvious as Jesus being in the boat with me, right there to say it straight to my face “Have you still no faith?” But He was there. He made me see what I needed to see at the time.

Looking back at the storms throughout my life, and the victories, I realize that it is trust I need to have. Trust in Him. There’s actually a song I recently discovered by a Christian singer named Lauren Daigle called “Trust in You” and the chorus reads – “when you don’t move the mountains I needed you to move, when you don’t part the waters, I wish I could walk through, when you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you, I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.” This is such a great way to profess faith. We need to have trust and faith in Him because He is always there with us.

So, as you go forth and conquer your weeks ahead and the months ahead, despite everything that is tumbling around you – COVID, family feuds, car accidents, mass shootings – REMEMBER the good news, that He is with you and He cares for you. Until your dying day, he will send things that will make you smile and fulfill your heart. You just have to look around and have Faith. That’s the main point of this story, right? Have Faith. So how do we actually put this into action when leaving here today? Develop self control – control yourself rather than attempting to control the situation. Trust me, I personally know it is way easier said than done. But if we have faith, we won’t be left with fear and panic. Fear and panic is faith misplaced. Self-control restores your faith in Jesus and helps you to exercise it. We all have challenges coming forward, whether it be today, tomorrow or a month from now. Therefore, to strengthen your faith, you can pray, you can meditate, you can open up to those who are sitting right next to you today – the people who share the same beliefs as you. We also need to keep reading and studying the Bible, because knowing God’s Word goes hand in hand with trusting God and praying. This all can help you learn to calm the panic and grow your faith. Let’s try some prayer right now, pray with me –

“Oh blessed Lord, we want to praise, honor and glorify you. But our faith is weak. Help us please, strengthen our faith. Let us give ourselves up to you. Teach us, oh Lord, how to love you more, how to love ourselves more, and how to love others even when it hurts. Let our faith grow strong in obedience to your teaching, to love, serve and forgive. Reveal to our hearts this most excellent way. We can’t do it alone. May your Spirit work in us according to your will. For there we find meaning, there we find feeding for our hungry souls. We ask all this in Jesus’s name. Amen.”