The story is your story, soaked into the fabric of your being. The sun warms your face, but the sound of distant thunder echoes in your ears. At once, gray skies banish the blue, and the gloominess of clouds sends away the brightness of the sun.
A howling wind drives away the calm, and smooth water now lashes out in turbulence. Cold sweat forms on your forehead. Bitter bile fills your throat as the wind cuts your face and waves crash over the boat. A day of smooth sailing is now history.
The story is your story, for this tale of tears is drenched into your bones. A sunny day scowls at you when word of your mother’s death kicks you in the gut. Gray skies banish the blue when your paycheck is gone, and your wallet is empty. The gloom of clouds drives away the sunny brightness when illness or injury intrude into your life. A shrieking squall descends in the cruel words of a confrontational spouse.
The calm and placid life you imagine on quiet waters flounders on the jagged rocks when the troubles of life come to agitate. Your many responsibilities with family, at work, community, and church overwhelm you. They batter you, leaving you drowning and gasping for air.
Unforeseen events flood your calendar, which you did not plan for, which you cannot control, tossing you around, back and forth, up and down, and you fear the ship of your life will soon shatter and sink. What I describe is part of everyone’s life in a world soaked with sin.
Yes, the story is your story, the storm St. Matthew describes. You and me, each of us, find ourselves with our Lord’s disciples in the boat. The crack of thunder explodes, the wind descends, the waves rise in rebellion, and anxiety and fear hold you hostage. What is happening? What will happen next?
The unknown becomes unbearable! You scamper and scurry, only to find Jesus asleep. He is not snoozing at the helm, but as St. Mark tells us, in the back, on a cushion! How can our Lord be asleep in this terror-filled moment of life?
Remember: our God is a God of remembering, so we recall His part in our story. He is the almighty Creator, who authored our life story, from start to end. Jesus also is our Creator who, with His Father and the Spirit, foreknew you before egg and sperm came together to make you into you.
Jesus dressed in the form and flesh of His creature, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of His mother, the Virgin Mary. He, who is also Creator, came to His own to restore, renew, and make right what we broke in the fall into sin.
For we poured into the soil of this creation our creation: our corruption, bringing ruin into God’s beautiful world. Made in God’s image, then with the power of complete free will, we chose the way to glorify us.
We failed the test of Satan’s temptation, believing the lie: God is holding out on us. Idolatry, disobedience to God, entered our lives, this world, and into the lives of all. Perfect no more, the contamination streamed from one generation to the next, flowing from our forebears to us.
So, the enduring enigma of evil comes to us, once more. We are the conveyors, the bringers of evil, if not as an individual, as a collective race. Our brokenness descends to such depths we will try to blame others for what is our fault. We seek a scapegoat, our neighbor, another nation, God.
Scripture teaches, “Do not be deceived: God will not be made a fool. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). So, somewhere in the churning waters, we must understand our part in the blame for what happens to us.
Now, we don’t want to do so. We prefer to send our fury and blame on another. Is the other person at fault, who caused grief in your life? Of course! What God wants you to realize is this: events in your life are also the result of what you do, as well. We want the credit but not the blame.
Still, some of what comes your way is not a result of your direct actions. The tragic fall of Adam into sin, God’s first human, caused all creation to fall with him. The cosmos is now as imperfect and flawed as we are. Life is no longer bliss.
The wrong actions of others can result in much harm to you. Your virtuous deeds do not always lead to a positive ending, as they should. Suppose you are careful in everything you do; you still may break a bone. The world is fractured, so don’t expect the storms of life to stop blustering and heaving in this troubled world.
The ending to the story is Jesus. He comes to deliver. He made His epiphany, His appearance, in our life story to bring us to the perfect ending. He comes to live the life of complete obedience to God, which becomes yours as your gracious God gives you what our Savior achieved.
The disciples fear they will die in the water. So, Jesus comes to give life, speaking His Word, using water, in the water, through the water. Our Lord’s followers only fathom death by drowning, unable to grasp the salvation in the wetness. So, our Savior speaks and pulls life from the watery tomb of mortality. He does so still today.
Jesus takes water and through His Word—in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—water now becomes life-giving. “He saved us—not because of our righteous deeds, but because of his mercy, through the washing in which the Holy Spirit gives us new birth and renewal” (Titus 3:5). No wonder Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless someone is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
Now, if you think those verses too cryptic because what the words say don’t match what you want, take in the Apostle Peter. “Baptism, which is like this [God saving Noah and his family through the water of the flood], now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).
Jesus came to die, but also to rise. The end of His story is also your story. For if you are joined to Jesus through baptism in a death like His, you will also be with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5). Your story is eternal life because His story is eternal life, the life He now lives after His lungs poured out the saving waters of His death.
His story is your story, for are you not with Christ in His Ark, the Church? Delight in how everything ends for those whom the Spirit of life brings into our Lord’s Church.
The “mother of all storms” may batter the Church and you think His people will perish. Not so. Jesus speaks the Word, and the wind and waves, which mutiny against our Lord, are no more. Calm overcomes strife, peace defeats war, and all in the ship with our Savior are safe—forevermore. The storms are over, and the full tranquility He gives endures through all eternity.
For now, for you and me, the buffeting winds of life continue, but hope still harbors you in the tempest. The Spirit from the Father gives you this story of our Savior to comfort and encourage you. Amid the sting of wind and rain, Jesus rested in the all-powerful protection of His Father. He rested under the comforting grace of the Holy Spirit. So can you.
Jesus worked. He preached His Word, taught His followers, and performed works of mercy with a calm within Him. He bore our sins as our Savior, but He still rested, understanding the Holy Spirit worked within Him, and for Him, to bring Him peace.
The same Holy Spirit is living and active in you. He works within you, and for you, to bring peace to your mind and heart. So we, His disciples, follow in our Lord’s footsteps. Amid the restless chaos coming your way, you can rest in His eternal peace.
You realize how the story ends, for His story is your story. Death will come followed by eternal life. Like Jesus, don’t only curl up and nap through the disturbance. You battle against the wind and stormy gale as they strain to seize control over you. Secure the hatches, trim the sails, lighten the load, move the oars with vigor, and work with others in our Lord’s boat, in the ark of the Church.
We change our ways to help the weaker brother, not bully him into submission. We change our thinking, the mind of Christ renewing us within. In Him, we respond in faithful and loving ways when events beyond our control overwhelm us.
Like Jesus, we work while we also rest. We work to serve others, resting in the Lord, under the watchful care of our heavenly Father, in the peace of His Son, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amid the windstorm, we come to the Divine Service to enter our Sabbath rest. For worship is not our work for God, but His work for us.
Jesus saved His disciples in the storm. In the biting wind, He did the work while they rested. On shore, they began their work anew. So also with us. Jesus saves us anew, here and now, and we rest in His salvation. Only after, do we arise from His Sabbath rest for us and go to do what our God give us to do.
Come now, rest in Jesus, eating the food He gives to strengthen us for the journey. Plenty of work will await you after you leave this place to love and serve your neighbor. Amen.