Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost (June 23, 2024)

Storms and How We Grow from Them
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Assigned texts:
Job 38:1-11
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

This week, our assigned texts, though written thousands of years ago, are relevant to the storms we face today. As such, I will touch on each of our readings, drawing parallels to our present circumstances.

First, our Gospel lesson from Mark tells us about one of the six voyages Jesus took with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. The first few chapters of Mark are a whirlwind of activity and busyness, and it seems as if Jesus wants to have some time away with his disciples.  So, they got in a boat, something quite familiar to the fishermen, and proceeded to the other side of the lake. As they journey across the lake, Jesus falls asleep in the boat, perhaps indicating his exhaustion.   As he sleeps, a severe storm whips up out of nowhere, causing even the professional fisherman to fear for their lives. In a panic, they wake Jesus, wondering if he even cares for their lives. Jesus then immediately calms the storm but then questions the faith of his disciples. Their reaction strongly indicates that they did not quite understand who this Jesus was. Do we?

Job’s life has been a storm lately.  The once wealthy and happy man has now lost his farm, livestock, money, and the family that gave him such joy. He now has nothing. His three well-meaning friends have dispensed meaningless advice, so Job takes his case directly to God, leaving him to say, “If I go forward, he is not there; Or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left, he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turned to the right, but I cannot see him.” Job cannot see God’s presence in his suffering, and he is not alone.   But our reading from Job today contains God’s answer to Job, and here is the response: “Where were you when I created the world!” In other words, God is who God is. God’s wisdom and love have been woven into the mystery of creation, and we, as humans, can never completely understand how all of that works. Only God can control both wind and waves.

Our text from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians lists, in great detail, many of the storms that we deal with in life: hardships, afflictions, calamities, busyness, riots, sleepless nights, and hunger.  But these are met by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.  This is how we are to meet the storms of life, knowing that Jesus is with us in the storms.

The most profound and life-affirming relationships are not those that have evaded storms but those that have weathered them. This is the essence of resurrection, for there can be no Easter without Good Friday, no triumph without struggle.

We can all wonder where God was during the worst of the pandemic when we were stuck in our homes, hospitals were overrun with severe cases, and we had little to fight off the disease. We have been through quite the storm. While I do not believe that God caused the pandemic to teach us some lessons, I believe that much was learned scientifically, and even congregations were challenged to seek better ways to stay in touch with parishioners. Congregations worldwide are now streaming their worship services, allowing for greater outreach not only to their members who cannot attend worship but also to benefit their outreach.

In our most recent storms, what lessons have we learned about who was left behind? What lessons have we learned about who was most vulnerable? What lessons have we learned about caring for our neighbors? How has our mission in life changed due to these recent storms? The truth is we are never left alone in life’s challenges.  The presence of the Holy Spirit dwells within us.  This gives us comfort and hope as we build God’s kingdom.  A kingdom that embraces all those who suffer as we have.