Second Sunday before Lent : Going through storms

 

Rev Canon Elaine Labourel, Director of Reader Ministry in the Diocese in Europe, reflects on this week’s Gospel passage, Luke 8.22-25, asking how we should practise our faith in the storms of today.

Life throughout Europe today is far from easy. We seem to live in a time when many put individual desires before the common good, resulting in violence and a growing and visible hatred of the other. In France, we are living in very troubled times where violence and racism are to the fore. The storms of life unsettle us understandably and when I read the account of the stilling of the storm in the gospels, I am troubled by the fact that Jesus rebukes the disciples for panicking in this life-threatening storm. Yet, there is hope in the story in Luke. How do we practice our faith in the storms?

Faith is fundamental for those who would be followers of Christ. Jesus did not expect them to do anything in the midst of that storm but to trust in Him.

It is by faith that we are saved from our sins (Ephesians 2.8-9; Romans 3.22). We are to live by faith (Habbakuk 2.4; Romans 1.17; Galatians 3.11). It was faith that saved Abraham (Romans 4), as it was faith that sustained all of the heroes of the faith named or alluded to in Hebrews chapter 11. It is faith from which obedience flows (Romans 16.26). It is by faith that we stand (2 Corinthians 1.24).

Faith involves a decision for which we are responsible. Sometimes we are required to take action. Abraham’s faith in God required him to circumcise his son. We might call this the ‘obedience of faith.’ It is doing that which God has commanded, trusting in him to fulfill his purposes and promises as we act in obedience to his command, even though we might not understand. At other times, a decision of faith requires us to wait, at a time when we would be tempted to act on our own to bring about a certain result.

Faith is tested and proven by adversity and trials. The disciples’ lack of faith is exposed in their crisis experience on the Sea of Galilee. The trials of life expose those flaws in our faith which have long been there, but which are only revealed under stress and pressure and yet these crises can be transformative if we let them.

Fear (that is, the kind of frantic, panic, fear that the disciples displayed in the storm) and faith are mutually exclusive. Faith entrusts oneself to God in the midst of danger and is willing to take risks, based on the promises and purposes of God.

Faith focuses on God incarnate, Jesus Christ. The disciples did not grasp the greatness of the One who was with them in the boat, and so they lacked faith in His power, in His presence, in His goodness. Faith in God cannot be mixed with trust in ourselves, or in our own actions. There was nothing which they could do to save themselves.

The Scriptures teach us that we are to walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7). Faith is based upon God’s power and upon His promises. Abraham was commanded to leave his family behind and go to an unknown land, where God promised to bless him. From a human perspective, Abraham was leaving certain prosperity behind while flirting with disaster. Abraham was instructed to take the life of his only son, through whom God had promised to bless him and all the earth. Humanly speaking, this would destroy Abraham’s family. But Abraham, by faith, believed that God was able to raise him from the dead (cf. Hebrews 11.17-19).

Faith is trusting the presence, purposes, power, and character of God, founded on the Word of God and is rooted in our awareness of the presence of God in Christ in our midst always and especially in the storms of life.

The love and graciousness you show us throughout our lives will never change, Lord Jesus, because You are faithful and dependable, and we treasure this great promise of your everlasting love and compassion. May we never fear the evils that sometimes afflict us, because you are with us. We take hold of your sure and steadfast promises and praise you forever. AMEN

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A powerful representation of the scene of the storm at sea is offered by Eularia Clarke’s picture in the Methodist Art Collection and can be seen at 

https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/reflecting-on-faith/the-methodist-modern-art-collection/index-of-works/storm-over-the-lake-eularia-clarke/

 

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