Who then is this?

I’ve always been someone who can sleep anywhere. Having five children has helped this because grabbing a nap between feeding babies was essential when they were little. I have snoozed on trains, cars, chairs, floors, grass, and boats. There is something very peaceful about sleeping in nature, smelling the earthy tinge of the grass, the perfume of the plants in the air, hearing the various bird song and feeling the warmth of the sun on the skin.

I can imagine how peaceful Jesus must have felt when he nodded off in the boat with His disciples. The Sea of Galilee is notorious for its beauty but also for the quick change in weather.

In Gospel today we hear and imagine the idyllic boat journey of Jesus and the disciples. Imagine being on that boat with Jesus. Conversation would be flowing between the disciples, they would have been at ease because a few of them were expert sailers, I like to imagine Jesus nodding off hearing the voices of His disciples mixed with the sound of the sea beneath the hull and the moving of the air as they sailed along.

For the expert fishermen in the boat, discerning the weather was certainly part of their skill set, they would have been able to read the water conditions, see the weather fronts appearing, and know when it would or would not be safe to sail.

However in this scenario none of the fishermen saw this storm coming, it seems that they noticed that Jesus had fallen asleep and then the weather suddenly changed and it surprised them. The gales swept down onto the lake and the disciples were soon overwhelmed and panic stricken.

My active imagination wants to suggest that the storm was not a naturally occurring instance, that there was some link between Jesus falling asleep and suddenly the disciples were vulnerable.

The vulnerability of the disciples in the storm because of not being alert, makes me think of Jesus praying continuously in the garden of Gethsemane before His passion and Jesus finding the disciples asleep overwhelmed with grief.

Jesus says to them “why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into a time of trial” Could it be that Jesus realised from this experience with the storm that the disciples would be vulnerable to spiritual attacks like He himself experienced in the wilderness where the Devil tried to tempt Him?

Whatever the source of this storm might be, the disciples were not prepared, they began to panic were probably quite amazed that Jesus was still asleep, and woke Him up.

Jesus, fearless and peaceful calmed the storm, and said to the disciples, “where is your faith?”

When Jesus asks them “where is your faith” I feel that Jesus is prompting them to remember to pray in times of trouble and have confidence in those prayers that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will hear their call for help.

As the disciples are saved from their seemingly impossible situation they glimpse the divine nature of Jesus that has broken through and turned the chaos into order and the disciples are amazed and terrified.

They say “who then is this that he commands even the wind and the water, and they obey him?”

There is a glimpse of the beginning of creation in this revelation of Jesus’s power over the water and the wind. In Genesis we hear in the beginning, the spirit or wind of God hovered or swept over the waters and God spoke and said let their be light.

The disciples knew in their hearts that Jesus was indeed special, but in their minds, after witnessing this control over the wind and the waters they then realised that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the word of God, and the light of the world.

It’s the reoccurring conversion of the mind that opens up our hearts further and deeper to know and realise and receive the love from our God. Jesus who was fully human and fully God could sleep on that boat in perfect peace because He Himself knew that His prayers would be heard and that He was safe.

This encounter of Jesus calming the storm shows us how important being prepared for storms that can appear out of nowhere is. We become prepared for these storms with our faith, through prayer, through confidence and trust in God’s deliverance and provision, and an awareness and acknowledgement of the battles we can face with evil.

As we encounter storms in our own lives, we cry out for help knowing that we might perish, that it might be this storm that will be the end of us.

We see the water seeping in, we feel the roughness of the waves, we are engulfed by the clouds and the winds that narrow our view, forcing us to look downwards and inwards to the situation. The enormity of the situation sucks us in, we are pounded from every angle, there is no way out, we cannot see a future, we are perishing, we are finished.

Who then is this, who changes all this in an instant? Who rebukes the wind, stills the waves, clears the air, and all that is left is calm.

Who then is this, who widens our perspective and frees us to now look up and outwards, there is now hope, possibility, a new chance to move forward again.

Who then is this who stands strong in the changes that we feel today as I move forward from this beautiful place.

It is our beautiful God who takes the helm of the boat, points us forward out of the storm and sets us off again on fresh waters.

My prayer for you all for the future is to keep looking up and outwards, to be prepared with faith, to stay awake through prayer, through diligence with the scriptures, through friendship and authentic Christian witness and love.

Remember that we are a storied people, it’s our stories that meet Jesus’s stories around his transformative table that makes a church, and it’s that transformative power that will build Jesus’ church, because no one who meets Jesus face to face would want to be anywhere else but in His house and His presence.

I thank you all for letting me love you, because without love we can never know and rest in the true heart of God.


Blessed are you

A sermon for Christ Church Healey

Last weeks Gospel saw Jesus showing the disciples what trusting and believing in him could look like. The experienced fishermen were exhausted from fishing all night and having no fish to show from their efforts. They were really sure that casting their nets out again would be fruitless, however Peter decided to trust Jesus and throw out the nets again. To their surprise their catch of fish was extraordinary and Peter was convinced that Jesus was the man to follow.

This week we hear Jesus gathering His chosen twelve disciples and beginning to teach them. They weren’t alone though, people in the areas around who had heard about Jesus’ healings and miracles gathered to listen to Him. It says in the Gospel that people were trying to touch Him because they knew that great power came from Him.

In the midst of all this hubbub Jesus began to teach His beatitudes, blessings and woes that make a mockery of the world’s values, they exalt what the world despises and reject what the world admires.

Now I can imagine you all thinking, yes we’ve heard these words before, blessed are the poor etc we know we know, rich bad, poor good, but what does that really mean for me right here now?

Have these statements of Jesus just become a few words that we rattle off like the Lord’s Prayer, I can understand how a load of people stood on a dusty hill could find these things useful but are they even relevant today?

Let’s have a look and decide for ourselves:

Blessed are those who are not certain of themselves or built up on human ego, who rely on God for comfort and provision. They do not have everything they need from possessions or comfortable wealth.

Blessed are those who are hungry for the bread from heaven, for the living water that Jesus provides, those who trust in the Lord and those who’s trust is the Lord

Blessed are those who cry because of the evil that is happening in the world, who weep for the hungry children because their families are struggling to make ends meet. The people who feel sadness for the state of the environment, the people who weep for the children and families who are victims of knife crime.

Blessed are those who face trouble, face a bumpy ride, face being excluded from the mainstream world because they follow Jesus. rejoice in this and leap for joy because that is what happened to the prophets.

Now for the woes, an expression of regret and compassion not threat:

How terrible that you are rich because you have received your consolation and cannot see the glorious provision of God.

How terrible that you are full and satisfied now by the work of your own hands, that you have everything and require nothing else, that you have no need for God because you can provide security and comfort yourselves, yet you will be hungry for your soul yearns to be united with God.

How terrible for those who can laugh now, who are carefree and content with their possessions and goods, who can feel relieved that they do not struggle like others, for when the shallowness of this satisfaction dries up, it will be filled with remorseful tears.

How terrible that everyone speaks well of you all the time, who glide from one group of people to another, for prophets are uncomfortable to be around and ask questions that others do not, they speak truth to power and this upsets the comfortable.

Can we see how these words of Jesus are so relevant for us today?

These beatitudes are not a political party broadcast, they are not meant to favour one class of people or another, they are not meant to be wielded by people who have their own agenda, they are to teach the disciples, us, what it looks like to follow Jesus and enter the narrow gate into His kingdom.

It is to open up the eyes and minds of all the people listening that living and this world is bigger than you and me, that it is about being a community who calls upon and relies on God.

If we go back to last weeks Gospel story that I started with this morning, Peter was very sure in himself and in his knowledge as a fisherman that there was no point in casting the nets out again.

Let’s investigate Peter’s reaction to Jesus asking Him to cast out the net with the message we have heard from the woes,

In Peter’s mind he had a right to question Jesus:

1) Peter was rich in his own provision of knowledge,

2) he wasn’t hungry for anymore knowledge because he knew everything he needed to know about fishing,

3) he was probably laughing inside of himself when casting out that net because he knew it was pointless,

4) He was looking forward to being proven right and the other fishermen praising his knowledge instead of Jesus.

When those fish came into the boat squirming and breaking the nets he fell to his knees in repentance for trusting in only himself. Then he was blessed.

Blessed because

1) he knew he needed to rely on Jesus because he had knowledge that only he could provide

2) he was hungry to know more about Jesus and what that meant for the world around him

3) he weeped for his misjudgment but then was overjoyed in Jesus’ grace

4) he left everything behind which would have caused some upset and aggravation towards him, that Peter guy must be mad!

After the beatitudes Jesus moves onto teaching about love, we can see that the conversion of the heart comes with the conversion of the mind. When our minds are opened to the ways and blessings of God our hearts respond.

This is my last sermon here with you all as I am leaving and moving to another placement. My prayer for you all is that you keep eyes fixed on Jesus, because he will tell you to do things that you might think are crazy ideas, but like the disciples you are blessed, you are hungry, you are poor, you weep and you are insulted, but rejoice and leap because the kingdom of God is near and your reward is great in heaven.