Sermon for Week Three of the Season of Creation
Readings: Job 28:20–27; 1 Corinthians 1:21–31 & Luke 8:22–25
Storms can be frightening events. As a young boy, I used to be terrified of severe thunderstorms, especially if they were accompanied by very strong winds. I can remember hiding under the covers in bed during one such storm when the windows were rattling in the wind, the rain was pelting down on the roof, and the whole house seemed to shake whenever there was a loud clap of thunder.
Today’s gospel reading paints a similar picture, as Luke describes a storm that suddenly springs up on Lake Galilee and generates waves that threaten to swamp the boat that Jesus is in with his disciples. Such an event was not uncommon on the Lake Galilee, and storms like the one mentioned in our gospel passage still take place on the lake today. The shape of the hills surrounding Lake Galilee can funnel storms onto the lake; they can be sudden and devastating to small boats out in the middle of the lake, with waves reaching heights of 20 feet.
As I mentioned during my sermon on Ocean Sunday, which was week one of the Season of Creation, in the Bible the sea was often associated with evil, and the Jewish people understood that only God could control the wind and the waves. Which is why, after he calms the storm, Jesus asks the disciples, “Where is your faith?” Even though the disciples have witnessed Jesus performing many miracles, they obviously still haven’t fully understood who Jesus is really is; the Messiah; the incarnation of God. The disciples are lacking in wisdom, which as we heard in our first reading from the Book of Job, is found only in God. “Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. (Job 28:20, 23 NRSV)
In today’s reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul also highlights the lack of wisdom in the world when he suggests that human wisdom has been revealed to be “foolish”, because those who rejected Jesus and his message, did not recognise God’s action in and through Jesus.
Paul goes on to say that Jews will only be convinced by “signs” that the crucified Jesus is the Messiah only by “signs”, whether these signs be in the form of some cosmic event, or some social or political action that would prove that Jesus is indeed the promised Saviour. Because no such sign is given, the message of a crucified saviour is a “stumbling block”, a message that causes offence and revulsion resulting in opposition, disapproval, and hostility. Gentiles will be convinced that Jesus is the Saviour only if there are persuasive arguments (“wisdom”) that influence them to believe. Because there are no such arguments, they regard the message of a crucified saviour as “foolishness”.
But Paul describes Jesus as “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” For Paul, Jesus is the proof from history: God saved people through the preaching of Jesus, the crucified Messiah. The Jewish teacher of the law and the Greek philosopher despise the message of Jesus’ death on the cross as nonsense, not understanding that it is an act of God’s power to save fallen humankind, who in God’s judgment are destined to perish.
Many people today still regard this message, and Christianity in general, as nonsense. And many more would argue that wisdom is found not with God, but with science, and through human experience and learning. However, in response to that, I find myself asking how does science, human experience and learning help us to cope with the “storms” of life that we experience? Those times in our lives when we are faced with incredibly challenging events such as relationship breakdowns, the death of a loved one, a life threatening illness, financial ruin et cetera.
I know in my own experience, that the only thing that has truly helped me through my dark times has been my faith; the belief that God is real; that He revealed Himself in the person of Jesus; and that I am reconciled in a right relationship with God, both in my mortal life and in the life to come, through my belief that Jesus was the incarnation of God.