Sunday 25 June - Pentecost 3 - Evensong - Clephane Hume

2 Corinthians 6 1-13 Mark 4 35-41

Eternal father strong to save, the Naval hymn, seems very appropriate for this evening’s gospel reading. It’s a pity this isn’t what’s designated as Sea Sunday. That will be observed next month, when we think of the people who go to sea on our behalf, fishing, shifting enormous freight containers around the world, or providing holiday opportunities. All of which activities are subject to the vagaries of the weather.

Sudden storms on lakes can be very scary, even if you are an experienced sailor.

I don’t come into that category and I remember being quite anxious during one holiday, when some friends I was with became unsure of their ability to cope in such a situation.

Obviously they did, or I wouldn’t be here, but it was a difficult moment for us all. Not in theUK, just in case you think I am being cowardly! It was a genuinely large lake in theUSA.

But that’s being too literal. There is a challenge to us in this parable. Jesus had been preaching to a crowd. In order to prevent them gather round him, seeking to touch him and be healed, he had separated himself from them by taking a boat out onto the lake. TheSea of Galilee. And when evening came, he sailed on, together with his disciples. Very reasonably, he fell asleep, trusting in God, as had been the message of his teaching. Being fallible, the disciples didn’t share his faith.

The point of this story is that we are constantly being looked after, even if we think otherwise. Jesus knew that God was with him, with the disciples, but they thought he was oblivious to the potential danger. But God never switches off. It’s we who do that, and in our lapses of faith we suffer from uncertainty.

The disciples shouted at Jesus, shook him awake in their panic. Beseeching him to save them from drowning. Something that was a recognised consequence of storms on the lake.

We too shout for help when disaster strikes. Even if we feel that assistance is needed. So called arrow prayers. Sometimes I think that such prayers for help are more a reminder to ourselves that God is there, looking after us, well aware of our struggles without being asked.

I suppose it may seem to be somewhat inappropriate to draw a parallel with the terrible fires inLondonandPortugal. The landslides inChina. The people concerned must have been utterly terrified at the time and felt unsupported thereafter, despite the efforts of those trying to bring succour. Fear and grief become channelled into anger and frustration.

The same applies to other less dramatic events which have not made such striking headline news but which have nevertheless upturned the lives of those concerned. Now or in the past.

I remember someone posing the rhetorical question from this pulpit – where is God in Kosovo? Which we can update to any war, or natural disaster we encounter. And the invisible cyber attacks which haunt us are a new expression of danger, with their consequent knock on disruption.

God is there. Working through the people who seek to alleviate the distress. If we choose to accept the grace of God and work together with him, we will discover that. We may stray, feel out of touch, actively reject his presence, but the reverse doesn’t happen.

Jesus calms the storm and reassures his followers. A visible demonstration of trust that all will be well, in order to reinforce his teaching. Pupils sometimes need graphic illustrations in order to get the message… Someone who can control the wind and waves is certainly someone remarkable.

This wasn’t altogether a new example of God’s work. Psalm 107 carries similar words – the people called to the Lord in their trouble. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were shushed. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love.

Moving from the Old Testament to the deeds of the young Christian community, Paul and Timothy make it quite clear that they, and others, have suffered all manner of hardships in the course of working for the faith. It’s quite a daunting list but their message is that we can all come through it. No-one ever said that it’s easy to live a Christian life. Whether in first centuryCorinthor the present day. There are plenty of challenges out there.

Endurance isn’t necessarily easy. Some of us are more resilient than others by virtue of experience or circumstances. And even the strongest can get battered by an accumulation of troubles. An annus horibilis can present itself to anyone.

Whether you are literally pitching around at sea, or encountering the difficulties of daily life, it doesn’t really matter. Overcoming difficulties can strengthen faith as well as self belief. It’s not about a quest for independence but realisation of our dependence on our Lord. The key message is that God is always there.

You may be on holiday, about to go away, or battling on with the daily round.

Be assured that we can all continue on life’s journey, giving thanks for the security of that knowledge and opening our hearts to God.