Storm Sunday

First preached on 9/26/2019 at Holy Family Lutheran Church in Cabrini Green

Season of Creation – Storm Sunday

Grace and peace are yours from the Triune God; the Farther, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.  

Today’s Gospel reading contains a question of faith – “Where is your faith”? To understand Jesus’s question he asks his disciples, it is always good to read the passages surrounding the scripture to better understand the context. The first verse in Chapter 8 of Luke says the disciples and women had been in the cities and villages with Jesus as he proclaimed and brought the good news of the kingdom of God. The disciples were with Jesus as he went town to town. They were being faithful followers of Jesus. 

Town after town crowds gather to Jesus. He tells teaches using parables and miraculously heals people, even raising someone from the dead a few verses before our story today. This continues again and again until finally Jesus decides to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. Now, the Sea of Galilee is not really a “sea” it’s just a lake and not even a very big one. Lake Michigan is 350 times bigger than the Sea of Galilee for comparison. But because of the geography of the Sea of Galilee and the way it is situated in a valley, it is not uncommon for storms to very quickly spring up. That is exactly what happens as they are crossing the sea. Jesus and the disciples were going about their day, enjoying a boat ride, when an unexpected storm comes crashing into their lives. The boat begins to take on water and the disciples were in danger. A few minutes earlier they we getting along fine, and now their fear for their lives. They wake up Jesus, who responds by asking “Where is your faith?” 

“Where is your faith?” This is a very troubling question. If we interpreted this reading to mean that the storm was a result of the disciples lack of faith, we end up with a faith that is only a good as what we put into it. It would reason with this kind of interpretation that if the disciples were only a little more faithful, then everything life would be ok. 

Is how faith works? Is it a transaction? If we pray enough, come to church most Sundays, tithe our time and talents, give to the poor, don’t lie, steal, or kill, then God with give us protection of blessings in return? Good behavior for blessings? Is this what being faithful means? 

Transactional faith is all well and fine as long as our lives are free of storms and we have our needs met. But things aren’t always fine are they? But what happens when our faith when it is tested? What happens when the winds of life shifts unexpectedly, and we find ourselves in the midst of a storm threatening our way of life; changing it in ways that we will never be the same. What happens when we are out of job struggling to make ends meet, or when we are hospitalized and can’t get out of bed, or when get into an accident? Do these things happen because our faith is lacking? If our faith is transactional, faithful living in order to gain blessings, then we must have failed on our end of the bargain. We must not have been faithful enough. 

The book of Job speaks directly against faith as a transaction. Job tells us we don’t always have the wisdom to know why these challenges in life happen. In Job, Job’s friends assume faith is transaction, they assume that Job must have done something wrong. I can tell you it doesn’t feel very good when your world is upside down, the boats taking on water, and someone tells you to “just have faith”. 

Storms Challenge our faith. Like Job, sometimes when we face troubles that overwhelm us we ask why? Why is this happening God?

And when we rely on a transactional faith, a faith were bad things happen as a result of a lack of faith, our wisdom is made foolish. According to Corinthian, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are” God doesn’t operate in the wisdom of the world. Faith in God is not transactional, its communal. 

Earlier in this chapter of Luke, Jesus describes this kind of faith like seed that is sown on rocky soil, it has not root. It is not able to withstand the heat and falls away. The seed that is able to survive has good soil. The seed survives because of the soil. It’s not able to survive by itself. The seed didn’t will itself to believe more, to be more faithful, and thus was protected by God. No, the drought still comes. The temperature still rises. The seed is challenged but is able to survive because it was in the good soil. The good soil fed and nurtured the seed. It was protected it roots. So the when the drought came it was able to survive. The soil is the seed’s community. 

We survive because of our community. Our community who prays for us when we are amidst the storm and our faith tested. Our community visits us in hospitals and prisons. Community mourns our loved ones with us. The faith of the community fulfills what we lack. Our community has faith for us, on our behalf, when we aren’t able to. 

We see other examples communal faith in Luke. 

We remember the story of the paralyzed man on a mat. His friends were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but they couldn’t because of the crowd, so they went up on the roof and let him down Through a hole they had made. When Jesus saw their faith (not the faith of the Paralyzed man), Jesus forgives the paralyzed man’s sins and tells him to get up and walk. Immediately he stands up before them, gathered his things, and goes home, glorifying God.” The faith of his friends carried him. They believed for him, on his behalf. His restoration was possible because faith in not individual or transactional, its communal. 

Luke 7:1–10

Similarly, there is a story of a centurion that  had a servant whom he valued highly, but the servant was ill and close to death. When the centurion hears about Jesus, he sends some friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.” Jesus responds by saying “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When the people who the centurion sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health. Again, we have an instance in which the faith for and on behalf of someone else caused another to be healed. Faith in not transactional, its communal.

So we have the disciples in boat, tossed by the storm, in danger. They wake up Jesus and say “Master, Master, we are perishing!” WE are perishing. There faith has turned inward. They are each concerned for their own individual lives. It׳s not “we are all”, it’s not “You are perishing”, its we/me/I am perishing. Remember they had just been following Jesus as he preached the Good news. They were with him when he healed the paralyzed man and the centurion’s servant. They had just heard the parable of the sower. Yet the nature of their faith is transactional, grounded in the wisdom of the world. They have turned inward, concerned for their own lives. Even though they had just seen Jesus raise someone from the dead, they feared death, and our fear of death often causes us to turn inward, to worry about ourselves as individuals and not rely on the faithfulness of our communities. 

 So when Jesus asks “Where is your faith?” he is asking where are your priorities? Where is your community to have faith with you? Who are you having faith for and why? Faith is a communal action, this thing you are doing together, for restoration and healing, it isn’t personal insurance plan against storms. And even communal faith, faith on behalf of one another, isn’t a guarantee storms won’t come.  Storms will come, the Bible tells us that, and we won’t always know why. So communal faith doesn’t guarantee that there will not be storms. What it does do is guarantee that when storms do come, and they will, no one has to pick up the pieces of their life alone. 

We come to church not to build up a balance in an account, saving up to cash in with God when we need it. We come to church to be in community with each other. To have a holy communion meal together. To ground each other and have faith for and on each other’s behalf when it is difficult and our own individual faith is frail or lacking. We find healing and shelter in our communities when we are faithful not only to God but to each other. 

We find healing and shelter in our communities when we are faithful not only to God but to each other. 

So now what?  There are a lot of storms we are facing as people.  There’s the ever-looming threat of global climate crisis. There’s the rise of white nationalism and instability in our democracy.  There’s the menacing force of gentrification, foreshadowing the erasure of the deep history of Cabrini Green. There’s violence in our streets, killing those we love.

The storms are here, and more are coming.  But God is with us through all of it, reminding us of God’s promise through the stories of scripture and in the sacraments.  God is here with us, Jesus is in the boat, and one way that God shows up, one way that God fortifies us, is through the love and faithfulness of one another.  We are all in this boat together. God is in (insert your name here)_____, God is in _______, God is in ________. And even more strongly, God is in the love between us all.

Thanks be to God.


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