Rev. Nathan R. Epling
"And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." - Matthew 8:24-26 ESV
A great storm sends giant waves that feel like they will swamp the boat. The fear and questions of, "will we make it through this?" I don't know about you, but that sounds a little like life for me right now. 2022 has been a good but rough year at the Epling House. COVID, sickness, and surgery were seemingly just the first wave. As I have stood in the pulpit over these last ten months, I have realized that I am not alone. Many of us seem to be caught in the storm.
Some of us are on the edges, just moving into the rough waves or glimpsing clear skies for the first time in what may feel like a very long time. Others may feel as if they've been caught in the center for what feels like forever and have forgotten what smooth sailing looks like. Yes, 2022 has been a rough year for many of us. I can imagine the disciples at this moment. The humanity of this moment. At this moment, the immensity of what Jesus has said and done doesn't seem to matter. In the middle of the storm, it's easy to forget the power of Christ. Especially when, infuriatingly enough, he's asleep and snoring softly in the midst of it all.
That is a feeling I can relate to. My faith is firmly anchored in my savior and his love for us. However, when the storm is loud, the waves are high, and the night is dark, the question, "Lord, are you there?" is raised. I firmly believe I serve a God big enough and loving enough that this question is not met with a frown or disappointment but rather with the calm assurance of, "yes, my child, I am here."
When the disciples wake Jesus, they seemingly say, "Jesus, we are all going to die, and you don't care!" The panicked fear laden response is met with calm assurance. "You of little faith, why do you fear?" I have set with that statement for a lifetime. Surely Jesus would understand their fear. Yet, his response is simple. Why are you afraid? Is your faith so little? I've come to hear these words differently as time has allowed. Jesus, we will all die; don't you love us? My child, I am with you. It will be alright. Amazingly enough, Jesus stands, moves to the ship's bow, and something unique happens. If I may be granted some artistic license. A stern look is offered to the storm, and in a quiet, authoritative voice, the author of creation says calmly, "that's enough, be still." The storm doesn't just stop. The breathtaking beauty of the author of creation commanding creation is that the storm stops, the waves cease, and calm covers the waters. In the Old Testament, the oceans and waters were seen as the ultimate symbol of chaos, and only God could control them. Yet, here is one who speaks, and they obey. The disciples stand in wide-eyed amazement, and one whispers softly, "who is this that even the wind and the waves obey?" There is only one answer. God is with them.
With that image in your mind, I want you to take a second look at the storm you may be in. Realize that Jesus isn't asleep on the job. He Is With You. You are loved and cherished by God in ways I believe we cannot yet understand. The beauty of God's love for us is that this storm will be resolved in one of two different ways. He will bring us through the storm while drawing us closer to Him in every way we are guided. Or that still small voice will ring out above the waves, the storm will cease, and calmness will prevail.
As we enter the Fall season and the weather cools, and the mountains and trees are dressed in splendor, I want to invite you to take some time and rest. Take some time and spend a little quiet and solitude with Jesus. Go to our park, go to Chief Logan Park, go to the Forks of Coal, or go to Starbucks. Go wherever you find some peace. Go and have that honest conversation of, "Lord, are you still there?" Spend some time with God and watch your storm begin to change. Know that I am praying for you and am always here if you need a cup of coffee and an open ear.