“Everyone in the basement right now! Wake up! It’s a tornado!”
My Dad shouted as he ran through the house trying to wake all 3 of us kids up from bed so we could safely make our way to the basement. Growing up in Illinois, we hid in the basement many times a year as we would listen to the winds howl above. Thankfully, we were never victim to anything too severe, but I still have regular nightmares where tornados make their appearance.
Perhaps the most terrifying things about storms is that they are out of our control. They are the epitome of chaos; they are regular reminders of our broken world, and they are an active threat that impacts the goodness and safety of life.
Jesus and Storms
On this day – the day before the election – there is a storm raging.
The storm is fierce; the storm is chaotic; the storm is yet another reminder that we live in a fallen and broken world, and it is an active threat that can impact the goodness and safety of life.
The disciples of Jesus, no doubt, were familiar with storms.
In Matthew 14, the disciples encounter a storm of sorts:
On this day - the day before the election - there is a storm raging. Click To Tweet
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
While today we look to wide open water as a place to snorkel, explore, and vacation, for the disciples, the sea was no peaceful place. It was a terrifying place that represented the black abyss of death. It, too, was an active power that threatened the goodness and safety of life. It represented evil, chaos, and darkness. And yet, here they are, alone, in the darkest part of the night. We are told three different times that the wind and the waves were against them (Matthew 14:24,30,32). The only thing to protect the disciples was the boat.
Peter and The Path of Fear
Then, in the darkest hour of the night, Jesus comes. But this supernatural happening is no random story. Jesus doesn’t come as one who had no other avenue of finding the disciples; surely he could have found a boat on the shore. Jesus doesn’t come so he can pull out his newest bag of tricks to wow the disciples. Rather, Jesus comes as the one who rises above and overcomes the powers of darkness, chaos, and evil.
Although the disciples at first fear that it is a ghost, Jesus, who is God-with-us, echoes the divine assurance that is also found in Exodus 3:13-15: “It is I.” Jesus, then, comes as the one who not only overcomes darkness, chaos, and evil, but he comes as in the divine assurance of the God who is with us in the chaos, evil, and darkness.
Peter then dares to join his Lord on the water, but as soon as he turns his attention the the wind, the waves, and the chaos, he is consumed with fear and indecision. Instead of believing in the one who overcame the chaos, he chose the path of fear.Instead of believing in the one who overcame the chaos, Peter chose the path of fear. Click To Tweet
The Kingdom and America’s Election Storm
On this Monday before the big election, it seems that there has been a lot of wind, waves, chaos, darkness, and evil. The winds are howling; the waves are roaring. On a regular basis I talk with congregants who talk about the “overall moral decline of America” and how they’ve “never lived through an election quite like this.”
This storm, for many, is an active threat to the overall goodness and safety of life. Yes, of course, elections matter. Political decisions impact real people. For some, it’s a matter of life or death for the most vulnerable; for others it’s a matter of survival in a dark world. For some, it’s a matter of being able to afford basic healthcare; for others, it’s a matter of protecting hard earned money. For some, it’s a matter of living in a safe country; for others it’s a matter of caring for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. While there are a million reasons that we should care about the election, hear this:
The wind, the waves, and the chaos never fully capsized the boat.
The wind, the waves, and the chaos never fully consumed Peter.
Jesus comes as the one who rises above and overcomes the wind, the waves, and the chaos.
And so it is today, dear brothers and sisters. The rains will come. The winds will howl. The rivers will rise. The storm will rage. The chaos may very well get worse. But Jesus said,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
And Jesus also said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Why yes, the winds are howling. Why yes, things are chaotic. But let us remember, brothers and sisters:
King Jesus is the one who overcomes sin, chaos, evil, and darkness.
And that same King who overcomes, is among us.
Read it again.
The King is among us.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Fear and Wednesday Morning
So could it be, then, that the church that is in perpetual fear is a church that fails to comprehend the love and power of God? (1 John 4:8)
Fear is paralyzing. In extreme cases, fear can cause sudden death. So as the wind and the waves beat against the church, have no fear. Someday the wind and the waves will be no more; but until then, let us not grow weary of our role in this world. Let us not lose site of the missional imagination that is rooted in the announcement of King Jesus. Let us not grow weary of linking into God’s creative imagination of the church that bears witness to the life changing, earth transforming, barrier breaking power of the Kingdom of God.
When you wake up on Wednesday morning, the winds will still be howling. When you wake up on Wednesday morning, there will still be chaos. But when you wake up on Wednesday morning, the King who overcame the powers of this world will still be summoning his bride to join him on this glorious mission of proclaiming the gospel, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and edifying the Bride for mission.A church in perpetual fear is a church that fails to comprehend the love and power of God. Click To Tweet