It’s storming as I write this. After a wet spring we entered into a long, hot, dry summer. Now violent storms signal a potential cool-down. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times, they seem to be a’ changing.
These storms bother my dog. Actually storms are merely a sub-set in the category of “loud noises” that bother Shadow, the dog. Other terror stimuli include the dishwasher and fireworks. (Perhaps you’ve heard the story about how the neighbor’s fireworks set the dog into a self-destructive rampage this past June? It’s an interesting yarn. I think I’ll save that story for a later newsletter.)
It may be possible to explain away the dog’s irrational fear of storms, but what about people? Dogs are “brute” creatures, while we claim more civilized sentiments. Why is it we are frequently found fomenting in fear? How does that speak to a believer’s faith?
Jesus once walked across a storm-tossed sea to calm His twelve disciples by saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) Do you recall that story? Peter was so emboldened by Jesus’ walking on the water that he asked to join Him. Could you do that? Would you? What is it that YOU fear?
One prominent Christian author traces the Israelites fear of the sea with this:
The sea is part of the original creation, part of the world of which God says that it is “very good.” But already by the story of Noah the flood poses a threat to the creation, with Noah and his floating zoo rescued by God’s grace. From within the good creation itself come forces of chaos, harnessed to enact God’s judgment. We then find Moses and the Israelites standing in front of the sea, chased by the Egyptians and at their wits’ end. God makes a way through the sea to rescue his people, and again to judge the pagan world; like the Noah story, though now in a new mode. As later poets look back on this decisive moment in the story of God’s people, they celebrate it in terms of the old creation myths themselves: the waters saw YHWH and were afraid, and they went backwards. But then, in a passage of enormous influence on early Christianity, we find in the vision of Daniel 7 that the monsters who make war upon the people of the saints of the most high come up out of the sea. The sea has become the dark, fearsome, threatening place from which evil emerges, threatening God’s people like a giant tidal wave threatening those who live near the coast. For the people of ancient Israel, who were not for the most part seafarers, the sea came to represent evil and chaos, the dark powers that might do to God’s people what the flood had done to the whole world, unless God rescues them as he rescued Noah. (NT Wright, 2005 lecture to Seattle Pacific University’s Church Leaders Forum, retrieved online.)
Our Gospel truth proclaims that God HAS, indeed, rescued His creation from the forces of evil and chaos through the mission and work of Jesus Christ. This is vividly illustrated in that Matthean account of Jesus water-walking and storm calming. There Jesus demonstrated His Lordship over the elemental forces of nature. No wonder, then, that His disciples bowed down in worship of Him proclaiming, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Jesus is the One who came and fulfilled all of the promises of God. Promises such as Psalm 89:9 where, speaking of the Lord’s Messiah, the Psalmist declares, “You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” Or consider Psalm 93:4 which announces, “The LORD on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea.”
Is this the Jesus that you know, serve and love? The One who has overcome death, hell and the grave? The One who is mightier than the evil and chaos of this world? If yours is this same Lord, then why do you fear? What do you fear?
In his first epistle to the church, John wrote to us about fear. It’s a wonderful expression of God’s love overcoming fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear causes pain and torment. The one who is afraid is not yet fully complete in love. We love because God first loved us.” (1John 4:18-19) 1 John 4 is the Bible chapter that twice says: “God is love.” Do you know that love? I mean REALLY know it?
If you do, then what have you to fear?
Praying God’s peace and love to you,