Sunday 20th June 2021 – Rev Arnold Dixon 

Big questions

Mark 4.35-41

Jesus leaves the crowds after a full day of teaching to get some rest. Jesus sleeps in the boat while the boat becomes engulfed in a storm. Because of the location of the Sea of Galilee, storms occurs quickly and violently. The disciples are astonished that he is not alert to the circumstances and their fear. When they eventually wake him, he calms the storm and questions their lack of trust in God.

Perhaps the biggest faith question there is the one that the disciples ask of Jesus when he is asleep: ‘do you not care that we are perishing?' Our big questions may be different, but it is important to feel heard as we wrestle with challenges of life in general and in following Jesus.

 

This week we explore being heard in the storms of our lives.

 

Call to worship

Jesus on the boat in the storm said:

‘Peace! Be still!'…and there was a great calm.
We come to God, just as we are.
Sometimes at ease. Sometimes confused by life's storms.
Let us trust God with our big questions,

and listen for God's still small word to restore us to a sense of peace.

 

A gathering prayer

Loving and sometimes silent God,
we come into your presence,
thankful to quieten our hearts and to wait for you to speak.
We bring our joys, our challenges, and our questions.
We open our hearts honestly to you,
and we wait in that space beyond questions
to feel you hold us in compassion.

Amen

 

Be still for the presence of the Lord:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/ZugvUQ4m90U

 

A prayer of approach

God of our ups and downs,
we come together in your name
with concerns in our hearts and questions in our minds,
with troubles in our lives and fears for our world.
We come trusting that you
share our concerns and hear our questions,
embrace our troubles and know our fears.
We come trusting that you never give up on us,
that you never abandon us, never dismiss us.
For you are a God of love, of peace, of power –
you are our God.

Amen

 

A prayer of adoration

Eternal God,
we praise and adore you for all that you are:
for being bigger than even our biggest questions;
for caring more than we can fully comprehend.
We praise and adore you
for your strength and your silence;
for your power and your peace.
We praise and adore you
for being in control and yet not controlling;
for being in the storms and beyond them.
We praise and adore you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
we praise you for ever.

Amen

 

A prayer of confession and an Assurance of forgiveness

 

A prayer of confession

God of our questions and our struggles,
when we too quickly mistake silence for indifference:
forgive and help us.
When the voice of our own needs silences the voices of others:
forgive and help us.
When we abandon others in their storm and watch safely from the shore:
forgive and help us.
When we lose faith because things get tough:
forgive and help us.
In Jesus' name we pray.

Amen

Assurance of forgiveness

Lord Jesus,
you do not let us sink when our faith is going under.
You do not let our boats overturn when the seas of our life get rough.
You do not let our questions swamp us or our failures destroy us.
Rather, you forgive us, you save us,
you encourage, challenge and calm us –
and for this we are thankful.

Amen

As the deer pants for the water:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/q68g_1vxBAc

 

A prayer of thanksgiving

God of power and peace,
when the storm is raging:
You are there.
When our boats are sinking:
You are there.
When faith slips through our fingers:
You are there.
When our hearts sink and our courage fails:
You are there.
In the roar of the waves,
in the sound of the wind,
and in the silence:
You are there.
So, we praise you.
We thank you.
We worship you.
In Jesus' name.

Amen

 

Reading:   Mark 4.35-41

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  36  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  37  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  38  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don't you care if we drown?” 39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

 

Reading: Job 38.1-11

The Lord Speaks

1  Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2  “Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge? 3  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4  “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6  On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— 7  while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8  “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9  when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness 10  when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11  when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?

 

In Christ alone my hope is found:   Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/rn9-UNer6MQ

 

Sermon :  Wrestling with the Storms of life 

Perhaps we equate faith with politeness? Our ideal picture of a person with great faith can be someone who is calm no matter what, someone who murmurs, ‘these things happen for a reason'. But that is disturbingly close to a portrait of one of Job's comforters. It does not resemble Job or the disciples. They ask questions, they protest and complain. They speak up when they feel abandoned, and they express depression and frustration. In this way, their relationship with God moves forward with integrity through voicing questions, rather than grinding to a halt in silent pious politeness. Our communities need a faith that takes suffering seriously and does not silence people's pain.

‘Now is the day of salvation.' The time to engage with life and faith is now. Faith is not theoretical. If we are not to accept the grace of God ‘in vain', we need to respond with faith to what we find at this particular moment in our lives. We need to greet the grace of God with an open heart and innovate on our plans with courage. Then we will develop the character to cope with sleepless nights, hard work, afflictions and baseless accusations. We won't escape from suffering and storms, but we will learn to recognise the presence of God in each moment.

Perhaps the biggest question any of us ask of God and each other is: ‘Do you not care?' In the storms, God can seem to be asleep for us, and we can seem to be asleep for each other. How do we find a sense of being heard by God and others in these storms? Many local stories of hope came out of the surveys asking people what hurts most in the  ‘Who cares?'  Initiative.

Love protects us from nothing, even as it unexplainably sustains us in all things. My grandmother lived in Birmingham during World War Two. One night, bombs were falling and she was on her own in the house. Her husband was in the army, her eldest daughter in the land army, her son in the RAF and her youngest daughter evacuated. Out of her mind with anxiety, fears roared in her head. She heard a still small voice tell her to get up and do the washing – a safe, neutral practical task. It calmed her down, restoring her to a sense of trustfully getting on to do her bit. And next morning the sun rose and indeed all the family were fine. When and how have we heard God in the storms of our lives?

It is interesting that on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was asleep, the disciples didn't wake him and yell, ‘Save us!' but ‘do you not care that we are perishing'?

Maybe we know that given the way the world is, difficult things will happen to us and to those we love, and we can't avoid them. We know there is disease, accident, natural disaster, redundancy, failure and more. Our first instinct might be to say: ‘Take it away, God!' But we will probably accept that this is not always possible, because that doesn't seem to be how the world works. So, our next urgent question to God might be: ‘Don't you care that this is unbelievably hard?'

Job had lived his life as an upstanding clean-living sort of guy. And then he lost his health, wealth and family. His big question to God was not to take all his troubles away. His desire was to be able to have conversation with God again; to move beyond the terrible silence that was between them. He wanted God to hear him in his distress.

In this week's passage, God finally speaks to him. And, although he doesn't get a straight answer, the desire of Job's heart is met. God has heard him and is speaking again to him. And eventually he does get his health, wealth and family back again – with, we might imagine, new appreciation.

All of us at some point in our spiritual journey will have difficult questions to ask of God. There will be shouts, protests, denial. We may know that God can't rescue us. But if our faith is true, we will want assurance that God cares for us in our troubles, that God has heard us!

Knowing we have been heard can make all the difference.
It can give us strength for the challenges.
It can give us new ways of opening ourselves up to love and joy.
It can help us know the really important things in life, and how distracted we have been.
It can bring us to a new and deeper life.
We can also know how Jesus in his own life, death and resurrection points us to this Way.

Recall a difficult period in your life. What questions did you have of God? Did you keep on asking, even though at first there only seemed to be silence? Did you eventually find any sort of answer?

 

Jesus take me as I am:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/oGPd2GElDyI

 

Prayers of intercession

In the light of the extension of restrictions,
we remember in prayer today:
those whose businesses are sinking...
those drowning in debt...
those going under with stress...

Faithful God,  may they know you care.
Loving God,  may they trust you're there.
Saving God,  hear our prayer.

We pray for those embroiled in stormy and violent relationships,
among and within nations, communities, and families...
those played out on the world's stage...
those hidden behind closed doors…

Faithful God,  may they know you care.
Loving God,  may they trust you're there.
Saving God,  hear our prayer.

We pray for those whose cries go unheard,
especially those tortured and executed by brutal regimes…
for those whose questions go unanswered,
especially those searching for justice…
for those whose pleas go unheeded,
especially those on the edge unable to access mental health services...
for those whose needs go unmet,
especially in the Yemen, in Tigray, and in all places of poverty where the resources available are inadequate to feed the hungry and starving...

Faithful God,  may they know you care.
Loving God,  may they trust you're there.
Saving God,  hear our prayer.

We pray for the church as it seeks to address and answer big questions,
questions about life and death,
about gender and sexuality,
about faith and finance,
about race and responsibilities,
about integrity and healing…

Faithful God,  may they know you care.
Loving God,  may they trust you're there.
Saving God,  hear our prayer.

In Jesus' name.

Amen

 

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life:   Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/PrjKUII-V18  slow version

 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done in earth,

As it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen

 

As the deer pants for the water:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/k-4ir05O6Tw

 

A sending out prayer

Go in peace.
May the whisper of God's wisdom
go with you today
into all your relationships.
Amen