Preached at St. David’s in Prince Albert Saskatchewan
He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity -Psalm 98:9
When I was a young teenager I went camping with a group of scouts and a windstorm came upon us. Growing up in a valley with nice mountains protecting you, you do not experience strong winds. But up on a plateau above the shelter of the mountains wind is a different kind of thing. It blew heavy, made it hard to walk, stole away hats, nearly stole away a tent. Then the tall thin trees started falling. A poor childhood friend of mine ended up being trapped in an outhouse when a tree landed on it. It was terrifying.
There is a lot that causes us to fear. Fear for our children, will they make good choices, will they be safe. Fear for our own futures, how do we secure our lives in the face of so much uncertainty. Fear even for our church, what is its future given its current stagnation and decline in the West. What are we to do with our fear?
We encounter the descendants of Abraham as slaves in Egypt this morning. Egypt that had slaughtered their sons, Egypt who had enslaved and mocked them, Egypt which was a global superpower to be feared. Moses asks Pharoah to let these slaves go for three days out in the wilderness to worship the God of their ancestors. Pharoah says no. And God’s judgment comes against Pharoah again and again. It comes as blood and gnats and frogs and darkness and boils and at last in taking the first born sons of Egypt for the freedom of Israel. At last Pharoah relents and lets the people go. But then the freedom to worship God that Pharoah allows arouses his jealousy once more and he sends his army to attack the people of God.
That’s where our story begins today, with chariots in pursuit, capturing the people between the army and the sea. You have to imagine refugees being chased down by tanks and attack helicopters in our day. Chariots were terrible instruments of war. By their own power they had no escape. And yet God says: stretch out your hand. Moses stretches out his hand, and the Spirit blows, and the waters part, and the people whom God has claimed as his own are set free. A great wind.
Our is the God who parts the waters, who separates the seas from the heavens, the mountains from the rivers, the darkness from the light.
Jesus rests on the boat. A great wind arises, the sea becomes stormy, waves come over the nose of the boat and nearly capsize it. That does sound terrifying. I think often we want God to be comforting in a way that works for us, a gentle sweet soft comfort. How does Jesus give comfort to the apostles when they bring their fear to him?
YOU IDIOTS-you can almost hear Jesus saying. Are you serious, do you not know who I am do you not have faith yet? The apostles had the benefit of parables and explanation, of encounter and friendship. Remember last week? The leper who just shows up boldly proclaiming that if Jesus is willing he can heal his leprosy? The centurion who says, don’t bother coming just say the word and my servant shall be healed? But here the apostles see the waves around them as more real than the Lord of heaven and earth asleep among them.
What shall we do then with our fear? Bring it to the Lord. Sure sometimes he will slap us around for doing so, we might need to be challenged in it, we might need to be shocked into remembering. We need to let Jesus speak in us, speak in us loudly. Loudly enough that our eyes might see the truth about who he is more loudly than the truth of our fear. Heaven and Earth will pass away but the voice that separates and unites them will endure forever. Let God speak into our fear, that his voice rings louder than the crashing of the waves.
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy, let them sing before the Lord -Psalm 98:8