Samuel G. Beltz

August 6, 2011

Sermon Text: Job 38, Romans 10, Matthew 14.22-33

 

The God of the Whirlwind.  Who is this God?  Job has endured so much at the hands of this God.  This God has let Satan run wild in Job’s life.  In fact, as I read Job, it seems as if this God and the Satan sort of blend together.  Even Job seems to think this.  Job does not question Satan, He questions God about what is happening.  Then God answers Job.

What is interesting is what God does NOT say when he speaks.  He does not say, “You have the wrong guy Job.  You are barking up the wrong tree. Look to Satan, He is the one responsible for this.  It is not me. My hands are clean.”  No, God does not say that.  He takes full responsibility and asks Job, “Who are you to question me?”

So often, I fear, I have tamed God by my speech and thought of him, which does affect my action in this life.  Here is just one example.  In the face of the death of a loved one I have said, “God needed them more in heaven more than here.”  What is that?  What am I trying to do when I say that?  I think I am trying to speak how I would like God to speak.   I want our God to be safe, understandable, clear, comforting.  Rather than who he really reveals himself to be in Job.  I have had very recent struggles with this God. 

Just the other day my child was born to this world.  I began thinking before everything happened; “children and mothers still die in the midst of labor and delivery”.  While we, humans and modern medicine, are working to make this never happen it still happens.  There is no way to escape it.  Then I turned and looked at my wife who was about to give birth to my child and almost began to cry.    After a little while as I was lying there in the dark I started thinking of Joplin, Missouri, the floods in Iowa, the drought in Texas and other places, Katrina, Haiti, and the list goes on and on.  I thought, “What are you doing?  What kind of God are you that you would let these things happen?  Who are you that you have made all these things and people and then watch them be destroyed or destroy them yourself?”   Those questions screamed through my mind and I became terrified because I ran into the God of the whirlwind, “I am God, who are you?”  And at that, I was utterly destroyed.  I could not say anything.  All I did was cry out for Mercy from this God because all he seems to want to do is destroy me, my wife, my child.  Then, in the midst of all my fear, anger, and confusion about this God I started reading the Gospel lesson.

I read about this Jesus walk out of the Whirlwind, across the water and say to his disciples, “O you of little faith, don’t be afraid?” 

“What, just stop being afraid?  Aren’t you supposed to tell me everything will be safe and fine Jesus?  That is sometimes the message we like to think Jesus brings.”  I am afraid though that is the message we humans would like Jesus to bring.  But, Jesus just says to his terrified disciples.  “Don’t be afraid.”

Jesus can say that to his disciples you see.  He can say that because He is the Son of the God who speaks out of the Whirlwind.  That God who spoke to Job so mercilessly out of the whirlwind sent his Son to redeem His people and bring them into a new Kingdom.  The disciples in the boat realize this when He steps off the water, Peter in tow, and everything stops.  The whirlwind goes away and the disciples see clearly the one who speaks on behalf of God.  The wonderment of the disciples that led them to say a few chapters earlier, “Who is this that the winds and the waves obey Him?” is now no longer wonder it is this, “Surely, you are the Son of God.”  There seems to be no mystery about who Jesus’ is.

I say that because Jesus’ identity has been something of a question mark to this point in the Gospel of Matthew.  The disciples and the Pharisees seem to be equally confused about who Jesus is.  This point in the story, our Gospel lesson for the day, is very important because the disciples finally seem to see Jesus for who He is.  He is the Son of God.  What happens after this little episode? 

The disciples go on to enjoy great confidence in Jesus Christ.  They go on believing Him to be the Son of God but they seem to have their own ideas of what being the Son of God means.  A little later on in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus predicts that He will be handed over to the chief priests and put to death, but that after three days He would be raise from the dead.  To this Peter said to Jesus, “surely this will not happen to you Lord.”  Peter probably thought   Toward that statement Jesus responds, “Satan, you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.”  Yikes!  What I realize is that as a poor miserable sinner I stand with Peter and not Jesus in much of what I think, say, and do.  I realize I want a safe, tame God rather than the one who is revealed in Jesus Christ.  That is because I would rather have a safe and tame existence getting along nicely with things.  After all, look at what being at odds with the kingdoms of the world and Satan got Jesus! 

If you think following this Jesus Christ will be safe, you are wrong.  Peter finds out, and so do we as the story goes on, that being the Son of God is not safe nor is following him.   Jesus is handed over to the chief priests.  He is betrayed into their hands by one of his own disciples.  Peter denies him, and all the disciples abandon him.  No, being the Son of God was not safe.  It led Jesus to death on a Cross.  But where do we fit into all this?

 Now, we say we believe this Jesus to be the Son of God as well, and we call him our Lord just as Peter and the other disciples.  We gather together here to worship Him, praise Him, Sing to Him, and hear His story.  And finally we will eat His Body and Blood.  What a declaration that is!  In that moment this Jesus Christ will immediately lay his hands upon us and again make us his own if we have strayed away from him.  Is it safe?  No.  But as our Lord says, “Do not be afraid.”

We hit those words from Jesus again.  “Do not be afraid.”  Jesus did not say these words so that I might make them into some very bad analogy like, “Jesus calms the storms in your life, don’t be afraid.”  Nope, Jesus sure might not do that.  But, what He DID do was walk across the Sea of Galilee to his disciples floating in a boat.  It was in the middle of a whirlwind.  The waves were beating the boat because the winds were strong.  Jesus walks to them and getting into the boat the winds and seas become still.  Everything stops.  Jesus can do this you see.  He has authority over the wind and the waves.  He has the authority of His Father to set things right in the world.  And so He began doing that.  And by his resurrection revealed He did have the authority to say and do the things He did.  Then he gave his Holy Spirit to those who believed and sent them out to be witnesses of this God and what He had done in Jesus.

That same Holy Spirit has gathered you here today.  That same Holy Spirit has given me the authority to tell you this.  This Jesus Christ is returning for you.  Until He comes there will be many storms and whirl winds.  There will be floods and droughts.  There will be sickness and death.  There will economic highs and lows, there will be divisions, bruised egos, and anguish.  This world is in labor pains, so He has given you this, a New Testament in His Blood.  Where He again immediately grabs you and tells you, “You are with me, do not be afraid.”

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