Sermon from Sun 20 Feb 2022 St Edward’s, Burgess Hill.
Readings: Revelation 4 / Psalm 65 / Genesis 2/ Luke 8:22-25
I don’t know about you but for me there is something about being outdoors, out in creation, that just boosts my faith. There is something about walking on the South Downs, or walking along a river, or particularly being by the sea, that just helps me to know God is with me. I’ve felt like this ever since I was a child but it was only as an adult I felt able to voice it as something spiritual.
I think it was in taking up paddleboarding which I did a few years ago, (standing on a board on water, paddling yourself along) that has really grown this feeling for me because feeling God revealed on the water seems effortless, it’s not intentional. It’s like a soul connection that happens when something in my inner being responds to the call of the creator through creation.
It’s not always on water, since we’ve been here in Burgess Hill, I have heard almost daily on my dog walks a woodpecker squalking and drilling into trees. Yesterday I saw a kingfisher zoom by in a flash of blue by a stream and the signs of Spring as crocuses and daffodils force their way up through the earth are everywhere. All things I’ve seen and heard before but I am still delighted by every one of these occurrences. Every one is a reminder of the God who our Revelation passage tells us:
created all things, and it is only by God’s will they exist.
Psalm 65 reminded us too, in beautiful poetry that:
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of creation echoing its creator & singing praise to the Lord?
In our Genesis passage we heard of God creating humanity, plants, trees and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We might wonder why it was a tree that represented it but then I think you only have to look at a majestic oak tree to be drawn into the awe of its creator. Have you noticed that huge oak tree at the end of Malthouse lane? Just off the ringroad? it is huge, It must be several metres across the trunk, I wonder how many years it has stood and the sights it has seen?
So, what is it about creation that makes so many of us feel a connection to God?
Well, I read recently about ‘the numinous effect’. In Freddy Hedley’s ‘The God of Page One’ which looks at creation theology. He notes:
… being able to see God’s creation is one of the greatest joys available to us, and so often the ultimate evidence of God’s existence and handiwork. This is called the numinous effect: to be in awe of God’s creation and see God at work.
The word Numinous, was derived in the 17th C from the Latin numen, means ‘deity or spirit presiding over a thing or space’. How reminiscent of Gen 1:2:
…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters
If God is creator then it makes perfect sense that spending time actively in that creation would enable us to feel God’s presence within God’s work.
And then we find ourselves with today’s gospel passage, a very different view of creation – a frightening storm, overwhelming the boat of the disciples while Jesus slept on. I’ve not ever been at the mercy of a storm on my paddle board but I have been at the mercy of a fast flowing tide and it’s a scary place to be – at the mercy of creation, totally out of our human control.
There were the disciples who had seen Jesus do wonderful miracles, healings, heard him preach, challenge the rulers of the day, they had given up their lives to follow him and in their hour of need he was sleeping through it all!!
I wonder how many times we have felt like we’re in a storm and Jesus is asleep? Not aware of our plight?
The disciples woke him up, terrified, not sure what to do, shouting at him we are perishing! – we’re going to die!
And of course Jesus calms the storm, because God is the master of creation. Even the winds and waves obey him we read.
But this story is so interesting for a few reasons – firstly because for Jesus it is simply an opportunity to show the disciples another side to who he is. Yet again they were afraid, and amazed by what Jesus could do. Yet again their faith was sorely tested. And yet again a realisation – oh so this guy can control creation too? Gradually, slowly the fullness of God is revealed to them. In the few years they had with him, so much of who God is, was revealed to them through Jesus.
I think it can be the same for us, as we go through our journey of faith, that we see different facets of who God is, made real to us in our own experiences. I’ve talked today about how God as creator is important to me, Perhaps you have had a time when you needed to know God as a loving Father? Perhaps there are times the Holy Spirit has been revealed to you in powerful ways or has worked through you with people you have met? Perhaps you have known God as a healer or in tending your wounds with compassion? There are so many elements of who God is, for us to come to know.
And the other thing about this story is, that so often in the bible we find quite profound things being said in the heat of a moment in a story – here the disciples shout out ‘we’re perishing’ but when they call on the Saviour, he saves them. He questions their faith but in fact I think it is a demonstration of a mustard seed of faith that they turned to him, asking for his help.
The point is they call out this truth without realising, it’s more than about the storm – We are all perishing if we don’t have Jesus in our lives. If we don’t know that to be true, then we devalue the cross, we de-sanctify this meal we share each Sunday. Jesus might as well be asleep in our lives.
But the thing is, he isn’t asleep on any of us, even when it seems he may be. He is present in all things, in us, all around us in creation. And he is our Saviour. We need not fear because he has given us a way out of perishing in a sinking ship, he has offered us a new life, a new hope, not just in eternity, but now!
Far from questioning the disciples faith we should take their example, if we find ourselves struggling, feeling alone, like we’re sinking, then we should always cry out to the one who is always there, who always offers us a safe place.
And perhaps if we can’t see or hear a response, then perhaps we might find it out in God’s creation? Perhaps we might find a peace or a calm enough to remind us who is God? Perhaps we need just go and be still as those words of Psalm 46 remind us – be still & know that I am God.