In the Gospel according to St. Mark 4:35-41 we hear a story of Jesus going out on a boat with some His disciples. The purpose of the trip was to get some rest and relaxation.
But suddenly their leisure day was disrupted by a violent storm. Jesus was asleep when it happened…and His disciples panicked…woke Him up and immediately accused Him of not caring about them.
And so in the midst of the storm…the wails of distress…and the shouts of accusation…Jesus did an astounding thing. He spoke to the storm and it calmed down.
What He did and the whole scenario on the boat is what I would like us to reflect on this morning using the hymn “Through All the Changing Scenes of Life” in order that we may take counsel in the light of the devastating experience…the storm…that we are confronted with as the family and friends of Frankie Essiam.
Let us join to choir to sing the 1st stanza of the hymn A&M 290 “Through All the Changing Scenes of Life”
all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.
This story in the Gospel according to Mark, first of all reminds us that even when the Sovereign of the universe…when our Lord Jesus Christ is in our boat…we are not guaranteed protection against the sudden and unexpected…
Many of us have the mistaken notion that if a person is a faithful follower of Jesus, he or she is protected from the troubles of life. That their children will be successful…sickness will never come their way…their financial ventures will always succeed…and disappointment will never knock at their door.
But a quick look at a few of the people who knew and served God in Scripture reveals the falsehood of this belief.
Joseph went to prison. Job lost everything…and Paul had an affliction that plagued him all his life.
Jesus has not promised us a “rose garden” tour of life. What He did say is that, “I am with you” (Matthew 28:20).
So as we are faced with this particular storm, where Frankie has been taken away from us so unexpectedly…we must not be like the early disciples who in ignorance panicked and rebuked the Lord…
But like the hymn writer said, through all the changing scenes of life…whether we are in trouble or we are in joy…we must recognize that Christ has not left our side…He is in the storm with us…
He never left Frankie’s side… He was in the storm with Him…and therefore we must employ our hearts and tongues to sing praises to our God!
The 2nd Stanza
magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt His name;
When in distress to Him I called,
He to my rescue came.
These sudden experiences of life that grieve us, often threaten our sense of God’s nearness and care…and they make us question why God isn’t doing anything (v. 38). The Hymn writer says that when in distress he called…the Lord to his rescue came. But the fact that we have gathered here this morning to say goodbye to Frankie, suggests that our experience is more like the disciples in the boat…where Jesus appeared to be sleeping through the situation.
God seems to be silent…when what we want from Him most is that He should speak.
But take note…even though Jesus did not hear the howling storm, he heard His cries of His Disciples.
Much as a mother hears and knows the distinct cry of her baby…so too our Lord Jesus knows and hears our cries.
And when Frankie cried onto Him…He heard him…and we know this because Isaiah 59:1 says, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear”
The 3rd Stanza
The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliverance He affords to all
Who on His succour trust.
When Jesus heard their cries for help…He sprang into action.
He spoke, and the winds ceased…the waves curled up around his feet like puppies under the voice of their trainer.
And then He asked a penetrating question, “Why are you so afraid?”
You know, we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with fear…the fear of illness…the fear of unemployment…the fear of death…
And fear can immobilize us…as it did Jesus’ Disciples
But as people of faith we cannot allow fear to rule over us…we must not allow this unexpected departure of Frankie to cripple us, or paralyze us…
Frankie knew God…and he knew the challenges of life…he knew the bondage of fear and the many vices of this world…
…and from where he rests now in the bosom of the Lord…I believe if he could speak to us concerning the fear that grips our hearts…he would say to us, “When fear knocks…send faith to answer the door…”
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but a spirit of power, a spirit of love, and a spirit of sound mindedness (2 Tim. 1:7 KJV).
The 4th Stanza
Oh, make but trial of His love,
Experience will decide
How blest they are, and only they,
Who in His truth confide.
When the storms of life hit us…Jesus looks to us to look at Him.
The Disciples had seen Jesus perform mighty things in recent days. They knew He had the power to heal the sick… they knew He had the power to cast out demons…but their faith trembled at this unexpected turn of events.
In the light of his power and faithfulness in the past, Jesus asked, “Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40).
This morning Jesus is challenging us to look deep within ourselves…to find our faith in Him.
He knows how challenging Frankie’s death is for us. He knows we have so many questions…the key one being, “why? Why did this have to happen?”
And as much we scream the question why…all we seem to hear is His silence…but as a renowned theologian once put it, “sometimes the silence of God is His highest thought.” (Helmut Thielick, source unknown)
And I believe his thought with regard to this tragedy can be found in John 9 verse 3, where Jesus said to His disciples, “…this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”
This happened so that the testimony of Frankie’s life will bring salvation to others.
The 4th Stanza
Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make you His service your delight,
Your wants shall be His care.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “…this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”
Mark 4:36 tells us that on that day when Jesus went out on a boat with His Disciples…“there were also other boats.”
That means when Jesus calmed the waters…as He will calm the waters of our storm…other boats became survivors too…
The work Jesus did in that one boat resulted in the protection of all the boats on the lake.
Today other people are grieving…other people are in storms…and they are watching how we deal with this crisis.
They are looking to see if God is real in our lives.
They want to know if the faith we have practiced… the faith we have sung about… the faith we have shared with them is robust enough to take this blow.
That is why this happened…in order that we may display the assurance of God.
The assurance of God, which saw Frankie through some of the darkest times of his life
The assurance that says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1–3).
This assurance is why our depression must way to celebration.
This assurance is why despite our pain and sorrow, we must stand on the everlasting truth that, God reigns!
This assurance is why we must join our heart in joy with Frankie’s heart and sing to the Glory of God the last stanza of the hymn “Through all the changing scenes of life”
Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God whom we adore,
Be Glory as it was, is now,
And shall be evermore.
In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirt. Amen