Der Vasken's Sermon on August 26, 2018

Aug 29, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There was a remarkable story mentioned on the morning news last week that bordered on what I, at first, thought was unbelievable.  It was truly fake news, I thought.  But as unbelievable as it was, it wasn't fake at all.  It was, in fact, quite real.  When I heard it, different emotions ran through my head very quickly.  I was happy for sure, but at the same time I was, also, filled with disbelief and shock and a little bit of skepticism.

Maybe you heard this story as well.  A forty-six year old British passenger fell from the top deck of a cruise ship somewhere in the Adriatic Sea near Croatia.  That alone would have been enough to be considered news-worthy, but the story didn't end there.  This passenger managed to survive the fall and stay alive for more than ten hours in the ocean until another ship came along and rescued her.  She fell off the top deck of a cruise ship; fell several stories into the ocean and managed to stay alive for ten hours in the stormy, wavy, endless and essentially bottomless abyss of the ocean.  What I heard her say in the interviews that followed were thoughts like these:  "I tried to keep myself swimming.  I tried to keep peace in my heart and I fought to keep panic out."

Today's Bible reading speaks to the words that woman expressed last Monday morning. When you invite in God's peace, fear and panic disappear.  Earlier this summer I spent nearly two hours on the Sea of Galilee on the body of water mentioned in today's Bible story.  The Sea of Galilee is a unique body of water.  It's located at the base of many mountains where undetected winds can stir up at any given moment turning a beautiful, peaceful day at sea into a nightmare.

Today's reading describes such a day.  And it describes how panic and fear can enter our hearts at any given moment in ways we would never expect and faster than we would ever expect.  Then about halfway through the storm, we see Jesus enter the story and with three simple and powerful words, He changes the picture completely.  "Peace be still!" He says.  The small boat was filled with His panicked and frightened disciples.  They panicked because their boat was being tossed around from the wind and the waves of a sudden storm on the sea.  And so He faced the stormy sea and said: "Peace be still!"  And the wind stopped blowing; and the waves stopped crashing over the boat; and all was calm again and all was peaceful again.

For the most part the disciples were seasoned fishermen. Yet they allowed the peace in their heart to be chased out and replaced with panic and fear because a storm raised its head in their direction.  When they were finally able to collect their emotions, they called upon Christ and He brought peace and calm to that storm with a simple wave of His hand.  He turned to the frightening storm and spoke peace into it.

  • It's the same peace that was felt by the shepherds on that first Christmas day.
  • It's the same peace that Mary and the disciples felt on Easter morning.
  • It's the same peace that we spoke about these last two Sundays that was found in the Tomb of St. Mary in Jerusalem.
  • It's the same peace that He placed in the heart of the repentant thief on the cross next to Him at His crucifixion.
The Peace of God is greater than any storm, any panic, any problem, any illness, any trial or any bad mistakes we've made over the years.  It's God's peace and not our panic that will get us through our difficulties in life.  This story is about peace, not panic.  It's about God's peace and not our fear.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God promises to remove our storms in life, but He has promised that He will always offer us His Peace if we willingly accept it.

His Peace shields us like "the Armor of God" to defend us when storms come our way.  The woman, who fell off the cruise ship, said: "I tried to keep myself swimming. I tried to keep peace in my heart and I fought to keep the panic out."  What she was telling us, in her own words, was that she experienced the company of Christ and she felt His Peace and His Presence throughout her ten-hour "storm" and so she was never alone even in the middle of the ocean. 

May we all take a moment out of our day to think about the storms we face in life and ask ourselves:

  • Does the Peace of God mean something to us?
  • Does the Peace that comes from Heaven have any real meaningful impact on our lives or are they just words?
Something for all of us to think about.  Today's Bible passage is about "peace, not panic." 
  • It's about peace overcoming panic.
  • It's about peace being more important to us than what causes us to panic.
  • It's about peace leaving no room for panic or fear or doubt.
What can the Peace of God do for your life?

Amen.