Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
It was a natural disaster of national proportions. The entire country was permanently blanketed by the bleak snows and icy coldness of winter. The talking animals and magical creatures were trapped in a perpetual twilight brought on by an evil witch, who had declared that it would “always be winter, but never Christmas.” I don’t care who you are, now THAT’S just mean!
I am of course talking about the magical land of Narnia, created C.S. Lewis, which is the backdrop for his famous “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” books, which you should really read if you haven’t already. The first book begins with four ordinary children in England during the Second World War who live with their uncle to be out of danger. Lucy, the youngest, stumbles upon Narnia through an ordinary wardrobe. And, of course, only these children hold the key to defeating the witch and her endless winter.
But Narnia is also ruled by a good and mighty king, a lion named Aslan. The trouble is, no one has seen Aslan for a hundred years. And some of the citizens of Narnia are - understandably - wondering whether Aslan still cares about them, or even if he still exists. For all they know, Aslan could be taking a nap somewhere across the sea and not even know that his kingdom and his people are in trouble.
C.S. Lewis made it no secret that this Aslan in his stories was a creative representation of God. And his books, though full of magical characters and fanciful lands, are brimming with events taken right out of the pages of the Bible, and even right out of the pages of our own lives.
Jesus had just finished telling some fanciful stories of his own, in the form of parables, when he decided to take his followers for a trip across the lake. It WAS getting dark, but they got into the boat and began their journey across as Jesus wanted. Now, they were headed right for the country of the Gerasenes, an area full of non-Jewish people. I imagine that the disciples might have been both puzzled and anxious to be making their way to such a place.
Anyway, they weren’t left long to their worries, when a great storm came upon them and threatened to sink them. The wind and rain and waves beat down on their little boat - they must have thought they were going to end up at the bottom of the lake for sure! Where was Jesus when they really, really needed help?
Oh, that’s right. Jesus was sound asleep in the back of the boat, on a cushion. Not cool, Jesus. Not cool.
I must have been thinking something similar about nine months ago, when I experienced my first-ever, real-live hurricane. Now, thunderstorms and tornadoes are common in the Midwest, so we have that routine down pat – listen to the radio, get to the basement or a windowless room or hallway, and wait till it’s over. What we didn’t know until last year was that sometimes tornadoes can form INSIDE of hurricanes, and that’s exactly what happened. It’s three A.M. and the weather radio is telling us to take cover, funnel clouds have been spotted.
We had just moved to New Jersey to begin this new adventure God was calling us to. But we hit a few bumps along the way. It was definitely hotter than we were used to. Our furniture showed up a week late. And when it did arrive, some of our things were broken or in a new shape. One of our cats decided she couldn’t keep her food down. And then… we heard that heard that hurricane Irene was on its way.
As we sat in our closet at three in the morning, we were pretty anxious. We didn’t know what was going to happen – if our downstairs neighbor would be flooded out, if one of our many windows would be broken, or if we would have power in the morning. And yet, by the time the tornado warnings had expired and we crawled back into bed, I wasn’t nearly as worried as I had been before.
As we sat on the floor in our closet with the wind howling and the rain pounding, our cats did not seem the least bit concerned. Now, these are cats that will jump a foot if you make a sudden movement. And yet, they seemed more concerned about what WE were doing in the closet than what was happening outside. We tried to get them to stay with us, to make sure they would be safe – but cats will be cats, and they didn’t want to stay put. To them, it seemed more like a game. And somehow that put me more at ease. If they weren’t overly worried about the scary weather outside, then maybe I didn’t have to be either. Maybe, just maybe, we would be ok.
In the midst of that storm on the lake, it may have seemed to the disciples that Jesus was asleep on the job. But, I might be so bold as to say that sleeping during a storm is an example of showing ultimate trust in God in the midst of a frightening situation. But Jesus also didn’t stay asleep once his frightened disciples called out to him. No – when they called out to Jesus, Jesus came to their rescue and calmed the storm.
We often get the idea into our heads that once we become followers of Jesus, our lives will be all daisies and roses – all of our questions will be answers and all of our doubts will be put to rest. That the storms of our lives will cease to rage and it will be nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Alas, this is not the case. Just look at the lives of Jesus’ closest followers. This storm was peanuts to what they would face as they brought the message of Jesus out into the world. They were often beaten, put in jail, and even killed for their trouble. But that didn’t stop them. They must have learned the lesson of the storm – that true faith means trusting that God is in control even then it seems like he isn’t.
But don’t just take it from the disciples – take it from Job, who saw and heard God speak out of a storm, assuring him that even when things go wrong, God is still very much in charge of his creation. Or even better, take it from Daniel, who will be visiting us this week during VBS. The entire week’s theme is about how God is with you when things change, and when you are lonely or afraid. We will hear how God is with us even though, as one of the songs go, “the storms of life will push and pull.. but God is in control.” We will hear how God was with Daniel and his friends in some pretty scary situations. We will hear that, though life’s storms may rage around us, God has not forgotten his people.
Aslan didn’t forget his people, either. Sightings of him increased as the witch’s power waned, but the children who found themselves in Narnia were understandably apprehensive when they thought about meeting him face to face. Seeing a lion in a zoo is one thing. Meeting Aslan would be quite different.
One of the children asked the talking beaver, “Is he… quite safe?”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Following God is not a life of stability and comfort. You may not always feel safe. Some days it might seem that the storms have the upper hand.
But our God is good. And this is something we can stake our lives on. And because of this we too, can sing along with this year’s VBS theme song, which goes:
“Through it all, God is faithful. Through it all, our God is true. God never fails, never changes. When we rise or when we fall, God is with us, with us through it all.” Amen.