Sermons from St Faith's
All at sea?
Revd Denise McDougall, Sunday,
June 21st, 2015
The idea of the Church as a ship has always been
popular. In today's gospel reading we can see
the biblical inspiration for nautical themes. It
is imagery the early church was quick to pick up
on. Many of the early disciples were fishermen,
and the apostles spread the Gospel along the sea
routes. For people whose daily lives revolved
around the sea and had knowledge of what life at
sea was like, using seafaring imagery to
communicate the gospel was an obvious thing to
A church buffeted by persecution could identify
with sailors in a ship, at the mercy of a storm.
The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked. Even in a
modern ship today, a major storm is a very
unpleasant experience, and sailors are very
conscious how calm waters can become dangerous
in a moment. The early Church, and even the
Church now, can feel it is about to be swamped.
What is true of the Church is also true of the
individual. There is the voyage through life and
the storms are the crises we meet. Some will
encounter more storms than others, but everybody
will experience some storms. As with the
disciples in the Gospel, it is often only in
moments of crisis that people, and perhaps even
the Church, really turn towards God, and not
always in a good sense.
They turn to ask what God is doing. 'Master, do
you not care? We are going down!' Our minds turn
to God in moments of crisis and then only to
doubt Him. That may not actually be quite as bad
as we think. It is one better than not thinking
of God at all in a moment of crisis. Doubting
God in moments of crisis is the same as
questioning God. If you question you get
answers. The disciples ask Jesus if he cares and
they get an answer.
We are first told in the Gospel that Jesus is
asleep in the stern during the storm. It seems
that Jesus doesn't care. But are we here talking
about reality or the disciples' perception? Is
God absent and uncaring or is that the
disciples' perception of the situation? Jesus is
of course acutely aware of what is going on all
Our questioning of God in times of crisis should
lead us to examine our attitude to God at other
times. It is us who behave as though God is
asleep, because we are distracted. Jesus is
asked 'Do you not care?' He answers by
questioning the faith of the disciples. They
should already know that He is God and they have
no reason to be frightened. He acts at the same
time. The winds drop and the sea calms at his
At this, even though they are Jesus's disciples,
they ask 'Who can this be? Even the wind and the
sea obey him.' He is the God who made heaven and
earth. The God of creation has power over His
creation. This is the God who we have faith in.
Of course He is there all the time.
Questioning God is good if it leads us from a
state of not thinking about God to a realisation
that God is with us always.
Part of that realisation is that God will answer
our questions in His terms and not ours. The sea
does not calm for all ships, and some sink. The
Church is not saved from storms and sometimes we
will fear for the Church. Individuals will not
be saved from suffering. All this does not mean
that the God who created heaven and earth is not
here or is asleep. To doubt the creator God is
to doubt creation and our own existence.
Today's Gospel reminds us that it is not God who
is asleep, but we who are asleep to him. We have
faith in a God who is always with us. He is a
God who wants to bring us to our salvation. We
may at times have difficulty seeing our path to
salvation. But we keep faith that God is always
leading us to Him.