June 24, 2018
The wind picked up and the smell of rain hung in the air as the disciples began to fight the waves that battered the boats. They would soon be drenched by the rain that poured down. Through it all, Jesus remained sleeping in the stern of the boat.
While the storm in our story is physical, we can be battered by storms of all types as we live our lives. The storms ebb and flow as we interact and learn how to live into relationships and community. We can be a witness to the storms that others encounter as we stay in touch with the news.
There are times as a pastor that I struggle to discuss current events. However, I would be failing in my calling to share the gospel and would be complicit to current events if I did not speak to the instances of actions counter to God’s Word in our world. You would have had to be completely unplugged this past week or two to miss the news around the separation of families at the borders of our country. We can argue about specifics, but it is true that families have been torn apart and in the midst of it Jesus weeps.
I’ll admit that the immigration process in the United States is far from perfect. However, nothing justifies separating a family. Doing so, closes our hearts to the sharing of God’s love with our neighbors. When we open our hearts to Jesus, he calms the storms and reminds us that we are not alone.
The storms that the disciples encounter in our gospel text are not the first. While we cannot know for sure, I don’t think that I would be far off from saying that they experienced many other adversities. Life is full of adversities and I am sure that they had experienced deaths and sicknesses where they came to God in their despair. Not only did they encounter those storms, they traveled with Jesus and would occasionally enter villages where they were not welcome. If you recall, Jesus himself was not welcome in Jerusalem and Mary and Joseph had to escape with him to Egypt as refugees. Imagine what would have happened if Jesus had been separated from his parents.
In the storm, the disciples are overwhelmed with a sense of fear. A fear that encompasses their very beings that entices them to call on Jesus. The fear that welled up is not an uncommon emotion. That fear is also visible in the book of Job and our reading from it this morning as God calls out to him and more less asks him, “Who do you think you are?” Job’s fear pushed him to a point that he was not thinking right and thought he could do everything on his own.
Humanity is not too different than Job. Many times, the first inclination is to do it on our own and question those that tell us differently. I know that I have fell into this camp on more than one occasion. We look beyond what God has to say and the call that Jesus has placed upon our hearts as disciples. The fear that pushes us to do so wells up in the storms that disturb our comfortable lives.
There are many children that know nothing but storms. The overwhelming majority that seek safety in the United States are doing so because they are escaping their own deaths. Rosa, 9, and Juan, 12, came from the same village in Honduras. They reported that a gang running in their neighborhood was known to kidnap children, kill them, and sell their organs on the black market. The gang was also known to kidnap children, cut them open, put drugs in their bodies, sew them back up and use the bodies as containers to traffic drugs. Both children said their teachers in Honduras would warn the students about this gang and instructed children to interact with nobody during their walks to and from school. Both children said they knew children from the neighborhood that had been kidnapped and never seen again.[i]
In the meantime, we argue about who should and should not be allowed into the country. We argue over the wrong questions. Instead of being welcome and walking alongside those that are seeking a place to feel safe, they are separated and placed into detention centers, which Michigan has its own share. Battle Creek, Monroe, and even Port Huron all have certain levels of detention centers.
The ELCA is working to walk with these children. To show them that they are loved and not treated like animals that are put into a cage. AMMPARO, or Accompanying Minor Migrants with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities, is a commitment by the ELCA to walk with children that are forced to leave their homes because of violence, the threat of death, and other issues that rob them of their childhood. Because of AMMPARO, both Rosa and Juan are now doing well in transitional foster care, have been connected to legal services, and have been found eligible for relief.
Through the love of Jesus, the ELCA is reaching out to change their lives for the better. I had an opportunity to meet Mary Campbell, the director of AMMPARO, a couple of weeks ago as we toured Southwest Detroit with the Immigration Team of the synod. We shared opportunities of how we could connect with one another in ministry. Our youth and adult leaders going to National Gathering this next week will have an opportunity to learn more about AMMPARO and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Just yesterday I received notice from Samaritas, that they are seeking support and homes to house some of these children that have been separated from their families with the goal of reuniting them with their parents. This is God’s Work in our world today through our own hands.
Through the love of Jesus, change can happen. It is here that we find the theme of the National Gathering: This Changes Everything! When we come to talk and meet each other with open minds, arms, and hearts, Jesus becomes a part of the equation. It is here that we learn to talk with love for our sisters and brothers and fear starts to vanish. The storms that we had previously encountered are calmed and we find Jesus right beside us, where he has always been.
The disciples also discovered that Jesus changes everything. They knew who to turn to when the storm started battering their boats and the ones that had gathered near them. They may not have fully understood what Jesus could do, but they had faith in him and knew that somehow, he would be able to calm the storm that had engulfed them.
Jesus continued to approach storms throughout his ministry with the disciples and he knew how each one needed to be addressed. Welcoming Jesus into the storm is where true change began to happen. The change did not first happen in the weather that rocked the boats, but in the hearts of those that came to Jesus. They had placed their faith in him.
Jesus chose to weather the ultimate storm to show his love for all of humanity. He did not approach his death on the cross lightly and at times had reservations about it. However, he made the decision to be battered by storms that filled the disciples first with fear. On the other side of the storm, the Resurrection, the disciples are reassured that they do not enter their storms alone. Through Jesus they encountered the ultimate love and hope. A love that changes everything.
Let us pray. Life changing God, you give us everything we need when we need it. We do not walk alone in our storms and we give thanks for you accompanying us. May you be with us as we learn to accompany those that seek refuge and your love. Amen.
[i] AMMPARO, 40 stories for the 40 Day Bible and Prayer Challenge,