Why You Are Safe In The Ark Of The Church

Text: Matthew 8:23-27

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Right before we baptize our babies, we place the sign of the cross upon their head and their heart, while praying that they would be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church.

Since all of you are here this day – within this church – we can clearly say that the Lord has answered prayer by keeping you safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, since your baptism.

Considering this, for thousands of years, Christians have seen the church like a safe ark holding God’s people.  Though the church is not a real boat or an ark, it functions the same way as Noah’s Ark and is often compared to it.  As you can recall, Noah’s Ark was used by God to save Noah and his family from the destruction of the world – it preserved them and kept them safe.   

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear about another boat.  However, this boat was no majestic and massive ark, but a much smaller boat – most likely a fishing vessel.  And unlike Noah’s Ark, this little fishing boat was being swamped by the waves of a great storm.  It was ‘not’ keeping the disciples safe.  In fact, the disciples were overcome with fear and fright.  They were shaking and shivering to the point that they did not know how to go on.  What they would not have done, to get their hands on a giant ark in the midst of that storm!

Truth be told, though, they did not need to fear.  That is right; the disciples did not have to be afraid, for Jesus was on this small boat, asleep, yet still with them.  Yes, they did not have to be scared of the winds and the waves and the storm, for Jesus was in their midst. 

Dear friends, as we think back to Noah’s Ark, what made that great ark so secure and so great, was not its architectural design or the strength of the wood that it was constructed out of, but rather, it was secure because the Lord God had established a covenant with Noah.  God promised to preserve Noah and his family, and He did.  God does not break his promises, which meant that Noah was perfectly secure in the ark, regardless of the destruction and death raging outside the ark. 

And in the case of the fishing boat? 

The disciples had more than a promise; they had the Lord Jesus Himself in their midst.  So whether they had a large ark, a fishing vessel, or a rubber ducky inflatable children’s boat, it would not have made any difference, for they had Jesus and Jesus was their security. 

This is all beginning to make sense now, is it not?  We Christians are here in this church – the Lord’s ark – where we are preserved from the waves, the winds, and the storms of the devil, the world, and the flesh.  Yes, we can indeed think of this in a spiritual sense.  You and I are here in the ark of the church and the threats around us are the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh – they all are like a mighty storm that seeks to destroy us.  The world, the devil and the flesh crash against us.  They toss us up and down.  They give us anguish and distress.  They instill fear in us.  They rob us of our faith.  They drive us to insecurity. 

We must keep in mind, though, that if you and I would become friends with the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, everything would go a whole lot smoother.  I promise you that.  You see, we are often told that being a Christian is about peaceful walks on the beach, blissful happiness, and ease; however, this could not be further from the truth.  As soon as we are baptized and placed into the ark of the Church, the storm begins and will continue all the way through the Christian life.  In other words, being in the ark of the church means that we will always be in the midst of storms.  The world, the devil, and the sinful flesh tolerate – and even welcome – the teaching and doctrines of every false religion in the world.  But they cannot stand Christ’s teaching and they cannot tolerate a baptized Christian. 

What this means is that the life of ease is not in the holy ark of the Christian Church.  There is a life of ease outside of the church where the world, the devil, and the flesh can become our friends; however, we must keep in mind that these evil foes are no friends at all.  They do not lead us to everlasting life, but betray us, and lead us to death, destruction, condemnation, and hell itself. 

The reason why all of this is so? There is only one Lord: Jesus alone.  Jesus calls the wise of this world, fools.  He calls the good works of the self-righteous pompous elites, garbage.  He says that the last will be first and those who are spiritually bankrupt, will be blessed.  Jesus turns human reason upside down, showing that human reason is blind and the doctrines of men are false.  The devil, the world, and the sinful flesh cannot stand this.  They are insulted by Jesus.  They are angered by Jesus.  They begin to rage, which results in a storm that attempts to unleash hell. 

As a result, the storm rises against Christ’s ark, the church.  The storm rises against Christ’s Word and Sacraments.  It rises against you, the baptized. 

Now, it is true that the Christian church is often overwhelmed with these dangerous waves and storms, and with many rocks and stony cliffs in the sea of this sinful world.  The devil attacks, there are fierce blasts of the sinful flesh, and there are strange beasts in the sea of the world that never give the Christian Ark any peace. 

It is also true that the Christian Church will also seem to be like a helpless boat riding freely on the high waves.  The Christian Church will appear to be driven by the waves and blasts of wind.  The average person looking at the church in this vast sea can maybe assume that the ark of the Church will not last but will break into a thousand splinters and be gobbled up by the storm.   Ah, but a person who assumes this, forgets that just like Noah’s Ark was accompanied by a promise and the disciples had Jesus in the boat, the Christian Church has the same. 

Dear Baptized Saints, do not fear.  Though it is easy to let your faith become weak in the face of these mighty storms all around us, you are kept safely on the ship of the Church, for the Son of God is with us.  Indeed, when the waves and winds and storms of life rage against us, the Lord will not abandon us in the ark of the Church.  Oh, no!  Even though the wind, the rain, and the waves will never stop assailing you as long as you shall live, the Lord will never leave you nor abandon you in the ark of the Church. 

When the disciple came to the end of themselves in that tiny boat from our Gospel reading, they woke Jesus up saying,
“Master, do you not care that we are perishing?  Lord! Save us!”
In response to their fear and wavering faith, Jesus got up and rebuked the winds, and the sea and nature itself bowed to the majestic word of the Son of God – all of nature laid prostrate before Jesus.  Yes, even though the winds made a terrible noise and the sea raged against the disciples, the disciples could not die for Jesus, the Lord of the sea and Commander of the winds, was with them. Likewise, when we fear the winds and waves outside the ark of the Church – even if we are poor, weak, and on our death bed or even if we die – we must not fear, for the Lord is with us. He speaks to us inside the ark of this church saying,
“Why are you afraid, you of little faith?  I make the storms be still.  I hush the waves of the sea.  I am Lord over creation, and I am Lord over sin, death, and the devil!”[1] 
Yes, as the waves and winds continue to blow and howl, we hear from inside the ark of the church from the Lord Himself,

“I defeated sin.  I defeated death. I defeated the evil foe.  It is all finished!  Through the saving flood of your baptisms all sin in you, which has been inherited from Adam and all sin that you have committed since, has drowned and is dead!  You are worthy of eternal life!  Rise; be at peace!  I answer you in your trouble, and I deliver you out of it.  You have been given life; your sins have been forgiven; you have been clothed with my righteousness, so you shall stand without fear, regardless of the storms around you!” [2]

Dear Baptized Saints, you are secure inside the ark of the Church, because you have Christ and Christ has you.  Therefore, by faith we can confess together this day,

“Let the storms rage on; let the devil do his best and let the world try as it will, but I will not fear for I know that all of creation must obey my Lord and Savior.  Trials and storms and troubles will last only as long as the Lord wills it.  Indeed, my God and Savior is Lord over all, and He can change it all in a moment.  Therefore, this day I worship and honor the one who has been revealed to me as the Lord of creation and Lord of my life.  My Lord, in good times and in bad.  My Lord, today, tomorrow, and forevermore.” 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] This phrase is a compilation of Matthew 8:23-27, the Epiphany 4 Introit, etc.

[2] This phrase is a compilation of the Lutheran Service Book Baptismal Liturgy, John 19:30, Psalm 91, etc. 

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