When The Devil Hisses And The World Rages

Text: Matthew 8:23-27

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Over the centuries, the church has often been compared to a boat. Yes, a boat on the water is a very fitting image or metaphor for the church.

However, exactly what kind of boat are we talking about?

For example, is the church like a river ship? You know what I am talking about; one of those longships that travel the European rivers. These boats are a floating hotel with fine dining, the best of wine, and quiet-tranquil rivers that reflect the sunlight.  So, is the church like a river ship with spacious staterooms, a balcony that extends right over top of the smooth water, and the finest food tailored to the sophisticated type person? Well, not quite; the church is not a luxurious boat that travels on the smooth waters of life.

Perhaps the church like a Caribbean ship? Yes, is the church like one of those Caribbean cruises that travel off the coast of Florida, Jamaica, and other small islands? These large boats are one big party with live music, stage shows, water slides, pools, and rock climbing walls. So, is the church a Caribbean ship that bounces on the waves of the ocean to loud music, while people dismiss the cares of life and drink piƱa coladas? Well, not quite; the church is not a party boat that bounces on the waves of life.

Maybe, the church is like a battleship? You know, a solid iron ship with large caliber guns. These boats are an armored warship on the ocean that is indestructible, commanding, and powerful. So, is the church a warship for the ‘always strong and always courageous?’ Well, not quite; the church is not a powerful ironclad boat that cuts through the fierce waves of life.

So, if the church is not like a luxurious boat or a party boat or a power boat, what is it like? The church is much like the boat in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew this morning.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear about Jesus and the disciples in a boat. Now, the boat that they are in is a fishing boats made of pine or oak, not steal.  These first-century fishing boats measured 7 feet wide by 27 feet long and seated around 15 people.  These boats did not have a roof or a snack-bar and were constantly needing repair for leaks. And so, this is the image that we are given to consider.  This is the image of what the church is like – it is like a wooden scrappy fishing boat in the rough sea of the world with the blowing winds of the devil.

Dear friends, what this means, is that you – the church - are not on a voyage of luxury, partying, or power. But rather, the church, like a fishing boat, is often overwhelmed with dangerous waves, winds, and stony cliffs. It means that when you belong to the church that you will often be damaged by the threats of the waves and winds. Indeed, the devil hisses at the church, blowing harsh winds and rains upon you and into the boat.  And the world slams against you with its ideologies, much like violent waves that slam against a boat causing leaks, while also tossing it to and fro. 

But we do not like this kind of boat, do we?  Frankly, we do not want the church to be a scrappy fishing boat in the storming sea. We would rather have a river ship or a Caribbean ship or a battleship.

There are three problems with this kind of thinking, though.

First, if we consider the church, not many of us are considered the brightest and best of society. Not many of us are influential. Not many are from high society families. But rather God has this way of deliberately choosing men and women that the culture overlooks to be in His church. People like the disciples: fishermen, tax collectors, and so forth.  And so, bluntly stated, the church is not luxurious enough, cool enough, and strong enough to be anything else except a scrappy fishing boat. Indeed, even though the church is at war with the devil, the world, and the sinful nature, we are not an indestructible and immoveable battleship in of ourselves.  The church does not cry out, “look how prestigious we are, see how fashionable we are, and hear us roar,” but instead, cries out, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on us.” 

Secondly, this world is not like a peaceful calm river or bouncy fun waves on an ocean. Life is tough. The devil is ruthless.  Any pastor or person trying to sell you tickets for a church that is a supposed river cruise or a Caribbean cruise on the smooth waters of life, is delusional at best. They are not based in reality. They believe in a fairytale of how life works for the Christian. Sure, some churches function like a luxurious or celebrity cruise, but they are short-lived. The only way to make these kinds of churches work is to deny and hide from the realities of life. Sooner or later the waves of life and the hissing winds of the devil will sink these boats, and many people will drown.  The devil and the world will never leave the Christian at peace but always attack. 

And thirdly, the reason why we do not want the church to be a fishing boat in the storming sea, is that we are afraid. It is true; we have little faith.

Dear friends, it is easy, so very easy, to see the huge crashing waves of the world coming upon us. It is so easy to be ensnared in fear from the hissing winds of the devil. It is easy to look at the scrappy fishing boat – the church – with its leaks and weathered wood and imagine it being broken into tiny splinters at any moment.  Indeed as Christians in Christ’s church, we are placed in the world among enemies. We are in a world where the devil lies in wait to kill, steal, and destroy our faith. We look at the wave, the wind, and the scrappy boat and we become afraid. 

But Jesus confronts this fear and this lack of faith in the Gospel reading.  Yes, listen to Jesus’ words,

“You of little faith! Why are you so afraid?” 

Dear Baptized Saints, yes, why do you fear? Why the little faith?

You see, it does not matter if the church is a scrappy fishing boat, for it is not the makeup of the boat that matters, but who is in the boat with you. That is to say; the disciples could not perish, even though the winds made a terrible noise and the sea raged, for Christ was with them in the boat.

Likewise, you dear Baptized Saints, need not fear either. Even if you are poor, weak, and sick in life, or even if you die, you will not be consumed by the waves of the world and the winds of the devil, for Jesus is with you.

Baptized Saints, whether you live or die, you are in Christ’s scrappy fishing boat; He is with you. He is with you right now in this scrappy fishing boat called St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. He is with us in His Word,

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

He is with you in His body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

“Take and eat; this is the true body of Jesus given into death for your sins.  Take and drink; this is the true blood of Jesus shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”

There is more though. You see, we also know from our Gospel reading that Jesus is Lord over the wind and the sea. In other words, Jesus slept in the boat because the wind and the waves were of no threat to Him. And when Jesus did arise from sleep, He rebuked the wind and the sea, and like a timid puppy dog, the wind and the sea bowed to Jesus’ command.  With a simple word, the sea was quieted. And so, for you and me as Christians, when trials and persecution slam and blow against us, we can freely say,

“Let the waves rage and stormy winds blow, for in the scrappy boat of the church I have Christ, and Christ has me, and Christ is Lord over all. If He is quiet in the storm, as if He is asleep, I shall rest with Him and not fear. If He arises to rebuke the storm, I will nod my head with delight and assurance knowing that He is Lord over all.”

And so, while many people chase after luxury boats, party boats and battleships, by faith you remain in the scrappy boat with Christ. And when the Lord permits the waves to swamp the boat, that is, when the Lord permits the devil and the world to rage against you to make you concerned that the ship will sink, you shall not fear, for Christ is with you. Indeed, Christ is with you in the scrappy boat, which is the church. And in the scrappy boat of the Church, you know that He will never leave you nor forsake you but be with you to the end of the age.

Christ is with you.  He is with you, indeed.  Do not fear.  Do not doubt. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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