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Homily on Luke 8:22-25

2010 February 20
by Tim V-B

At my interview for St Bartholomew, Wednesbury, I was asked to give a homily based on the previous Sunday’s lectionary passages.  For your edification, here it is. (Hint: read it out loud to appreciate any alliteration!)

Luke 8:22-25

One of the major themes in Luke, a thread that runs through this gospel, is the importance of God’s word.  He starts by telling us that his message came from those who were servants of the word.  The gospel ends with the road to Emmaus, where Jesus explains his ministry from God’s word.

In chapter 8, just before the story of Jesus calming the storm, we’ve had the Parable of the Sower.  The seed is the word of God, and the good soil is those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it and by persevering produce a crop.

We’ve just had the account of Jesus’ mother and brothers trying to see him, but our Lord replies, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

That’s what a Christian is.  Someone who hears God’s word concerning his Son and puts it into practice.
That’s what defines my ministry.  As the Bishop says in the BCP Ordering of Priests, I cannot by any other means compass the doing of so weighty a work, pertaining to the salvation of man, but with doctrine and exhortation taken out of the holy Scriptures, and with a life agreeable to the same.

So just how important is this word?  How powerful is it?  What can it do for us?

Jesus gets into the boat, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.”  They sail, he sleeps, there’s a squall, and they’re swamped.  Well, almost swamped.

“Master, Master, we’re going to drown.”

Jesus stands up and rebukes the wind and the waters.  Immediately we go from storm to silence, from calamity to calm.  All it takes is a few words.

I think we are told THREE things about the importance of the Word.

1. Jesus’ words are the Creator’s words.

“Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

At home, bathtime is my duty.  My daughter, who is 5, has had her tea and it’s up to bath then bed.  So I run the bath and in she jumps.  Normally she wants a story and I have to make up some coherent parable about a duck who’s lost his friend, or whatever suggestion she makes.  If my brain is particularly weary I’ll try to avoid the storytelling by suggesting some game, and splashing water is always a good game.  The waves slosh back and forth, over her, over me, and if it gets a bit out of control I’ll tell her to stop swishing around, but the waves keep going.  I can’t stop them with a word.

Jesus could.  We are reminded of the formless and void creation, the waters of the great abyss, and God’s word bringing order out of chaos.  God alone controls the raging oceans.  Only his word is powerful enough to do that – and here the disciples are shocked to see that Jesus’ words are the words of divinity.  When he speaks, Creation recognises its master and obeys without question.

2. Jesus’ words protect his people.

Without his words, the disciples would have drowned.  His words save them.
We’re about to encounter Legion, driven mad by evil powers, but Jesus’ words save him.
Looking ahead – and I’ll admit that Matthew makes this point more clearly than Luke – the disciples are going to be sent out into the nations.  Psalm 65, one of the readings for Sunday, is a good example of how the nations, in rebellion against God, are likened to a tumultuous sea, raging and swirling against the Lord.  As the disciples, as we, go out into the world in the name of Jesus, we are hopelessly outnumbered.  We have no strength against the waves of changing culture.  Spiritual powers would gladly swamp our boat and take us to the depths.

Yet Jesus is with us.  His words protect us.  Where the church is fearful of the storm, and scared of mission, Jesus says, “Where is your faith?”  Let’s trust his protective, powerful word.  Let’s hear God’s word and put it into practice.

Jesus’ words are the Creator’s words.
Jesus’ words protect his people.

3. Jesus’ words take us to the cross.

We’re always meant to read the gospels in the light of the Old Testament.  We can’t hear this story without thinking of another man asleep in a boat while a storm brings great danger.

Jonah, of course, was sent to take God’s word to the nations.  But he runs away, and on that boat sailing to Tarshish a great storm develops and threatens them all.  He is woken from his sleep, and knows that the only way to calm the storm is if he is thrown overboard, into the depths of the grave.

Jesus is God’s word to the nations.  He doesn’t run away – from chapter 8 verse 1 he has been travelling about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

But he is sailing straight into a storm.  In chapter 9:51 he resolutely sets out for Jerusalem, he points the bow of the boat into the very centre of the raging waters.  The only way to calm the storm, the only way to protect his people and bring the peace that the angels sang about at his birth, is if he is thrown overboard into the depths of the grave.  He stands silent before Herod, he makes no rebuke, and he is drowned in the waters of death.

But that is our salvation.  That, ultimately, is how the Creator protects his people.

How important is God’s word?  How powerful is it? What can it do for us?

Very important.  Very powerful.  It protects us as we keep on going for growth.

May we hear God’s word and put it into practice.

Amen.

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