01 March 2010

Funeral homily - Jesus calms the storm

Scripture Reading - Mark 4: 35-41
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

The story that we have just read might have appealed to ??????, with his love of the sea and of boats. And it tells us of a remarkable event, when Jesus and his companions in their boat were threatened by a storm in the Sea of Galilee. Jesus told the wind and the sea to be calm, the storm calmed, the boat was safe and all was well. But the disciples were amazed…”Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”
For the first century citizens of Palestine, storms at sea were symbolic of all the uncontrollable dark forces that can suddenly take hold of our life, disturb it, damage it or even destroy it. Some of these dark forces come from within us; an illness, an uncontrollable anger or desire. Some of these dark and disturbing forces come from outside us: accidents, aggressive neighbours, foreign armies (nowadays we would say terrorism). So Jesus calming the storm, significant as it was in itself, also had great symbolic importance. It symbolised Jesus’ command over all the dark forces that affect human life.
At funerals we are forced to contemplate the greatest dark force of them all: death. We know that death comes to us all. We might have success in avoiding it or postponing it, but ultimately we must succumb to its dark and mysterious power. And this was true, even of Jesus, who died a most terrible death, nailed to a cross. And for a few long hours it seemed that death had won, that there were dark powers that Jesus could not overcome. But then, on the third day, the resurrection was revealed. It became clear that Jesus had passed through death and was alive once more. What is more his body was renewed; still human and solid and real, and still bearing its wounds and capable of eating, but renewed and rejuvenated and no longer subject to death and decay.
But above all what was revealed was the opportunity for each of us to share with Jesus in this passage through death to eternal life. We, all of us, must pass through death, but we, all of us, are called to pass through it with Jesus, and to inherit eternal life.
And our baptism is important here. When we are baptised we are baptised into Christ’s death and into his resurrection. By staying close to Jesus, and follow in his ways, we can be confident through Jesus we too can overcome the dark power of death and rise to new life with him. Amen.


revveran said...

Doing a memorial service on Sat March 8, 2014 for a fellow who loved to sail. I wondered if anyone uses "Jesus stills the storm" for a funeral homily. Googled, and found yours. A nice read. I was seeking a confidence boost. Thanks for posting.

Ron Whitney said...

You’ll find a fun song to go with the story of Jesus and the Storm here: