Founders Day 2015 21 June 2015 Job 38: 1-11, Mark 4: 35-41
How good are your foundations? That’s a question that many have asked since the earthquakes. We have seen the huge effort to make secure foundations for the big building over the road. As we have discovered, foundations can seem okay until the challenge comes. We are not promised a trouble free life as Christians. What we are given is a secure foundation upon which to build our lives.
Job was a very rich and successful man. He was also a good man who honoured God. The question was, did he only honour God because of his wealth and success? Well, Job lost his family, his business, and finally even his health through no fault of his own. He became a miserable and pitiful figure. He couldn’t understand why he’d had all this trouble when he’d lived a good life, honouring God and caring for his neighbour. Adding to his distress, his friends came and tried to tell him that it all must have been his own fault: he must have displeased God somehow.
Job had to rely on his foundations in faith, and while he complained a lot he never cursed God because of his misfortune. Today’s reading has God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind. This whirlwind might well be symbolic of a mental state. This is when we find ourselves in such emotional chaos that things are circling round and we can’t get a handle on anything. The thing that keeps the whirlwind circling is our constant focus on our own troubles rather than looking outwards.
When God spoke to Job he took him on a whirlwind tour of the marvels of creation. God showed Job the foundations he had laid in the earth and told him how the angels had shouted for joy because of it. Job had been faithful to God in spite of his problems, but he had more to learn about God through this experience.
It’s a bit hard to speak of foundations when you are in a boat. The disciples set out with Jesus towards evening to go across to the other side. Probably not a good time for a boat trip. A great storm came up while Jesus slept on a cushion in the back of the boat. The disciples panicked. They thought they were finished. They woke Jesus up, and he rebuked the storm saying, “Peace, Be still!” Then the wind stopped and then he asked the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
You might imagine a mother whose frightened child is crying out in the middle of the night. She comes and picks her child up in her arms and says, “Hush. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” We know that isn’t the whole truth. The reality is that scary things are very real: isolation, pain, illness, meaninglessness, failure, money worries, nightmares, rejection. Instead of saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” the mother could speak the whole truth by saying, “Do not be afraid, you are not alone.” Those words are what a frightened child needs to hear from her comforter. They are the words that grown up people need to hear from those who would minister to them in their time of fear. These are words that build faith.
The disciples were amazed that Jesus could get the wind and the sea to obey him. They could see the power and strength of God was greater than the works of chaos and darkness.
Both Job and the disciples in the boat learned something new about God in the time of their distress. No one welcomes such times, yet these can be the times when our eyes are opened to a new level of understanding about God, and God’s ways. This is not to say that God was the author of the troubles of Job or the disciples. Indeed specifically not in each case. Yet at times God does stand a little way off and beckon us forward. Like a good teacher who takes a step back in order that the learner might gain a new level of understanding. So God can lead us to a new level of faith by letting the whirlwind build up before speaking, or by sleeping in the back of the boat in the midst of a storm. We are given these precious insights for our own good and, also, so that we might help others in their distress. This Eucharist is a time for us to find comfort amidst our own fears and to build a foundation so we can be a help to others, who haven’t yet heard this message.
The founders of this school were doing just that. They were people of great vision and faith. They knew that they wanted to have, right at the heart of their new city, a place where good foundations of faith and life would be laid in the lives of children and families. Today we give thanks for their courage as we honour their vision and faith. We have learnt to put good foundations under our new buildings in this city. As we pass through the storms and whirlwinds of life in post-earthquake Christchurch we are called to be just as attentive to the foundations of our spiritual life.