Sunday, June 21, 2009
Sermon - Pentecost 3 - Mark 4:35-41
Sermon – Pentecost 3
June 21, 2009
Just who is this man, anyway? That's not only the question at the end of our Gospel text today, but it's a question around which Mark builds his Gospel, at least until Chapter 8. Jesus is shown to be a preacher and a healer, someone who can draw a crowd and cast out demons. He eats with sinners, and even called a tax collector as a disciple. He heals a paralytic and forgives sins on his own authority. Mark gives us more than a clue at the beginning, when at Jesus' baptism God himself answers the question, “who is this man?”: This is His Son, with whom he is well pleased. Peter would say it again in Chapter 8, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.
Jesus has been dropping hints and calling cards in all these signs and wonders, if only they'd put it all together. And maybe they were starting to get it. But when trouble comes, and faith is put to the test, humans often fall short. That's what happened on the sea of Galilee, that day when the storm came.
It all starts out like any other day. Jesus is teaching, the Disciples are following. He says let's get in the boat and go to the other side.
But then the storm comes. And it must have been a doozie.
When we were in Israel in 2007, we took the tourist boat ride on the sea of Galilee. It was rather pleasant. In fact it even started to rain. But the light sprinkling we got was nothing like that day Mark writes about. He says a “furious squall” or a “great windstorm” came up, and the boat was already filling with water. These seasoned fishermen must not have seen too many storms like this. It quickly threatened to sink their boat and drown them all in short order. They were afraid.
But Jesus slept. With all of the commotion, wind, wave, and surely shouting disciples, Jesus slept. He appeared not to notice, not to care, while the storm raged about them.
And while this is a true story, it serves a such an apt picture of the troubles in our lives. We can relate to those disciples, who feared in the face of the storm. It's not mostly weather that makes us quake and tremble, but it's the “storms of life”. The troubles and conflicts, the worries and woes that we face on life's sea.
Some we bring on ourselves, by our own sin. Some are brought on by others, members of the sinful world around us. Some may even come from the Devil and his forces. These spiritual enemies are constantly trying to sink our boat of faith.
Sometimes the storm happens, and it's just a storm. A freak of the broken nature we live in. A disease, an accident, a job loss – the unpleasant things that happen to you for seemingly no reason. These too are a result of sin, and living in this fallen world we are sure to see our share of them.
And it's not just individuals that face the storms. Sometimes a congregation charts a course through rough waters. Sin's effects are sometimes pervasive – affecting the body as well as individual members. We may struggle with conflict and disagreement, confusion and worry.
The disciples, in their fearful panic at the storm – asked a question. And we give them mixed marks for their question.
On the one hand, we can say, with Jesus, that they should have had more faith. If they truly knew and believed in Jesus, they would not have worried, even in the face of the storm. Even with the prospect that the boat would take on water and sink to the depths. Even if they all should drown, Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. He came to save them, and he would. He cared for them – deeper than they could ever know. “Don't you care?” they asked him. Of course he cared, and he still does.
When we see the storm coming, we are just as quick to worry. When we see the wind and wave around us, we struggle with faith the same. Do we trust Jesus to be the Christ? Do we trust him to save us? That in the end it all works out to his glory? That in all things he works for the good of those who love him? Could Jesus ask us all, “have you still no faith?”
On the other hand, the disciples were right in this: They knew where to go for help. They knew that Jesus could do something. Even if they didn't quite believe that he would. They called on him, (could we say, they prayed to him?) and asked his help. And he delivered.
So too is it good for us to call on Christ in every trouble. So often we think we can solve our own troubles, or we despair when we think we can't. But we forget that Christ is right here with us. And if it seems he slumbers, perhaps he's waiting for us to finally turn to him. To repent of our own way and rely on him and his way.
And notice how he does it. He doesn't wave a magic wand. He doesn't bail out the water with his own bucket. He simply speaks. It's the word. That's where he shows his power, even today.
The same Christ, Son of God whose word holds the power to hush the furious storm is the same Christ whose word holds the power today.
The Word that rebukes wind and wave, is a word of rebuke for us. It is the same word that condemns and terrifies us for our sins, commands and corrects us to do better. The same word that calls us to repentance, and by which we call each other to turn from sin and receive that other word – the Gospel.
The Word that bids the storm to cease is the same word of quiet and peace for us. That all who bring our sins to Jesus find a calm in the storms of life – be they storms of our own making or not. In all of it he says, “Be still. Be still and know that I am God.” If he has the power to calm the storm, he certainly has the power to calm my troubled heart, my conflicted home, my distressed congregation. To forgive sins and rescue from death and hell. We have only to turn to him, and hear his word.
Let us do so, in his Name. Amen.