Mark 4: 35 – 41, June 24th, 2018
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words of scripture from the gospel of Mark, chapter four, verses 35 thru 41.”
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
38 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?”
39 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.
40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
41 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?”
“Having heard these verses of scripture let us now open our hearts and reflect on their meaning to us, here in Twenty-First Century”
Life is filled with storms; all kinds, all types and all different intensities. Living here in Florida, we know what a storm can do. Some have tremendous power and can cause a tremendous amount of damage. I think most of us have come to understand this. We each have come to understand it is our responsibility to prepare for that next storm, taking the necessary precautions which are available to us at some level or another. Unfortunately, all the preparations in the world are sometimes not enough. I have a friend who just spent a week in Key West. I was pleased to learn that things are pretty much back together in that area, especially after hurricane Irma hit last September. Ralph went on to explain to me that Key West was spared in contrast to Marathon and the upper and middle keys, where the devastation is still quite evident! I was sorry to hear that. It was a devastating storm, no question about it! My heart goes out to all those whom were affected and are still feeling the aftermath.
Even, way up here in Palm Bay, we closed our church doors for seven days as a safety precaution. We were very fortunate that massive storm did not hit our area with its full potential! Personally, we got some roof damage at our home and lived through nine days without power to our home. The last two days of which my wife and I found refuge in a generous member of our congregation’s home. Thank you for that Nancy. In our case, insurance has helped us resurface our roof with a stronger one, replaced our refrigerator and we even got a new garage door open as well! All in all, we came out in good shape. Not everyone was that lucky. I see a lot of new roofs going up in Sebastian, but I still see blue tarps on a few homes in our neighborhood. As we know that storm Irma and a couple others took a lot of lives and left tremendous devastation in their paths as they crashed through some of the island nations to the south and east of us. Let us pray this is a milder season.
Our lesson, from the scriptures this morning is a familiar one. The disciples are traveling across the sea, in a very small boat, when a storm comes up tossing the boat about. We are told Jesus was asleep and the disciples are afraid. That is what our scripture tells us. A disconcerting and unsettling moment for the disciples to be sure! I think we know how they felt about being in the storm; most of us can surely relate to this aspect of our lesson for sure. Storms often are. Being caught in one can certainly become frightening as well! Once we have grasped this vision this picture of a storm that has surrounded our essence, in our scripture it is the disciples whom are caught in the storm; however, for us to glean anything from this lesson we need to put ourselves into one of the storms of our often, all too real human existence.
There are all kinds of storms. We have already discussed summer storms. But there are all kinds of storms we find ourselves in. A serious illness to name an all too common reality. You have just met with the primary care physician, he or she has recommended you see a specialist about your condition. This physician has already had the preliminary tests done. The doctor has told you your condition is serious, life threatening if you do not seek further help. The doctor has explained to you what the issue is and recommended a course of treatments. There it is, the storm has just encircled your life. Others of us may currently have perfect health. But, this is still Florida. You get home and find the air conditioning has stopped working. You call a specialist to check it out. Two days later he finally comes. You are exhausted from the excessive heat and humidity. You pray the technician will fix it quickly. However, you are informed it isn’t worth fixing, you need a new system, cost of a new system, five thousand eight hundred dollars; it can be scheduled for delivery next week. You are not prepared for this reality. The storm now encloses around you. Yes, I think we all know what shape the storms of life can take.
There are a great many of our neighbors, living in different parts of the communities we live in; a great many people are feeling like they are living during a dreadful storm. We, as a people, have gotten timid about even naming the storm that is raging. Let me very clear here. This is about us, this is about you and me, working through a time in history which we feel is very troublesome. I believe, everyone understands that this is a difficult time. One group says we need to go back to where we were, it was better than. Another group shouts that this is the change we needed… keep going forward! Then there are some folks, whom are wringing their hands, not sure what to do. They don’t speak up, they don’t get involved, it is like they have fallen asleep! The question here is simply “How do we, you and me, good Christian folks, how do we cope or deal with this reality?”
When storms hit, there is one truth, of which we cannot ignore: life will never again be like it was! Every type of storm which we can conceive of, shall alter what was and leave that which it touches changed! The only way out of a storm is to move forward. So how do we move forward through this storm is the big question in front of us today. Let’s take a moment to reclarify the cause of storms. That’s right storms don’t just happen, there is a cause… a movement which cause them to occur. Hurricanes don’t just happen. There is some type of weather conditions that create a certain weather pattern that subsequently brings the storm together. It takes a certain set of circumstances, which come together, to create a setting where a storm will flourish. When we look at the storm that is raging within our own country, we need to look at the conditions that caused this storm to be allowed to brew and take form. Thinking things can simply go back to the way they were is naïve. No, once a storm has formed we need to act, we must ‘take action’ to be safe first, then we can come together to clean up the mess. When the storm has subsided then we can begin rebuilding and make changes so this does not happen again. That’s the hard part.
In our scripture lesson we are told it is Jesus whom is asleep, and the Disciples are afraid during the storm. But let’s think about this for a moment. I in fact had a discussion with Pastor Bruce Turner about this very subject. Bruce has been preaching in Boynton Beach recently. We were talking about this scripture over lunch on Monday actually. His thought was: “Maybe we have this parable backward, it is the disciples that are asleep, not Jesus!” /Rev. Bruce Turner/ Let’s take a moment and ponder his thought. In our scripture we know that the disciples were with Jesus all the time. The scriptures tell us they witnessed numerous miracles in his presence.
Fast forwarding, you and I, we view Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, God incarnate, God in the flesh! If this is true, and I do believe we agree this is what we as Christians are called to believe, then do we really believe that Jesus, the Living God, is asleep when we are in the midst of one, one of the storms of life!? I find myself thinking that Pastor Bruce makes a strong argument on this particular point! The God whom I have come to put my faith in does not sleep. I cannot believe that the God of our understanding is sleeping when we are in need. No, I do not fully understand how or why God lets things happen to good people. Yet, I do not believe God abandons us or falls asleep either. But, like the disciples in today’s scripture, I would not hesitate to reach out or call to God for some help. I wouldn’t ask for bus fair to get home when my car breaks down. But, I sure wouldn’t hesitate to ask God to be present with young children who have been separated from their parents either!
Rev. Karoline Lewis is a preaching instructor at Luther Seminary. She is quoted as saying, regarding this scripture lesson: “The hardest thing is getting into the boat. You just have to get into the darn boat.” If we get into the boat, the boat of life, if we are willing to get into the storm and be of help to others whom can sorely use our help, indeed, we shall need to step into that storm or that boat in the case of our disciples! That is the hard part.
Your storm, or their storm, may not be my storm or our storm, yet, perhaps, if you or I are willing God will make us the instrument(s) that may be exactly what the other person sorely needs. Sometimes, we hesitate because we don’t know how to solve the ‘whole’ thing! Every now and then, the hero’s in life are the ones who jump into the water, to do the one little thing they instinctively believe will help, and they leave the rest up to God! I am not asking us to do anything nor any one specific thing. We are each ‘called’ to live out our lives with integrity for what and how we believe. I am, however, challenging every one of us to do just that! If we say we are one thing and do another, we lack integrity. If we say we ought to speak up for the marginalized in our society, then we best get to it! It is not your pastor whom calls out to you. It is that still speaking voice of the Living God! The God who does not sleep but is there for us in the midst of the harshest storm.
The disciples woke Jesus up, despite their fear. Jesus stilled the storm, then questioned the disciples about their faith. Are we afraid of what Jesus will ask us to do, if we call out and ask for help? David Lose, a recognized theologian asks: “Do you think the disciples were more frightened before the stilling of the storm or after?” This question may be the subliminal answer to why so many good people, chose to wring their hands in the midst of the storm. Are we more afraid of what God will call upon us to do, if we allow ourselves to ask for help, than what will happen if we do nothing? There will always be another storm, to replace the current one.
This too, the current storm, this too shall pass. But what damage shall be done in its wake?