Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
June 21, 2015
Mark 4: 35-41
“With a Father’s Help”
“Hear now these ancient words as written in the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 4, verses 35-41.”
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?”
“Allow these words, spoken by Jesus so long ago, to open your hearts and your minds to God’s Mercy!”
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An author by the name of Pat Williams wrote: “Father’s Day is that one time of the year when I get complete obedience from every member of my family. I tell them not to spend a lot of money on me – and they don’t.”
Charles Francis Adams, the 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: “Went fishing with my son today – a day wasted.” His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: “Went fishing with my father – the most wonderful day of my life!” The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time. The only way to tell the difference between wasting and investing is to know one’s ultimate purpose in life and to judge accordingly. /Silas Shotwell/
There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. /Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, p. 13./
On this Father’s Day I must honor my father, both my biological and my Heavenly Father. My Dad taught me that love comes with a price; he paid that price as he did his best to provide for his family, my mom and six of us children. He taught me about striving to be devoted to one’s family and how to honor my extended family. I pray everyone has someone that they can look up to, or at least remember that someone did the best they could for them, when it mattered. I fervently believe that the vast majority of parents, mothers and fathers, strive to give their children the best they have to offer. No, it doesn’t always work out the way it is planned, but those that have done their best are the ones lifted up on days of recognition like today.
My Dad was a very religious and devoted man, he put a lot of time and energy into his relationship with the God of his understanding. He was very dedicated to being faithful in his practice of the religion of his choosing. He worked hard to carry his love of God into all areas of his life. He wasn’t perfect, yet he knew the source of forgiveness and he was not shy about sharing his belief. He would have called himself an Evangelist. I called him my Dad. Through the words and actions of my biological father I came to understand his devotion to the one he referred to as his Heavenly Father. As an adult I don’t agree with all of which my father practiced or taught me, yet, I became aware of the true devotion he had in working on his relationship with God and my Dad sincerely urged me to do the same.
In the Twenty-First Century, in which you and I live, not every family is structured like the family many of us of the ‘Baby-Boomer’ generation grew up watching on television. We are not all like that family ‘lifted up’ in the ‘Adventures of the Ozzie and Harriet’ family sitcom. That sitcom influenced millions from 1952 through 1966 on ABC. As the Viet Nam War bombarded our senses and the real world situations we faced as a nation took over our society, in the decade after that show went off the air, most of us can only look back at that sitcom of the ‘perfect family’ and that ‘time-period’ as a ‘distant memory’ of a bygone ‘Camelot’ era. When the storms of life erupt around us, we often need to let go of some ‘unrealistic’ conceptions of reality. The vast majority of Americans never experienced that superficial sitcom life style and those that did, or thought they did, have gone through tough reality checks as the storms of life washed over them.
We all know that we are now in that stormy season, the season our winter friends leave the state each spring to avoid. Here in Florida we are encouraged to acknowledge and participate in the ritual of preparing for a storm. It has been nearly a decade since a severe storm has hit the coastline of Florida. Many worry that we as a people are getting or have gotten complacent about being prepared. For some of us this may be the case; prayerfully the majority of us have done the things necessary to be prepared for such an event, should this be the season that a bad storm comes knocking at our windows and doors. Let us, as individual families and as a community be faithful in our devotion to the details of preparation once again. Let us not be caught off guard, for our Heavenly Father does expect us to be responsible in our preparations for those things within our realm.
In our scripture lesson today, we hear a story about Jesus and the disciples being together in a small boat, in the middle of the sea, the Sea of Galilee we may presume. As they were crossing over to the other side they encountered a storm. “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” /Mark 4:37/ A great many of us know nothing about the perils of the sea, especially a stormy one. Dr. Alyce M. McKenzie the Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology and ordained by the United Methodist church puts it this way: “People who think of the sea as a scenic view from the boardwalk as they slurp their snow cones don’t understand where Mark is coming from in characterizing the sea. People who have been through a hurricane or a tsunami, however, get it.” Although I personally have never weathered a Hurricane, I know that many of you have. Having spoken to a few that have, it is clear that hearing about one is not the same as being in or around one. I fervently pray none of us have occasion to become veterans of such an event this season.
Even if we have not been in a storm thrust at us by Mother Nature we can certainly relate to the words of this author, the Rev, John Henson. “Most everyone has found themselves, at one time or another, in the unpredictable squall of a lifetime, experiencing the swamping of overwhelming waves.” We all know someone who has experienced that moment when life has been turned upside down by an event or situation. Perhaps you have had such an event in your own life journey. Knowing someone rather than being that someone is radically different. It is hard to fully embrace the experience another is having. Yet, in order to fully embrace our scripture lesson, we need to make an effort to imagine what the disciples may have been feeling as that storm overwhelmed their tiny little boat!
My father often told me of adventures he had along his journey of life. I doubt I comprehended his experiences as he shared them with me. But he did leave me his words and his experiences to ponder, from which, as a more seasoned adult now, I am better able to grasp. When he told me that he and his brothers had dug, by hand, their ‘artesian’ wells in order to have water for their homes, homes that they had personally built, it did not mean much to me until after I first picked up a hammer. After swinging that heavy hammer and forgetting to move my thumb the pain quickly told me that things were not as easy as they seemed! There is no question about it, we would have had to have been there to fully comprehend the fear that the disciples experienced as that storm started tossing their small craft in the restless sea that night!
My Dad was a very devote Christian. He firmly believed that God would provide for him and his family, everything they needed. Yet, he worked night and day to provide for us. He worked the second shift in what was called a tap and tie factory. Some sort of machine shop where they made massive amounts of things such as screws and small parts. Faith in God’s saving power and mercy are good, but my Dad showed me by example that we still needed to put in the effort to get things done. One scholar puts it this way: “We say we believe God is a God of love, and that God loves us unconditionally. But the real challenge is to entrust ourselves into the care of this loving God – especially when we’re afraid.” /Alan Brehm/ Trusting God, however, does not mean sitting back and not taking the action one is capable of handling. It is a team effort!
In the case of the disciples, caught up in the stormy sea, the effort they needed to put forth was in letting go of their fear and trusting in God, trusting in Jesus to protect them. Again, we need to put ourselves in the sandals of these disciples. Imagine being out to sea in a tiny vessel and the seas are splashing over the side of the boat, the boat is lurching this way and that. Make it personal! David Lose asks us: “What are you afraid of?” “David asks that because he has a hunch that we’re rarely aware of just how significant a role fear plays in many of our decisions, actions, and conversations.” If the disciples were not driven by fear they perhaps would not have gone and awoken Jesus to save them! [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?”] /Mark 4:38/ “Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” /Mark 4:40/
Practice devotion! Train, prepare and run through how you will respond when the alarm sounds and you are told to evacuate your manufactured homes as the storm approaches. When we are devoted to a discipline that causes us to create a habit, routine or custom that will get us through that next situation that next storm, then we shall be following the dedicated practices of those who have made it through real life events. It will not be some superficial Ozzie and Harriet experience, it will be all too real! Now is the time to put together the procedure you and yours will put into motion when that time comes!
In the case of the disciples in the boat, the event that was recorded for us to hear, the message is clearly that we need to come to believe in the power of our God to help us through the difficult storms of life. Jesus [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.] /Mark 4:39/ Ultimately, we need to be like my Dad and a million other parents, who have learned to push past their fears and work to prepare for that next life situation, knowing God is there with them. They have learned they do not face life’s perils alone! Neither shall we!