Posts Tagged ‘Mark 4:35-41’

Do You Not Care 6-24-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 4:35-41, I explore Jesus’ action in the calming of the storm, as well as the terrified question posed by the disciples “Do you not care?”

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

How many people out there remember Happy Days? (pause) For those of you out there who are not fortunate enough to remember Happy Days, let me set the stage for you. It was a great sit-com, aired back in the 70’s and featured life in Milwaukee Wisconsin in the 50’s. There were a lot of different characters featured on the show…but in my opinion, Happy Days features the character who is, arguably, the coolest character to ever grace the tv screen.

Arther Fonzarelli, better known to the world as Fonzi.  He was…the greatest…so cool…so suave…He never had a hair out of place, even though he carried a comb in his back pocket just in case. He was tough loner, but he cared about people. And he had this mystique about him…an aura of cool…he was so cool that no one questioned him when referred to the Men’s room in the local burger joint as “his office.”  He could snap his fingers and girls would flock to him.

And not only that…but it seemed like he had some sort of power. Want to hear a specific song on the Jukebox…Fonzi would smack it and that song would start playing.  If the street light was out…he could kick the wall…and the light would come on.  If you’re thirsty…he knew just how to bump the pop machine to make one drop out.  (pause)

Now I don’t think we want to say that Fonzi was Jesus by any means…but maybe just maybe we can say that he had some Jesus-like abilities to make things happen that seem impossible. Something we see Jesus do in today’s story. (pause)

Now I love this story…still early on in Mark’s gospel. Jesus has been teaching, telling parables and revealing truth of the kingdom of heaven. He’s been displaying the power of God through various healings…he’s even exerted authority over unclean spirits, ordering them to be silent…and to come out of people. And all the while he’s attracting great big crowds…surely he’s got no trouble getting an audience.

But right here in the midst of it…after a long day of doing all of that stuff…Jesus decides its time for a break…and he takes the disciples, hops in a boat and they take off across the Sea of Galilee, departing in the evening in order to go across to the other side.

Now here’s the thing about the Sea of Galilee…it’s a great big lake, so big that you can’t really see the whole thing, especially when its dark or when its misty out…and its sits down kinda low…in fact the whole thing is pretty much surrounded by mountains…granted they aren’t great big towering peaks, but if you’re down there on the water, it sorta feels like your inside a bowl, completely surrounded by high ground.

Now most of the time, being down in that bowl, its pretty calm…its actually a very beautiful place to be with crisp blue water and rolling green hills shooting up the fronts of those surrounding mountains…and the water itself is USUALLY really calm…like flat calm, with no waves whatsoever.

But the thing about that ring of mountains…they block out the weather that can boil up unexpectedly…and if you’ve ever seen a storm come boiling up over a mountain peak and then come rolling down at you…you know how sudden it can happen and how scary it is when you are out there in the open with no protection.

And this is exactly what happens as the boat carrying Jesus and the disciples is moving across the middle of the sea.  Now remember, it was evening when they left and Jesus has been actively ministering to countless people the entire time…so maybe its not surprising that he’s konked out in the back end of the boat. Its probably the middle of the night by this point and the dudes tired.

And yet as he sleeps, in roars a great storm…and I can only imagine how strong it must have been. Think about it…at least 4 of the disciples were fishermen…individuals who make a living by taking a boat out on the sea of Galilee night after night. Rest assured these guys have been out here during a storm or two before…and yet, we hear that they are all freaking out…even the fishermen…because the wind is howling and the waves are breaking over the boat…if you’ve ever watched Deadliest Catch you can probably imagine just what its like out there.

We hear that the boat is already filling up…and the storm just keep going…and the disciples are pretty well convinced that their number’s up…and this is it…our lives are over…we are done…there’s nothing that we can do to stop it.

Have you ever been in a situation like that…one where you feel utterly powerless…and you don’t know if you’re getting out of it or not? I can tell you, its terrifying. (pause)

Now…what if you had someone in the boat with you who has displayed some mind-blowing things…someone who can cure a disease just by talking about it…someone who can silence a demon with an order…someone who even seems to claim the authority of God. Maybe he could do something about this mess…but where is he?

He’s over there…sleepin…Jesus…DUDE!!!!! Do you not care that we are perishing? This madness is going on…and you’re asleep? Don’t…you…care? (pause)

I want to jump off and talk about that for just a moment…because this particular statement or question in this case, doesn’t show up very often in the scriptures. Its here in Mark’s account of this story, but the other gospels don’t use it when they tell the story.  In addition, it only shows up 3 other times.

When Jesus visits Mary and Martha’s house and Mary’s sitting at Jesus feet while Martha hustles and bustles around, she asks Jesus “Do you not care that she’s left me the work?”  (pause) Jesus uses it in the parable of the Good Shepherd when he reminds us that Shepherd loves the sheep, but the hired hand runs away…because he does not care…about them. (pause) And finally when Judas starts squawking about costly perfume being wasted when the funds could be given to the poor, we’re reminded that he’s a thief who only wants the funds for himself, because he doesn’t care about the poor. (pause)
Jesus, do you not care? (pause) Now we don’t have to look very far to see that of course Jesus cares…because he takes one look at this devastating storm…and he rebukes it…he silences it…he literally puts a muzzle on the wind and the waves with the words that he says…the very same thing he has said when casting out demons as a matter of fact…and instantly…just like Fonzi smacking the jukebox to cue up the right song…the wind and waves go flat and the sea returns to the flat calm that it is known for.

At this point, it does seem like Jesus gets a little short with the disciples…who knows, maybe he’s just annoyed that they woke him up. But he asks them where is your faith? Do you not trust me? Do you not believe that I’ve got this…that’s I’ve got you and your best interest in mind?

Their response, well, its kinda telling…because to say that they were filled with awe isn’t quite right…in fact their terrified…literally fearing a great fear even AFTER Jesus has calmed the storm…maybe they’re even more terrified now that he’s done it…because who is it that can do something like this?

How would you respond if someone stood up in the middle of a tornado…told the storm Shut Up…and it listened? I can imagine that would be a little freaky…especially on top of the literal fear for their lives they’d been experiencing right up to that point.

Now maybe we’re thinking, it’s the disciples, they’re the ones that should expect Jesus to do this…but remember, they haven’t seen a death and resurrection yet…these are the same guys who need Jesus to explain every parable, and still don’t seem to understand…the same guys who follow him around for 3 years and still seem to fail at every turn.

So what do we make of it? This fear that they experience…the doubt…the questions in their mind at this terrifying moment that lead them to ask “Do you not care?” (pause)

Maybe we chalk it up to human nature…and the fear that we all feel when we encounter the unknown…the things that bigger than us…the powers that overshadow us…those events or catastrophes…those injuries or illnesses…those instances when we witness human beings committed utter atrocities to other human beings…and we wonder…are you out there God…how can this happen? Do you care? (pause)

Well I propose this…Yes…God cares…Yes…Jesus…cares. Because the disciples are forgetting something here.  Not long before this happened…once Jesus had begun his public ministry and started attracting those great big crowds, he stepped off to the side and called these 12 people to him…he chose them…calling the ones that he wanted.

And in this instance…Jesus intentionally left the huge crowds behind and took with him, only these guys.  “Do you not care?”  To which Jesus can say “Of course I care…I have chosen you…you are mine.” (pause)

The glory of the gospel is that God choses us. As we are…no pretest…no ritual…no bar to reach…we are chosen out of God’s amazing love for each of us…and this is what we celebrate in Holy Baptism…the promise that has ALREADY been made on our behalf that God has claimed us…and in just a few moments…that’s what we’ll celebrate with Wesley…that he has been chosen by God…just as we all are.

Let me be clear…in the waters of baptism, we celebrate the promise which has already been made…God’s the one doing the work…not the pastor…not the parents or God-parents…and not the individual. This is God’s action within our lives.  Action that serves as an ongoing promise that WHATEVER may occur…God’s got you and the last word will belong to God.  A promise which allows us to respond in any situation, scary though it might be…with hope.  Let us be encouraged and cling to the same promise which Wesley receives today, which has also been spoken to us.

Do you not care?  (pause) Of course I do…for you…are…mine. Amen.

I Am Not That Big 6-21-15

This morning’s sermon is based on Mark 4:35-41, which is the story of Jesus calming the storm. In it I address those powers in the world that remind us how small and powerless we are, leading into addressing the shootings in Charleston SC.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

There are times as a runner…when I think I’m pretty fast. At my normal pace…I can cover a mile in about 8 minutes…give or take…its not record setting by any means…but its not bad…unless you compare me to car….because 8 minutes in a car can take you from the truck stop out by the interstate up to Neola to park at the Community Center…a little more impressive…or take it up a notch to a plane flying along at the speed of sound, where 8 minutes is sufficient to cover about 100 miles…but even that pales in comparison to the fastest speed that we know of…the speed light…where 8 minutes can cover the distance from the Earth to the Sun…8 minutes to cover nearly 93 thousand miles.

Light is pretty fast isn’t it…and it has to be as it covers distances that we can’t even fathom. 8 minutes from the Sun to the Earth…but what about some of our friends out there at the far reaches of our solar system…take Pluto for example…the same light that takes 8 minutes to get to us…takes 330 minutes to reach Pluto…that’s 5.5 hours…a far amount of time…but then considering that the light has to travel 3.67 BILLION miles…maybe that’s not shabby…because Pluto…well…it’s a long way out there…but you know what…the Galaxy…that might as well be beyond measure…That light from the sun…which gets to us in 8 minutes….and covers almost 4 billion miles in a few hours…takes more than 4 YEARS…to reach the nearest star.

Kinda mind boggling isn’t it…when we try to wrap our heads around just how far away things are, even within our Solar System…in fact its almost impossible to judge just how big the universe is…but when we try to…doesn’t it make us feel pretty small? (pause)

Have you ever experienced something that made you realize just how small you are…or perhaps how powerless you are? (pause) I’ve heard many different stories over the years of people who have found themselves in a situation like this…for instance, standing at the base of a mountain, looking up…or being on the seashore, looking out over the ocean…other stories have included events, often natural disasters the unleash the power of the world we live in…like earthquakes, or tsunamis, or giant storms like hurricanes or tornados…these moments when we witness the fury of nature…the destruction…and as we stand there looking straight it, doesn’t it make us feel small…insignificant…or even…powerless?

That realization…that there is nothing that we can do to overcome the power being unleashed against us in that moment…regardless of our wisdom or ability or strength, we…are…powerless…ever had an experience like that? (pause) Because that is exactly what’s going on in today’s story. (pause)

Following a day of teaching the crowds here on the homefront…Jesus decides that its time for a change of scenery…and so he tells his disciples…hey guys…let’s head across the lake here…head on over to the other side…and in an important side note, we also hear that its evening…and so as they set out to cross the sea of Galilee…a trip of somewhere between 8 and 13 miles depending on their direction…night is falling.

Night time on the sea…which, incidentally…is exactly when fishermen would be out on the water in their boats…trying to catch fish…and if you recall…at least 4 of the disciples were fishermen…and so for them, this would be nothing new.

They know how to navigate the sea…they know how to handle a boat…and they’re familiar with the fact that storms can and do, come up out of nowhere…and also, keep in mind that at this point, all of the disciples are still alive, so it stands to reason that these guys have lived through storms out on the water before….they’ve got the ability…they’ve got the know-how. (pause) Until…this time.

Because as they make it part way across the water…long enough for Jesus to konk out on a pillow…up comes a storm…but apparently not just any storm…this is one of those storms that I talked about earlier…one of those storms that makes the disciples realize just how small they are…and they completely…LOSE it.

How crazy must this storm have been…how strong was the wind…how big were the waves to have this sort of effect on these experienced sailors? (pause) One can only imagine…but how ever intense it was…however daunting it was…for these guys…this is it…its all over…and believe it or not…the one person who can do something about it…the one person they trust to get them out of danger…is sleeping…JESUS!!! TEACHER!!! Don’t you care that we are dying? (pause)

I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week…and not just giant storms and crashing waves…but those things in our lives…those events…those oppressive forces that act upon us…sometimes out of nowhere…that have us reeling…those things that make us lose it…those things that show us in that moment just how small and powerless we are…and as I’ve thought about it, I know that those things look different for each of us…but they happen…and for several of you sitting out there today…you’re still facing those events right now…you are staring that storm in the face…and in fact, when we’re honest with ourselves…aren’t we all in that boat…facing a storm that too much for us? That storm that is showing us just how much we are NOT…in control, no matter how much we like to tell ourselves that we are?

Diseases…financial problems…emotional issues…family strife…these are just a few of the storms that rage out there that we face in our lives…and there are others too…other forces…other powers that exist in the world whether we want to acknowledge them or not…and one of these powers is the power of sin…the power of darkness that continues to flow through this world and when we stop and think about it…when we are brave enough to admit the truth…then we realize that there is nothing that we can do about it.

And now I’m not talking about those petty little things that we do each and every day like stubbing our toe and swearing about it or getting short with one another…I’m talking about the power of sin in this world…the power that has warped our reality and our existence into that which is against the will of God…the power that has lied to us to make us think that it is all about me…and that I’m the only one that’s important and everything else needs to just get out of my way…

When I think about that power…the image that comes to mind is that of a giant wave rushing in at me as I stand on the shoreline, knowing that in mere seconds I am finished and there’s nothing I can do about it.

That’s the power of sin in this world…whether we want to admit it or not…and we are CONSTANTLY being reminded of that…and we constantly face evidence that this power is still present…and that power manifests itself in the hate that we are still so capable of…the hate that rears its ugly head and shatters lives…the hate that exists for no reason what so ever…regardless of our tendency to deny it or to try and explain it away. (pause)

Last Wednesday evening…that needless hate manifested in the cold blooded murder of 9 people as they gathered in a church around the word of God…the murder of 9 people condemned to die because of the color their skin….9 people hated because they are different. (pause)

When I first heard of this tragedy in Charleston SC, I was shocked…and as I added it to the mental checklist of so many other tragedies that keep happening, my initial response is that I feel powerless…powerless because I don’t understand it…I cannot wrap my head around the notion of this needless…pointless hate…this judgment passes on another human being based on the color of their skin…yet this is a battle that we have been fighting in this country for decades…and as much as we might want to tell ourselves that we’ve come so far…moments like this show us that no we haven’t. (pause)

Judgment….prejudice…it runs rampant…everywhere…and I’m not just talking about racial tension here…because the second I think I’m above that sort of thing I look in the mirror, and I recognize the needless judgment that I pass in my mind against individuals for different reasons…and as we look around society today…its everywhere. Race, gender, age, orientation…political affiliation…economic status…and that’s just scratching the surface…and it stems from this lie that sin places in our heads that for whatever reason, I’m better than you. (pause)
But we don’t want to admit it do we? We want everything to stay pleasant…and maintain this myth that we aren’t prone to it…but I’ll say it…yes we are…we are not immune…I’ve seen in this part of the country…I’ve seen it here in our nice friendly state…I’ve seen it in our community…I’ve seen it here in our congregation…and yes…I include myself because I see it when I look in the mirror. (pause)

Now rest assured, its not my intention to get political here today…its really not…I won’t tell you how you should think, or what opinions you can or can’t have…and I sure as heck won’t be telling you how you should be voting…

But what I do hope for is that we can take an honest look at ourselves…and recognize this wave coming at us…this power of darkness…this power of sin that’s crashing over us whether we want to admit to it or not.

And in these moments when we recognize just how small we are…just how powerless we are, the only thing we can do is follow the example of the disciples and cry out to Jesus…because he does care…and just as he calmed the sea…just as he beat those waves that were crashing down on the disciple he has already beaten the wave of sin that crashed down on us…its already finished.

And in the meantime, we can and must continue to ask for forgiveness in those times when we pass needless judgment…when we place ourselves above others…and then we remember what Jesus told us to do…Love God…and love your neighbor…And maybe, just maybe when we start doing that through the power of Christ living in us and through us…well then maybe we’ll start representing the body of Christ on Earth…maybe we’ll start shining like that light in the darkness…and maybe, just maybe we can start seeing one another like God sees us all…as His beloved child….and I hope and pray that with God’s help, we will come through this storm to whatever glorious destination awaits us on the other side of the sea.

And it has to be with God’s help…because alone…I’m not strong enough, or wise enough…I’m not big enough…but God is…and thankfully through the blood of Christ spilled on that cross, He forgives us for being so small. Amen.