the one where Jesus welcomes us into the boat...
June 22, 2015, 12:00 AM

Sermon from July 21, 2015

Text: Mark 4:35-41

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

Storms aren’t fun are they? My wife talks about the tornado that rolled through Lexington a number of years ago. If I remember my history right, there was a pretty significant storm that came through Newberry a little over 30 years ago and did quite a bit of damage in this area.

Of course, there are other storms in our lives that are not of the meteorological variety. There are the storms that hit much closer and more personal to us. The fear that seeps in and keeps us up at night. Is my family safe? Did I make the right decision? Why won’t they call? Why cancer? Why now? How could someone do that…? Those storms that roll into our lives and barrel us over with their terror and strength.

It’s there within those storms that we can see where the disciples are coming from in our gospel text today. They’ve had a pretty good day of hearing Jesus speak, climbing into a boat so that his voice might carry just a bit more to talk to the large crowds gathered around him. At the end of the day, Jesus invites the disciples to ‘the other side of the sea.’ To leave the safe confines of that familiar shore and head to the other side – the side that happens to be where the Gentiles live mind you – those who are not Jewish – those who are not like them. Jesus invites them to the other side – the unfamiliar – the unknown.

Now, we don’t know what the inner monologue is like for the disciples, but I can guess that it might be something like, ‘We’ve got Jesus – everything is going to be alright.’ Because, you know what – that’s what we are told to believe today isn’t it? I mean isn’t that what others will tell you – especially the ones that proclaim from the TV or radio (the new pastor preaches knowing full well this sermon is on the radio right now…)? If you’ve got Jesus in your heart and mind everything is going to be all fine!

But, those of us who live in the real world know that living the life of a Christian and follower of Jesus isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Following the path that Jesus leads and the life he invites us into comes with risk.

Look – most of the disciples are fishers – guys who make their living on and from the sea. If there is one thing that I know about fishers and farmers – those who make their living from creation – is that they have a pretty good idea about the weather. Storms really don’t just ‘appear’ out of nowhere. You can kind of see things starting to brew. I’d like to think that those fishers saw the clouds and thought, “well… we’ve got Jesus so everything is probably going to be alright. Our Lord isn’t that foolish – he can’t be right?”

So, since we know they are fishermen, we can guess that this wasn’t just a little storm – it was a storm big enough to freak out a bunch of grown fishermen. It’s like when we’re younger we look up to our parents (and we still do – kind of…) and when a storm starts brewing in the life of our family we can look to our parents and if they are calm, we normally are calm or don’t even know that a storm is going on. But, when mom or dad are freaking out – we know that something is serious and we can begin to freak out too.

So, when you’re in a boat with seasoned fishermen and they are freaking out during a storm and thinking they’re going to die – it’s probably safe to assume that it is kind of serious.

That’s what we see during our gospel reading this morning. The fishermen are freaking out and they think Jesus doesn’t care. Jesus ‘doesn’t care’ so much that he’s still asleep while seemingly the world is about to end for his disciples and all those other boats in the sea.

It’s probably at this point that the disciples are wondering why they even got into the boat in the first place. Seemed like a smart thing to do at the time, but hindsight is 20/20 right? The sea is tossing and turning, the wind is howling, lighting is striking everywhere, and thunder booms overhead. That shoreline looks pretty inviting back there. The steady ground. The sand beneath your feet. Sure, it’s storming over there too, but at least it looks SAFE! At least that side is familiar ground!

But, the shoreline isn’t where Jesus is in our gospel reading. Jesus is in the boat – asleep – but in the boat. Jesus is there – in spite of the craziness that is happening all around them – all around us – we’re in the boat with Jesus. The boat that Jesus invited us into to. The boat that Jesus is taking to ‘the other side.’

You see, when we get into the boats of our lives with Jesus at the stern – we know that the boat is going to go places we might not expect. The ministry that Jesus calls us into might be with those that we’d never expect to be around or with. It might call us into areas that seem a little ‘iffy’ to us. It may in fact lead us to places that others might respond towards us with hostile intent. Why? Maybe because we’ve never been there before. Maybe because we didn’t think we could ‘go there’ or perhaps the ministry is done in a way we’ve not seen it or done it before. Maybe someone feels their ‘power’ being threatened because you’re standing up for the oppressed and speaking out against injustice.

Either way – when we get into the boat with Jesus – there’s going to be a storm at some point. The ministry that Jesus calls us into is disruptive. It is counter to what the world wants from us. Where the world shouts and screams that it’s ‘all about me,’ yet we have Jesus whose out there pointing us towards those in need before us. Calling for us to be with those. Lifting up the oppressed and poor. Speaking of radical grace and love.

To help, to hold, to know, to love.

And a lot of times it isn’t going to be easy. Which is kind of an interesting thing to say on a pastor’s first Sunday in a new church. Things aren’t always going to be easy. There’s bound to be a storm or two. We might be called together to minister in ways we didn’t expect or think of before. It might require change – things might be different.

In all of that – Jesus is in the boat.

The one who needed to get into the boat so that others might be able to better hear him – is the one who simply rebukes the rage of the storm.

Jesus is the one who calms the storms of our lives. Jesus is the one who asks – “Don’t you trust me?”

As the storms rage in our lives we have a tendency to get a little impatient. We don’t know where our help is coming from. When the storm is at its peak we may even question if Jesus is asleep – not caring for us in our time of need. It may look like God is absent and the boat is about to sink.

A bad diagnosis. A failing relationship. The loss of a loved one. A gunman who opens fire at a bible study. Seeing those act out terrorism against others simply by how they look.

We cannot wait.

It is at this point that we need faith and trust the most. You see, we don’t need faith after witnessing the miracles of our lives – we need faith while the ship we’re in is taking on water. As I read this week from Justo Gonzalez – we tend to think that miracles produce faith, or that they are God’s response to great faith. Both might be correct at times. But, true faith leads to trust even when there is no miracle.

True faith points us to know that Jesus is in the boat. God is present. The Spirit is guiding. The waves may rage and the wind might howl – but, Jesus is in the boat with us. We are not abandoned.

As many of y’all know a great tragedy and act of terrorism was enacted in our state just a few days ago. Nine individuals were murdered while studying the Word of God. Four of those slain were pastors and two of those pastors graduated from our Seminary – Southern Seminary. One of those graduates attended while I was a student there.

I didn’t know Pastor Clementa very well. I remember him, but I didn’t know him. Although, I have many friends who did know him and know him very well. A quote of his has been shared around the internet that I believe does two things – one; it perfectly captures what I (even in the small knowing I have of him) and others knew him to be in the way he lived his life of faith. The other thing this quote lifts up is our gospel text this morning…

Pastor Clem wrote:

Cold we not argue that America is about freedom whether we live it out or not? Freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. And that is what church is all about: freedom to worship and freedom from sin, freedom to be full of what God intends us to be, and to have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that. Sometimes you have to march, struggle and be unpopular to do that.

When we get into the boat with Jesus – we probably should expect a storm to rise up. But, we always remember:

Jesus is here. Jesus is with us. Always. Amen.


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