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Sermon for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost 2018


I Samuel 17:32-49 Psalm 9:9-20 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Mark 4:35-41

After reading up on the fine points of ice fishing, a young woman heads onto the ice. Just as she’s about to drill her first hole, a booming voice from above bellows, “There are no fish under the ice.” The woman is startled, but she keeps drilling. Again the voice thunders, “There are no fish under the ice.” Now the woman is shaking. But she takes a deep breath, and just as she’s about to cut a new hole – “There are no fish under the ice!” The frightened woman looks skyward and asks, “Is that you, Lord?” “No, this is the manager of the skating rink!”

“He looks so tired.” It seems like we have been all over Galilee. Man, have we heard some parables – the soil, the seeds, the mustard seed. What do we know about soil and seeds? We are just poor fishermen. Jesus is so clever, he changes things so the people who hear him will understand. I’m sure that he doesn’t speak in parables to confuse people, but to challenge us to discover the meaning of his words. I’m so glad that he tells us more when we are alone. You know, some of the stories I get, I’m used to the rabbi’s stories in the Temple, but some of Jesus’ stories, are just too confusing.

Look at Jesus – he looks so tired. It is good that he is getting some rest as we move toward the land of the Gerasenes. It is good that we do not have to walk all the way from Capernaum. My feet are killing me, but he never seems to stop, never complains, never bothered by all those people wanting something. He is always willing to talk with them or heal them or encourage them. I wish I had half of his energy. How does he do it?

But now, after all of his teaching, some folks still don’t know who he is. Some of the Jewish leaders try to trick him. They don’t see themselves in some of the stories about hypocrisy and impure motives. He is so smart in not confronting them. If Jesus spoke against the leaders face to face, his public ministry would really upset things. Those who listen carefully to Jesus know what he was talking about.

I’ve been on this Sea of Galilee hundreds of times. My father used to fish here when I was a small boy. I used to sit in the boat and look up at the hills that surrounded us. The hills just go on forever. The sea is so low that it seems like a bath tub. There have been really strong winds blowing across the land. They grow stronger closer to the water. My father often talked about fishermen who got caught up in violent storms that came out of nowhere. We, the followers of the Way are seasoned fishermen. Simon Peter, my brother John, Andrew, Philip and I have spent our lives fishing on this huge lake.

As we sit and wait in the boat, flashes of lightning brighten the night sky. The brilliance of the flashes allows me to see into the faces of the others. There is a weariness, not like major fatigue, but a good weariness, in knowing that we have worked hard, doing what was needed and now we rest. We speak softly among ourselves, no one sleeps except Jesus. It is as if we don’t want to miss anything. The thunder seems as close as the boat, so close that we move uneasily with its intensity. The wind is beginning to pick up now.

I can feel the harshness of it stinging my face. The spray of the water blows across the top of the boat. Surely it will blow over. The raindrops are dancing across the bow. The wind is really picking up now. It is hard to hold on. The waves are lifting us up and throwing us down like we were toys. Did I see Jesus stir…is he awake…will he help us? A flash of lightning, are his eyes open?

Simon Peter, don’t you think we should wake Jesus, so he can help us. John, keep bailing, the water is everywhere. Andrew, move those bags out of the way. Peter, should we wake Jesus? I don’t know what to do. I’ve seen plenty of storms on the Sea of Galilee, but this one – this one is huge. I wish my father were here, he would know what to do. This squall may be our death.

Okay, okay, we all agree…we need to wake Jesus. Teacher, teacher, wake up, help us, don’t you care that we are going to drown.

Jesus wakes immediately with such alertness, with such a clear head. He raises his arms and shouts to the wind and the waves – Peace…..be still. I wish we had thought of that. He made it look so easy. And there they are, the winds still and the water as smooth as glass. Amazing! Just like on the Sabbath, when he touched the shriveled hand of the man. Amazing! Was it the same hand he used to heal Peter’s mother-in-law? Did you notice?

Now, we all are able to take a breath. That was so frightening! Then, Jesus asks us why we were afraid. We all look down at our feet. Even Simon Peter has no words. Then Jesus says, “Do you still have no faith?” Faith, our faith has been in him, in all that he has been able to do. How can we have faith without Jesus? Who is this man that even the wind and waves obey him? Who is this man that commands both nature and the evil spirits?

Who is this man? The disciples panicked because the storm threatened to destroy them all and Jesus seemed unaware and unconcerned. Have you ever been in a storm? It can be really scary, especially if it blows up quickly. Especially if you are outside with little shelter to protect you. As good parents and teachers, we tell our children, over and over again, to avoid getting caught outside in a storm. Storms are scary and unpredictable.

The disciples faced a physical storm, but storms come in other forms. Some don’t have lightning and thunder and gusting wind and buckets of rain. In our lives, we can encounter many scary things. Things at our work, our family, our friendships, or our parish may blow up suddenly and leave us wondering what comes next. We may feel vulnerable and unsafe in the middle of the storm, especially when we realize our own strength is no match for the threat that is facing us. The storm is beyond our control, and we don’t know what to do.

Jesus pointed the disciples away from fear to faith, and he does the same for us when we face storms that have blown up in our own lives. We’re not alone in the face of any threat. If the threats we face seem more powerful than we can manage, we can still trust in the power of our Lord, who is with us and always available to us.

It is so appropriate that these readings follow Father’s Day. I can’t tell you how many times my father helped me in times of crisis -my earthly father and my heavenly father. I can remember one time in college, my sister Tyler, some friends and I went to Hilton Head for the weekend. We were in an old car and we stopped along the way for gas and supplies and found out that the car would not go in reverse. It was in the days before cell phones, so we called my father to see what to do. He answered the phone, listened patiently to my emotional recant of our troubles. When I finally stopped babbling, Daddy said, “I guess you have to park where you don’t need to back up.” Brilliant, concise and helpful …and that is what we did and those times when we forgot, we pushed the car. It was a time to “Be still and know” that you can’t back up! I have shared in the past, that it was the death of my father that put me on the path of discerning what God was calling me to. It was in grieving his loss that I found what God wanted for me.

Think about the storms in your life – the situations that cause you great anxiety. Whatever our difficulty, whatever the stresses that plague us, we have two options: we can worry and assume that Jesus no longer cares, or we can resist fear, putting our trust in him. We can, when we feel like panicking, confess our need for God and then trust him to care of us.

The disciples lived with Jesus, but they underestimated him. They did not see that his power applied to their very own situation. Jesus has been with his people for centuries and yet we, like the disciples, underestimate his power to handle crises in our lives. The disciples did not know the whole story about Jesus. We can’t make the same excuse. We know!

Instead of living in fear, we can live in faith. The storm will pass. The help we need is here, and we may find it more readily if we stop wringing our hands in desperation. If we can be still and listen, we’ll hear more than the storm. We may even find that the biggest storm was always inside us, and that our fear was the biggest obstacle. If we listen, we’ll hear our Lord, who is with us. He continues to speak to us as he did the disciples, “Peace! Be still!”

Walter Brueggemann says, “The news is that God’s wind is blowing. It may be a breeze that cools and comforts. It may be a gust that summons us to notice. It may be a storm that blows us where we have never been before. Whatever the winds is in your life, pay attention to it…and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will abide with you always.” Amen.


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