Peace Covenant Presbyterian

Sermons and Such | Church updates | Information you can use

MARK 4:35-41|STORM-STILLER

June 25, 2018
Posted by Office Staff

STORM-STILLER

MARK 4:35-41

JUNE 24, 2018

SOME SAY IT’S IMPOLITE TO ANSWER A QUESTION WITH A QUESTION, BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT JESUS DOES IN OUR READING FOR THIS MORNING.

 

IN FACT, HE’S NOT UNACCUSTOMED TO DOING THIS ELSEWHERE, AND DOES SO, I BELIEVE, ON PURPOSE, SO THAT THE PERSON OR PERSONS TO WHOM HE IS SPEAKING HAVE A CHANCE TO ANSWER THEIR OWN QUESTION;

 

TO FIGURE THINGS OUT ON THEIR OWN;

 

TO COME TO WHAT THEY BELIEVE GOD WOULD WANT THEM TO THINK, OR SAY OR DO, IN A GIVEN SITUATION.

 

SO, THE DISCIPLES, ALONG WITH JESUS ARE IN A BOAT; ON THE SEA OF GALILEE; WHICH IS NOTORIOUS FOR ITS STORMS.

 

THEY COULD LITERALLY COME OUT OF NOWHERE DUE TO THE MOUNTAIN RANGES AND PASSES AND OTHER SURROUNDING GEOGRAPHY OF THE LAKE.

 

THE STORM BLOWS IN; THE BOAT IS BEATEN BY THE WAVES; IT BEGINS TO SWAMP; AND THE DISCIPLES CRY OUT TO JESUS, WHO HAPPENS TO BE SLEEPING THROUGH IT ALL, IN THE STERN OF THE BOAT.

 

“TEACHER, DO YOU NOT CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?”

 

JESUS WAKES UP, STILLS THE STORM; THE WINDS CEASE, THE WAVES CALM; AND JESUS ASKS IN RESPONSE: “WHY ARE YOU AFRAID?  HAVE YOU NO FAITH?”

 

ANSWERING A QUESTION WITH A QUESTION.

 

“DON’T YOU CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?”

“HAVE YOU NO FAITH?”

 

CAN YOU BELIEVE THE DISCIPLES HAD THE NERVE TO ASK JESUS THAT QUESTION?! – “DON’T YOU CARE?”

 

OF COURSE, WE CAN; WE’VE ASKED THE SAME QUESTION OURSELVES.

 

SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS; SOMEONE GETS SICK; SOMEONE DIES; AN ACCIDENT OCCURS; SOME INJUSTICE HAPPENS; GOD FEELS FAR AWAY;

 

“GOD, DON’T YOU CARE?”  WE ASK.

 

“WHY ARE YOU AFRAID?” GOD ASKS US.  “HAVE YOU NO FAITH?”

 

WE DO THIS STORY AN INJUSTICE IF WE MERELY TAKE IT IN A LITERALISTIC SENSE.

 

IF THIS STORY MERELY DESCRIBES A ONE-TIME PHYSICAL MIRACLE PERFORMED BY JESUS, IT IS A WONDERFUL STORY;

 

AND SOMETHING WE READ AND MARVEL AT, BUT NONETHELESS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED A LONG TIME AGO, AND DOESN’T REALLY INVOLVE US.

 

BUT, IF WE READ IT IN A SYMBOLIC SENSE, IT IS FAR MORE VALUABLE.

 

WHEN THE DISCIPLES REALIZED THE PRESENCE OF JESUS WITH THEM: THE STORM BECAME A CALM.

 

ONCE THEY KNEW HE WAS THERE, THERE WAS A CALM, FEARLESS PEACE NOT ONLY AROUND THEM, BUT IN THEIR HEARTS, NO MATTER WHAT ANY STORM WAS LIKE.

 

THIS IS HOW IT IS FOR US.

 

THE REVEREND DR. HOWARD EDDINGTON, THE FORMER PASTOR OF THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN ORLANDO ONCE PREACHED:

 

“GOD MAY NOT CALM EVERY STORM, BUT GOD WILL CALM US IN EVERY STORM.”

 

AND WE KNOW THAT TO BE LITERALLY TRUE – OF LITERAL STORMS – THOSE OF US WHO HAVE BEEN THROUGH HURRICANES, TORNADOES, AND THE LIKE.

 

GOD WILL NOT NECESSARILY CALM THE STORM (GOD ALSO DIDN’T CAUSE THEM TO HAPPEN EITHER), BUT GOD CAN CALM US IN THE STORM.

 

NOTICE IN OUR LESSON FOR THIS MORNING JESUS NEVER SAYS, “THERE’S NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF.”  THAT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS.

 

THE STORM IN THE STORY WAS FEARSOME; THE WIND AND THE WAVES WERE SWAMPING THE BOAT; LIVES WERE IN DANGER.

 

JESUS IS NOT SAYING THAT EVERYTHING IS GOING TO TURN OUT OKAY, THOUGH IN THIS STORY IT DOES.  THAT’S NOT WHAT JESUS MEANS BY FAITH.

 

WHAT JESUS SAYS IS: “WHY ARE YOU AFRAID?” AND “HAVE YOU STILL NO FAITH?”

 

JESUS IS ASKING HIS DISCIPLES ABOUT THE STATE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.  DO THEY HAVE THE KIND OF FAITH THAT GIVES PEACE IN THE FACE OF FEAR?

 

CAN THEY TRUST GOD TO SEE THEM THROUGH, COME WHAT MAY?

 

FAITH IS NOT ABOUT ONE OUTCOME OR ANOTHER.  FAITH IS ABOUT A TRUSTING RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME.

 

THIS GOES FOR THE FIGURATIVE STORMS OF OUR LIVES AS WELL.

 

WHEN SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS; WHEN SOMEONE GETS SICK; WHEN SOMEONE DIES; WHEN THERE’S AN ACCIDENT; WHENEVER AND WHEREVER INJUSTICE OCCURS; WHEN GOD FEELS FAR AWAY.

 

AS WE DEVELOP OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD; BECOME MORE CONSCIOUS OF GOD’S PRESENCE WITH US, NO MATTER WHAT, OUR FAITH GROWS, AND THERE SEEMS TO BE LESS AND LESS REASON TO BE AFRAID OF ANYTHING IN LIFE.

 

WE ARE TO TAKE OUR FEARS TO GOD IN PRAYER, TRUST IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, AND IN THAT, FIND WHAT PEACE THERE IS TO BE FOUND;

 

AND MORE IMPORTANTLY… MOST IMPORTANTLY… FIND THE PRESENCE OF GOD WITH US, IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S STORMS, LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY.

 

ERNEST J. LEWIS ONCE SHARED THIS STORY.

 

A YOUNG MINISTER IN AUSTRALIA MADE A CALL ON ONE OF HIS OLDER CHURCH MEMBERS.  AS HE WENT INTO THE ROOM, HE NOTICED A CHAIR WAS PULLED UP BY THE BEDSIDE.

 

THE MINISTER SAID TO THE MAN LYING IN THE BED, “I SEE I’M NOT YOUR FIRST VISITOR TODAY.”

 

THE MAN ANSWERED WEAKLY, “I’D LIKE TO EXPLAIN THAT.   WHEN I WAS A LITTLE BOY, I HAD DIFFICULTY PRAYING TO JESUS; SO, MY MINISTER SUGGESTED THAT WHEN I SAT DOWN TO TALK WITH JESUS, I PULL UP ANOTHER CHAIR.  THEN I’D TALK TO HIM JUST AS IF HE WERE SITTING RIGHT THERE.”

 

THE YOUNG MINISTER LEFT AFTER READING THE SHEPHERD’S PSALM, THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM.

 

A FEW DAYS LATER, EARLY IN THE MORNING, THERE WAS A KNOCK AT THE PASTOR’S DOOR.  AN ANXIOUS DAUGHTER SOBBED OUT HER STORY.

SHE TOLD HIM HOW HER FATHER HAD DIED WITHOUT HER BEING PRESENT.

 

“I WENT OUT OF THE BEDROOM ONLY FOR A FEW MINUTES TO REST.  I WAS ONLY GONE FOR A LITTLE WHILE.  WHEN I RETURNED, HE WAS GONE.  HE DIED ALONE, AND I AM SO SORRY FOR THAT.

 

THERE WAS NO CHANGE IN HIM FROM WHEN I LEFT THE ROOM, EXCEPT FOR ONE THING.  HIS HAND WAS ON THE CHAIR.”

 

(BY THE WAY, AFTER NEARLY 40 YEARS IN MINISTRY, SOME OF IT SPENT WORKING IN HOSPITALS AND HOSPICE, I FIRMLY BELIEVE THOSE WHO ARE DYING SOMETIMES CHOOSE TO DIE, WHEN PEOPLE HAVE LEFT THE ROOM, TO SPARE THEM, THEIR PASSING.)

 

FOR US, AS BELIEVERS, ONE OF THE GREAT AFFIRMATIONS OF OUR FAITH IS THAT WE ARE CREATED TO LIVE (AND DIE) IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

 

IT IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE COVENANT: “I WILL BE YOUR GOD, AND YOU WILL BE MY PEOPLE…”

 

IT IS THE WORDS OF THE PSALMIST: “YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR THOU ART WITH ME, THY ROD AND THY STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME…”

 

AND THEY ARE THE WORDS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST: BE NOT AFRAID, FOR LO, I AM WITH YOU, ALWAYS, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD.”

 

WHEN WE UNDERSTAND THAT, WHEN WE BELIEVE THAT, WE CAN BE CERTAIN GOD IS WITH US ALWAYS… ALWAYS… WHATEVER COMES OUR WAY… IN THE LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE STORMS OF LIFE…

 

IN EVERY FEAR, EVERY WORRY, EVERY CONCERN… IN OUR ANGUISH AND OUR PRAYERS… IN THE WORST OF TIMES AND THE BEST OF TIMES.

 

IT IS WHEN WE PLACE OUR HAND ON THE CHAIR, THAT WE CAN BE CONFIDENT THAT GOD IS WITH US.

 

“DO YOU NOT CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?”  WE ASK.  OF COURSE, GOD DOES.

 

“WHY ARE WE AFRAID?  “HAVE WE NO FAITH?”  OF COURSE, WE DO;

 

BUT THE FEARSOMENESS OF LIFE’S STORMS SOMETIMES HAS A WAY OF CATCHING US UP, OF KNOCKING US DOWN, UNTIL WE REMEMBER, PRAY, AND BELIEVE.

 

ONE THING MORE…

IN A SERMON PREACHED ON THE NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING AFTER THE 1995 BOMBING OF THE FEDERAL BUILDING IN OKLAHOMA CITY, THE REVEREND ANNETTE SOWELL WANTED TO MAKE THE THEOLOGICAL POINT THAT GOD WAS PRESENT IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY.

 

INSTEAD OF SIMPLY MAKING THIS BROAD THEOLOGICAL CLAIM, SHE DECIDED THAT WHAT WAS NEEDED WERE VERY CONCRETE IMAGES OF HOW AND WHERE GOD WAS PRESENT.

 

HERE’S A PORTION OF HER SERMON:

 

“AND SO, JESUS SENDS DOCTORS AND NURSES INTO THE NEONATAL ICU; AND RESCUE WORKERS INTO BOMBED-OUT BUILDINGS AND POLICEMEN INTO THE DEBRIS OF THE DAYCARE CENTER, SO THEY CAN HAND OUT TO FIREFIGHTERS SENT BY GOD THE LITTLE ONES WHO HAVE SUFFERED AND ALREADY BEEN TAKEN TO HEAVEN.

 

JESUS SENDS AN AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER TO SNAP PICTURES THAT THE WORLD MIGHT BE FOREVER REMINDED THAT THERE ARE MORE GOOD PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD THAN BAD PEOPLE.

 

JESUS SENDS DEDICATED TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS INTO CLASSROOMS TO TEACH CHILDREN THAT KNIVES AND GUNS AND DRUGS ARE NOT THE WAY TO LIVE AND BREATHE THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

 

JESUS SENDS THE RED CROSS AND THE FEED THE CHILDREN FOUNDATION TO FEED AND CARE FOR THE CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES.

 

OH YES, THROUGH IT ALL, THERE IS GOD, GOD WITH SKIN ON…

 

AND, MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT… THROUGH IT ALL, THERE IS GOD, SITTING IN A JAIL CELL ON A MILITARY BASE IN OKLAHOMA, WITH A MAN WHO WILL BE PUNISHED BY THE LAWS OF THIS LAND.

 

OUR GOD WEEPS FOR US ALL.”

 

GOD WITH SKIN ON…

 

AS MUCH AS JESUS WAS WITH THE DISCIPLES IN THAT BOAT, STILLING THE STORM, CALMING THE WAVES, NOT TO MENTION, THE HEARTS AND MINDS AND SOULS OF HIS COMPANIONS;

 

THERE CAME A POINT AT WHICH JESUS TURNED OVER THE REINS OF HIS CHURCH, AND THE WORK OF HIS KINGDOM, AT LEAST IN PART, TO THEM; TO THOSE WHO FOLLOW AND WALK IN HIS WAY.

 

AND SO, WHENEVER WE ASK: “DO YOU NOT CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?  OR THAT THEY ARE…?

 

DO NOT BE SURPRISED IF JESUS ASKS IN RETURN: “WHY ARE YOU AFRAID?” AND “HAVE YOU NO FAITH?”

 

AND: “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”

 

THE MOMENT JESUS LEFT THIS EARTH, LEFT HIS SKIN, TO TEND TO MORE ETERNAL THINGS…

 

HE LEFT MUCH OF THE TEMPORAL WORK OF THIS LIFE, OF HIS KINGDOM, TO US.

 

THE NEEDS, THE WANTS, THE DREAMS AND DESIRES, THE PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES, THE HURTS AND HEARTACHES, THE SUFFERING AND SORROW FOR US TO DEAL WITH – AS GOD IN SKIN;

 

AN INCARNATION OF CHRIST – IN US – IN HIS CHURCH – IN THE WORLD.

 

“DO YOU NOT CARE THAT WE ARE PERISHING?”

 

“OF COURSE, I CARE…” JESUS SAYS.

 

“I CARE ENOUGH TO CALL YOU… TO SEND YOU… TO USE YOU…

 

TO ALLEVIATE SUFFERING… TO ADMINISTER AID… TO COMFORT AND CARE…

 

TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER… TO STAND WITH THOSE IN NEED… TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE… TO RIGHT WRONGS…

 

TO SAY TO THE WIND AND WAVES OF DISCORD AND DESTRUCTION…

 

‘PEACE!  BE STILL!’”

 

AND THE WINDS CEASE… AND THE WAVES CALM… AND PEACE COMES, WITHIN AND WITHOUT…

 

AND THE WORLD ASKS:

 

“WHO ARE THESE WHO SAY AND DO THESE THINGS?”

 

“THESE ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE ONE TO WHOM EVEN THE WIND AND THE SEA OBEY…”

 

AND LIKE HIM… IN HIS NAME… WE TOO, ARE STORM-STILLERS.

 

 

 

Comments are currently closed.