|Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration||August 16, 2015||Pentecost 12, Proper 15||Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 9, 2015||Proper 14, Year B||Ephesians 4:25-5:2|
|Pentecost 10, Year B||August 2, 2015||Proper 13, Year B||Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 19, 2015||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 12, 2015||Pentecost 7, Year B||Ephesians 1:3-14|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 5, 2015||Proper 9, Year B||Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Pentecost 5, Year B||June 28, 2015||Proper 8, Year B||Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30|
|➤Pentecost 4, Year B||June 21, 2015||Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B||2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41|
|Pentecost 3, Year B||June 14, 2015||The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6||2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34|
|Pentecost 2, Year B||June 7, 2015||The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5||Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35|
|Pentecost 1, Year B -Trinity Sunday||May 31, 2015||Pentecost 1, Year B, Trinity Sunday||Isaiah 6:1-8,Psalm 29,Romans 8:12-17,John 3:1-17|
|Easter 7, Year B||May 17, 2015||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 17:6-19|
|Easter 6, Rogation Sunday, Year B||May 10, 2015||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday||Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Mark 4:26-32|
|Easter 4, Year B||April 26, 2015||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B||I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18|
|Easter 2, Year B||April 12, 2015||Second Sunday of Easter, Year B||Acts 4:32-25, Ps 133, John 20:19-31|
Pentecost 4, Year B
Sermon Date:June 21, 2015
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41
Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B
" The Storm on the Sea of Galilee"- Rembrandt (1633)
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
The disciples, who were scared to death of drowning as the waves beat into their boat during an awful and unexpected storm , woke Jesus up and didn’t even ask to be delivered—what they wanted to know instead was whether or not Jesus even cared.
Are you with us in our fear and our suffering or not?
And they get a specific answer from Jesus, who wakes up, calms the storm and then asks them why they were afraid to begin with.
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
“Why are you afraid?”
Well, wouldn’t you be afraid if you had been in the boat with the disciples that night?
Why did Jesus ask the disciples this question?
This first line sentence of today’s gospel reading holds the answer. Jesus says to the disciples — “Let us go across to the other side.”
This comment marks a transition in Mark’s gospel—Jesus and the disciples move from the safety of Galilee where the disciples and the crowd simply listen to Jesus tell stories about the kingdom of God, into scarier territory.
They cross the Sea of Galilee into the less than welcoming land of the Gentiles on the other side, a land where Jesus and the disciples would not be particularly well received, a land where danger lurked.
And this was Jesus’ idea, to cross over to the other side—because in that crossing the disciples would come face to face with their deepest fears.
It’s on that other side of fear that the kingdom of God is going to become visible as Jesus deals in life giving and fearless ways with chaos, demons, illness and death—all of those things that create fear in us and paralyze us.
Going into the unknown almost always involves some level of fear.
So Jesus wanted the disciples not only to cross geographically into the unwelcoming world of the Gentiles, but even more importantly, he also wanted the disciples to meet their fears head on and to cross over and move beyond those fears. Jesus wanted the disciples to become fearless–
Because if they didn’t learn to cross to the other side and move beyond their fears, they would be forever held captive by those very fears.
The kingdom of God would ultimately amount to nothing but dust and ashes if Jesus, after dying, rising and returning to God had no one to count on but disciples who couldn’t do anything because they were too afraid to act.
So when the disciples wake him up in the middle of the storm and ask Jesus if he really cares, Jesus takes action. First of all, he stills the storm, which only he could do, because the tossing seas and the raging wind are the powers of chaos that can always overwhelm creation at any given moment. And then he asks them these questions.
Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?
Jesus must be telling the disciples not to be afraid and to have faith.
But hold on a minute, Jesus!
We all know that storms in our lives rarely get resolved in a manner that seems timely.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we end up asking the same question that the disciples did in the boat that night because we’re scared to death.
God, do you really care that we are perishing?
God, if you really cared, how could the Holocaust and every other awful genocide in human memory have ever happened?
Do you really care, God, when people flee from the violence in their own country only to die while seeking safety and freedom?
God, do you even care about your own disciples? Did You care this past week when a young man methodically gunned down the old men and women who had come to church to study your Word and had welcomed that young man to their table and you then did nothing to save them as he shot them dead, one by one?
Do you care, God, when an innocent child suffers and dies from cancer?
God, do you care when those I love have suffered from tragedy after tragedy and then another tragedy strikes?
Do you care, God, when I need an answer to my prayer and Your response is to remain silent?
God, don’t you care? Can’t you hear the cries of the suffering people, the cries from suffering animals, and from the earth itself?
We all end up asking, “God, do you really care?”
“So God, what is the answer?”
The journey to this answer for each one of us will be our own unique journey, based on the particular fears we face in our own lives.
So how DO we know that God really cares when we are full of fear that we could just give up and die?
Rationally, I can tell myself that Jesus is in the boat with me, I can tell myself that Jesus lived and died as one of us and knows what it is to suffer, that the cross proves that God is with me in my own suffering, but ultimately it does boil down to faith in what I can’t really see or prove. But some days, in spite of all this positive God talk to myself, I can still have doubts and be overwhelmed by fear. Maybe this is true for you as well.
What can we do then, when those proverbial storms of life overtake us and we start to doubt that God cares?
We can own up to our fears.
Fear can protect us. But most of the time, fear is a demon that can keep us bound in chains, that can keep us from acting, or can even lead us into anger or hatred because we feel that anger and hatred are necessary in order to protect ourselves.
So first, admit to the fear.
Then, call out as if God really does care, whether we believe that for sure in the moment or not.
And then– take action.
And that action is to open our hearts wide, even and especially in the face of our doubts and fears.
In his letter to the Corinthians, in the reading we heard today, Paul talks about the storms he has faced. He lists them off. “Afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.”
In spite of all of these things, Paul says that his heart is wide open, with no restriction in his affections for the Corinthians, and he begs them to open their hearts also.
Paul knows that our fears tend to slam the doors of our hearts shut.
So the action we can take in the face of fear, action that indicates that we believe and hope that God is with us in the storm, is to keep our hearts open wide to God.
Because when our hearts are open to God, God’s love can pour into us in ways that we could never imagine, and bring us peace even in storms that keep right on raging on the surface of our lives.
This is the peace that passes understanding, that deep down calm peace of the deep ocean, even when a storm is raging on the surface.
I have even felt this peace when I remember to open my heart wide and let God’s love and power pour in. But for that love to get in, I have to open those doors of my heart that I’ve slammed shut because I’m scared to death.
And here’s the other thing. When I open my heart to God, God helps me keep my heart open to others who are experiencing their own storms.
I’m still learning how to do this—to take the action of opening my heart to people who have shut and locked the doors of their hearts and thrown away the key—- to open my heart in spite of my fears and let the love of God that has poured into me then pour out toward them.
So here’s the take home.
When you’re in the midst of a storm, face your fear. Even if you can’t believe it in the moment, act as if you know for sure that God is there in the boat with you and that God cares for you and longs to give you peace and then, call out to God.
Then, take action by throwing the doors of your hearts wide open.
St Francis told us how to throw open our hearts open in his famous prayer, which you can find on page 833 in the Book of Common Prayer.
So now, please take a moment to think about the storms that are raging in your life at the moment.
“O God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.”
Then, whether or not you can believe that God even cares enough to be in that boat with you, call out anyway.
And then take action and open your heart wide, with the help of God’s grace and mercy as we pray together the famous prayer of St Francis. You can find the prayer on page 833 in The Book of Common Prayer.
“Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”