Friday, June 22, 2012

"Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?"

Gospel Reading:  Mark 4: 35-41
          That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let's cross to the east side.”  So they left the crowd, and his disciples started across the lake with him in the boat. Some other boats followed along.
Suddenly a storm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink.
Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don't you care that we're about to drown?”
Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Why were you afraid? Don't you have any faith?”
Now they were more afraid than ever and said to each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Hebrew Scripture Reading:  Psalm 107:23-32
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Message “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
            Sometimes when we read scriptures like the short section in our gospel reading, we may miss some of the impact, especially if it is such a familiar story.  Here is a trick I’ve learned that helps me get a better understanding of scripture; imagine yourself as being there and living the events.  Try to see it through the eyes of the different people in the story.
            Imagine with me for a minute.

            You have just spent a long and active day with Jesus as he was teaching and touching multitudes of people.  Hoards of sick and disabled people have been brought to him for the healing of their bodies, minds and souls.
With compassion he has reached out to them all.  And you’ve been there to assist.  You’ve touched, supported and carried the lame, the infirm and even the lepers.  At times, the thought of touching them made your skin crawl.  You were both repulsed and blessed by the work this day.  Now you are hot and sweaty and you stink of too much humanity in too close quarters.
            Now towards evening Jesus says, “Let us go to the other side of the sea.”.
            This sounds like a great idea to you.  You’ve grown up on and around this sea and the idea of getting away from the noise of the crowds is appealing to you.  You remember lots of idle days drifting in the peaceful solitude of the sea. 
            Maybe you’ll even get a quick dip in the water before getting into the boat.
            The evening breeze is beginning to blow cool across the water.  Yes! This will be a fine time to be sailing.
            You help your friends pull the ropes that raise the sail and help to haul in the anchor.  You are on your way.  The cries of the gulls that follow your boat sound all too much like the cries of the crowds that follow Jesus where he goes.
            You marvel at the things you have seen him do and the things he has said. You shake your head in wonder, knowing you only understand a small part of what he says.  Who is this man that you’ve known for such a short time?  How is it that he, a carpenter’s son, can command such authority?  You have so many unanswered questions about this rabi who has called you to be his disciple.
            You focus once more on the world around you and realize that you are sailing parallel to the coast about seven miles at sea.  You notice the wind picking up a little and the water is becoming a little choppy.  However, this isn’t so unusual at this time of year.  And you actually find it a little refreshing to have a little of the spray in your face and the wind in your hair.  Yes! It is great to be alive and sharing this time with your friends and your teacher. 
            The evening stars are visible in the dusky orange of the sky. Then you notice that Jesus has gone to sleep on a cushion near the stern.  Well, he certainly deserves the rest and you take a blanket to cover him as he sleeps.
            Suddenly, you are jolted from your feet.  Your first thought is that you’ve stuck something big, another boat perhaps.  But then you realize that it was a huge wave hitting the boat broadside.  It seems to have come out of nowhere.  And It didn’t come alone either there are many more marching behind it.
            Just then the wind hits and it hits hard.  The force of the gale rips loose one of the heavy lines to the sail.  The knotted end has just struck one of the crew with the force of a professional fighter.  You’re sure that he has some cracked ribs but you will not have time to help him until that sail is secured.
            You assist those that are struggling to lower the sail before any more damage can be done.  Fighting the wet canvas is like wrestling a crocodile but you’ve finally got it down and stowed away.  The salt water stinging your hands makes you notice the red, raw rope burns from fighting the lines to the sail.
            The sea that was so calm a short time ago now looks like a land of liquid mountains dancing around you.  The swells are so deep that you can no longer see the shore and the stars have been blotted out in angry dark clouds.  The boat is swirling like a leaf in a whirlpool and you have lost all sense of direction.
            As if the storm-driven sea-spray wasn’t enough, now lightening rips open the belly of those clouds and the sky is as wet as the sea.  The boat is being swamped.  Everyone is scrambling for a hand hold so no one has a free hand with which to bail. 
            The boat is now bucking side to side and end to end like some crazed animal.   At times is nearly completely airborne before crashing once more into the sea. It takes all your strength to just stay in the boat and your fear is that the boat will capsize and dump its human cargo into the deadly sea.
            Impossibly loud above the fury of the storm you hear a horrendous crack and realize that one of the main cross braces has just splintered.  Before long this boat is going to implode under the force of the waves and wind.
            That is when you notice Jesus still sleeping.  How can he sleep at a time like this?  Doesn’t he know that we’re all going to die?  Doesn’t he care?
            You crawl through the broken rigging to where he sleeps and wake him. 
            To your amazement, he yawns, stretches and asks why you are so afraid. 
“Is your faith so weak?” he asks.  Then, in the midst of the storm, he stands firmly, raises his hands and says, “Peace, be still.”  Immediately the squall stops and the sea becomes flat as glass.
            You had been frightened beyond measure by the storm but this display of his power is even more frightening. 
            You had no idea. 
            Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey?

            I’ve tried to take you on a scary ride with the disciples by the storm through their eyes.  And to get a feeling of what it must have been like riding out that storm.
            While I was telling the story, where you remembering some of the storms that you’ve been through in your life?  Were you thinking of those times when it seemed that everything was coming apart at the seams and you no longer were in control?
            Jesus said to his followers, “Oh you of little faith, why were you afraid?”
Now listen, it wasn’t that the disciples didn’t have faith.  They had faith.  They had faith that the boat would get them to the other side of the sea.  They had faith that they could navigate to where they were going.  They had faith in their strength and ability to raise and set the sail and manage the tiller.  They had faith that they were in control.  They had faith … but their faith was misplaced.
            We aren’t that much different, are we?  Amen?  Don’t we tend to rely on our own strength and resources… until they fail us?  Be honest now!  Certainly I’m not the only one who does.  Am I?
          Hear this: God doesn’t want to be our life preserver.  I’ll wait to let that sink in.  God does not want to be our life preserver.
          He doesn’t want to be the last resort.  He wants to be the first.  Remember, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”?  When we put our self-will, self-direction, and self-reliance before God’s-will, God’s-direction and reliance on God, we are making them our god ahead of the true God.
          You see, He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives down to the smallest minutia.  Remember, Matthew 10:30. “The very hairs of your head are numbered.”.  … Yes, I know that it easier with some of us … But the point is that no one loves us more than the one who created us. 
          Did you know that God has our names tattooed on him? Isaiah 49:16 reads, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”  Okay, so not really a tattoo.  And it doesn’t say that it is our names either.  We are engraved, carved into the hands of God.  That is how much He loves us.
          And he craves a relationship with us.
          So when Jesus was questioning the disciples about their faith, he was pointing that out that they should have been in such a close relationship that they realized they were being cared for by the one who created the wind and the waves.
          They had nothing to fear.
          Okay, let’s get something clear here.  Jesus doesn’t promise that we will never have bad things happen to us.  He does promise that he will be with us through the bad times.  He also promises that, if we will let him have control, he can take even the bad things and make them work for our good.
Romans 8:28 “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”
          So, the choice is ours; we can go our own way and deal with the storms of life on our own.  Or, we can walk with God, even though the valley of death, and still be comforted.  That is the only way that we can answer the question, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?”

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