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Sermon for June 24, 2018

Mark 4:35-41 (Fifth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 7—Series B)

“When You Think God Doesn’t Care, Think Again”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

June 24, 2018

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Our text today is the Gospel lesson recorded in Mark 4:

 

35And [Jesus] said to them on that day when evening had come, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd, they took Him along in the boat just as He was, and other boats were with Him. 37And a great windstorm arose and the waves were thrown over into the boat so that the boat was already filling. 38And He was in the stern asleep on the cushion. And they roused Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” 39And after He was awakened, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Be silent! Put a muzzle on it and stay that way!” And the wind stopped and there was a great calm. 40And He said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still have no faith?” 41And they feared a great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

 

           What image best illustrates your life at this point in time? A great calm or a windstorm with the waves thrown over into your boat? In this life, we certainly experience both. And Jesus reveals to us the loving care of our God and Father in both times of calm and storm.

          There are many moments in life when we feel like the disciples felt. They were in a very real boat in a very real windstorm on the very real Sea of Galilee. The wind had kicked up so much that the waves were thrown over the sides, filling the fishing boat with water. But Jesus was sleeping through it! I wonder how that was possible with the waves getting Him wet at they broke over the sides of the boat. His sleep must have been the deep sleep of exhaustion. (This reveals much about the true humanity of Jesus.) So regardless of the windstorm, Jesus slept.

          Now in the Bible, there is another story of someone who slept in a storm at sea. His name was Jonah (which is what we are studying in Bible class on Sunday mornings). Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord, boarding a ship to flee to Tarshish. God hurled a wind on the Mediterranean Sea so that there was a great storm. It was such a storm that Jonah 1:4 says, “As a result, the ship thought itself to be broken.” The sailors started praying to their gods. They threw the ship’s gear overboard in order to placate their god of the sea, Yamm. “But Jonah went down to the innermost recesses of the ship, lay down, and fell into a deep sleep. So the captain approached him and said to him, “What are you doing in a deep sleep? Arise, call to your God; perhaps that God of yours will show compassion toward us so that we will not perish” (Jonah 1:5b-6).

          Both Jesus and Jonah slept in a storm. Both Jonah and Jesus were accused of not caring. “Jonah, don’t you care that we’re in this storm and Yamm isn’t listening to us. Get up, pray to your God and maybe He’ll listen.”

          “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing!”

          The similarities end here. Jonah didn’t care, not one bit. Jesus, on the other hand, did care. But it didn’t look like it from the disciples’ perspective.

          When you are going through what we’ll call “life’s storms,” what is your perspective on Jesus? “Life’s storms” could include any number of troubles, sufferings, heartaches, diseases, and fears—anything that makes us feel like we’re in a tiny boat on the Sea of Galilee with the waves crashing over the sides into our lives. The disciples in the very real storm were afraid of dying. That fear of death is ours too. We might ask ourselves, “Will this situation actually kill me? I don’t think I’m going to survive this.” Grief, medical concerns and health issues, mental and emotional troubles, addictions, conflict, relationship difficulties—the waves are pouring over the sides. What is the outcome going to be? You are going through the closest thing to hell on earth that you can imagine and Jesus, from your perspective, is asleep. “Do you care?” you ask. To which Jesus responds, “Don’t you trust Me?”

          Well, yes, but . . .

          The disciples in the boat with Jesus DO think that Jesus is special and can help. Why else would they wake Him up, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” Implied here is, “If you really care, do something!” Now they have a saving faith—they follow Jesus, listen to Him, and come to Him for help. But the disciples do not yet have a faith that rests confidently in Jesus as does St. Paul who says in Philippians 4:13 that he is strong with respect to all things in Jesus who strengthens him. The disciples do wonder about their welfare, even though the Lord is present with them in the boat. And you and I are not really that different.

          We do have a saving faith. It is God’s gift to us by means of the water and the Word in Holy Baptism. It is a faith that trusts in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, for eternal life, for salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil. That is the assurance of faith, as the writer of Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But is it also a faith that trusts Jesus when the waves are pouring into the boat, when the illness, the trouble, the evils of life are pressing upon us? Oh yes! The gift of faith is a gift that is able to say, “I trust you, Lord. I know you care.”

          The proof that Jesus cares is in the cross. Jesus cares about you so much that He as the only Son of God became fully human. As true man, Jesus experienced in His flesh all that you experience. He was in the real boat in the real storm on the real Sea of Galilee. He really slept from exhaustion. He faced grief in the sight of death. Jesus wept (Jn. 11:35) tears of sorrow at the loss of Lazarus. He was tempted throughout His earthly life by the devil. He lived often without a home, without a place to lay His head. He knew up-close and personal the ravages of disease and mistreatment at the hands of others. He Himself was mistreated, mocked, called an agent of Satan. Why? Because He cares for you. And He showed the depth and breadth of that care on Calvary’s hill, lifted up on that cross to bear your sins, to suffer your literal hell, to die your death so that you might receive the free gift of forgiveness and life forever with the God who made you, who redeemed you, and who has made you holy by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

          Jesus is the personal, living God who intervenes in the experience of His people with a revelation of His power. He rebuked the wind and commanded the sea, “Be silent! Put a muzzle on it and stay that way!” The wind stopped. There was a great calm. “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” He is the God-Man, Jesus, the Christ. He is the Savior who suffers and dies, who rises from the dead to give forgiveness and life to people. He is the One who cares for you, showing to you how much the Father in heaven cares for you. This is God, the Father Almighty, who has made you, who has richly given you everything that you need to support this body and life, who continues to defend you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil (Small Catechism, First Article). Through the saving work of His One-of-a-Kind Son, God shows His fatherly heart to you—His love, His mercy, His care.

          But can you trust Him to be there in the midst of all that life throws at you? Can you really be sure that God won’t fall asleep on the job and abandon you? Yes. God the Father abandoned His only Son Jesus on the cross so that you would never ever be forsaken by Him. His promises are true. “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5 ESV). “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20 ESV). With the faith of St. Paul, we also can be confident that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39 ESV).

          These are Gospel promises from God Himself to you that are yours in Christ Jesus. Truly, we can sing with faith the words of the Psalmist, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8 ESV). This is the God and Savior who has not given us a spirit of fear, but “of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). This is the God who forgives all our sins on account of the saving blood of Jesus Christ, the God who calls us His own children, inheritors of life everlasting and all the blessings of His eternal kingdom. He is the God and Savior who is with you by the power of the Holy Spirit in the great calms and in the great storms of life, who invites you in faith, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Ps. 50:15 ESV).

          Ships nearing a dangerous shore in a violent storm throw out an anchor. It keeps the vessel from being driven toward the rocks that line the shore and from being dashed to pieces on them, and it holds the bow of the ship straight into the wind so that the onrushing waves are cut in two and do not strike the ship sideways and swamp it. Your Christian faith holds safely in the midst of the storms of life onto Jesus Christ, your anchor sure. Thus in faith we say:

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;

In ev’ry high and stormy gale My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.

                                                                                   Text: Public domain

Amen.

         


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