The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost –
Scripture Reading: Mark 4:35-41
Jesus Calms the Storm
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Sermon: “Stormy Weather”
There are times in life when the biggest part of wisdom is knowing what not to say, as this clip clearly shows.
Christians aren’t exempt from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, either. We all have our own “Niagara Falls” moments.
Mark Sandlin writes for Sojourners magazine. In one of his columns, he listed ten things Christians can’t say while following Jesus. I’m going to steal a few of his “Niagara Falls” moments for the faithful, and then add one of my own.
Everything happens for a reason.
Sandlin says this is a very specific understanding of how God interacts with the world, directing everything. God must have a reason for mass murders and for other senseless acts of violence.
If you stub your toe on the doorframe, Sandlin says, it must be because God wanted you to smite your toe.
This way of seeing God turns us into puppets. We’re all God’s little playthings who don’t have any free will. Sandlin asks, “Do you really think a god needs toys? If so, do you really think we’re the best toys God could make to play with?”
God needed another angel.
Rather than speak for my own painful personal experience hearing this offered as supposed words of comfort, I’ll just quote Sandlin.
God loves you. God loves your loved ones. God is coming for your loved ones. You think it hurt when God smote your toe? Just wait ’til God rips out your heart. But it’s OK. They needed another angel in heaven.
See? All better!
Really? No, of course not. Now that you understand what you’re saying, can we just stop it?
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
How about walking in the shoes you’re grateful not to be in for just a minute? Are they where they are because they lack the grace of God that others receive? Does God pick and choose whom grace lands upon, intentionally withholding it from some people?
I know that people who say this don’t mean it that way, but that’s what they’re saying—even if indirectly. Feel free to be thankful for where you are, but let’s stop heaping coals on other people shoulders—even if unintentionally.
Here are three words I’d like to add to Sandlin’s list: “I don’t care.”
“I don’t care” has become a common non-answer to almost any kind of question—where to eat, what to watch on television, or how to rearrange the furniture.
Lots of times, “I don’t care,” really means, “I don’t have an opinion—but I know you do.”
“I don’t care” can also mean, “What you’re asking me doesn’t really matter to me.” I truly don’t care, for example, who wins the World Cup, though some certainly do.
Sadly enough, there are people who truly don’t care about anything or anyone other than themselves. Other people’s problems are… Well, other people’s problems. They might even go so far as to say, paraphrasing a popular turn of phrase, “It stinks to be you.”
People can go through life with that kind of nasty, selfish attitude until they are the “you” in “It stinks to be you.” Then, suddenly, “I don’t care,” is the last thing they want to hear.
All of which brings us to our scripture lesson today. In it, the disciples accuse Jesus, of all people, of not caring about them.
As chapter 4 of Mark’s gospel opens, it’s been another busy day of teaching for Jesus. The crowds are so large there along the Sea of Galilee that he’s forced into a boat and speaks, a short distance offshore, all day long.
By the time evening came, he was certainly tired and probably needed a break from the crowds. The disciples and Jesus left them behind and headed out across the Sea of Galilee. There, they faced one of the violent, sudden storms for which the lake is still known.
With the boat in danger of going under, the disciples rushed to the stern, where Jesus had peacefully slept through all the commotion.
Shaking him awake, they shouted, “Jesus, what’s wrong with you? WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Don’t you even care?”
Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
On a recent hospital visit, I heard a doctor tell someone not to listen to “Dr. Google.” Anyone ever paid him or her a visit?
You know how it goes. A stomach ache turns into some obscure tropical disease that, somehow, you managed to catch.
Everyday aches and pains become messengers of doom, with Dr. Google cheerfully supplying any worst-case scenarios our worrying and overthinking don’t come up with on their own.
Psychologists call this catastrophizing, imagining the worst. If we aren’t careful, before we know it we’ll the ones screaming at Jesus, “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE—don’t you care?”
This is a picture of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela. It sees storms like this one about 300 nights a year, with 40,000 bolts of lightning, on average, per night. Weather plays a part, as do geography and humidity. It’s a spectacular show but, on the Catatumbo River, there’s always a storm.
There is always a storm—if not on the Catatumbo River, then in each of our lives. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be fearless superheroes of the faith. If that were the case, why does Scripture spend so much time telling us not to be afraid, even in moments of great joy?
✓ In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of extraordinary joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2: 8-11)
✓ When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him….As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” (Mark 16:1-6)
Jesus doesn’t ask us to be fearless Christians or, for that matter, perfect Christians. Notice that, despite his disciples’ fear and lack of faith, the storm still stopped.
What Christ does ask of us, as he asked of those first disciples, is not to let fear rule our lives. Jesus calls on us to face our fears trusting that he’ll weather life’s storms with us, believing that he cares about us and will act.