“Get In the Boat”

21 June 2015

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester and West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He 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?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

 

Prayer.

 

“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asks.

 

Why are you afraid?

There are many things in this world that frighten us.

This being Father’s day,

I recall the feeling before each of my sons was born;

Wondering if I’d be a good enough father.

I was afraid of failing,

Of not loving each child enough,

Of not passing to each the values and faith

My father had passed on to me.

My fears, so far, – knock wood – have proved to be baseless.

God has shown me the way.

God has provided.

 

Why are you afraid?

A gunman murders Christians in prayer

Simply because of hatred

(The only disease worse than cancer).

There is

No difference if the hatred is in the Middle East

On the shores of the Mediterranean,  

Or a sister church in Charlestown, South Carolina.

We are afraid of random acts of barbarism,

Intentional acts of terrorism,

Even the startling acts of nature run amuck.

We fear that life is a gamble

Every time we walk out of the house in the morning.

The mindless drunk driver,

The moronic fundamentalist,

Or the hatred seeping pressure cooker bomber;

They’re all causing us to fear,

To hibernate,

To gather weapons,

To throw down neighbors

And build up walls.

Any one, or anything,

Can end life as we know it in a millisecond

And there isn’t a thing we can do to stop it.

We are afraid

Even though God has provided silent protection all of our days.

We are here today,

Because God has wanted us to be here today.

By His mercy,

Our fears have been unjustified.

 

Why are you afraid?

The older we all get the more aware we become of our mortality.

Family and friends receive that dreaded life ending,

Often life defining,

Diagnosis,

And we stand vigil

Hoping and praying with all our heart

That they survive.

Yet, many have gone,

Disappeared,

And we can only hope and pray we meet them again

Gathered around God’s heavenly throne.

There is no greater fear than

The harm or death

Of a child, grandchild, or soul mate.

Fear can be paralyzing.

When will the blade drop?

I wonder with a sense of fear

My own mortality,

Of pain, suffering, and the potential of life cut too short.

With every sunrise,

With every breath and heartbeat,

Our fears have yet to be realized,

Wholly and simply

By the grace of God.

 

Why are you afraid? Jesus asks when he is roused.

It’s it obvious?

The boat is sinking and we will all drown!

 

Every time we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion,

We begin with a recitation about our God of creation.

Out of chaos,

God created all things.

From the far corners of the cosmos,

God gathered the seas and filled them with life.

God raised the land,

And filled it with plenty.

God created the wind and filled it with birds of the air.

God created man and woman in God’s own image.

All this is God’s!

When seas roll and the wind howl

And our ship is tossed towards the rocks,

Jesus commands, “Peace! Be still!”

Our God, Father and Son,

Created it

And can still it

- SNAP -

In a New York minute.

 

Let there be no doubt,

When the police officer comes to your door,

When standing in the ICU,

Even when looking down the barrel of a gun (God forbid),

Jesus is with you,

Ready to lose his thunder:

“Peace! Be still!”

But, we protest,

Evil still acts,

Cancer still strikes,

Alzheimer’s steals,

Bad things happen to good people,

And hatred still is sucking humanity dry!

“Peace! Be still!” Jesus commands the wind and the sea.

 

“Have you still no faith?” Jesus asks.

But I don’t want to be an adult.

I don’t want to grow up.

I just want to be left alone.

I just want to return to the simplicity of spiritual childhood.

 

Ah! There we have it.

Jesus teases the fear right to the surface,

Just as he instantly saved his disciples and filled them with great awe.

We long to return to Egypt, even though we were slaves to Pharaoh.

We want to go back to our “Leave It to Beaver” household of our childhood.

We remember life when it appeared simpler and more pure.

We just want that for our families and ourselves.

 

“Have you still no faith?”

Buck up, Buttercup,

Jesus is commanding today.

You’d better get in the boat and stay in the boat,

Because the storms of life will take your life

If you’re not secure in the boat.

Get in the boat,

Which symbolizes the Church,

Because this boat protects us.

This boat

Holds us together

Through every storm.

Get in the boat and stay in the boat.

Oh, it’s tempting to leave this boat,

To fish other seas,

To explore on our own,

But there is no fate quicker than death,

Than be caught outside the boat.

 

“Have you still no faith?”

Buck up, Buttercup.

The consequence of sin is death.

Biology drives cellular senescence, damage, and death.

Physics drops the anvil, the piano, the random bolt of lightning.

We try to rid the world and our lives of sin.

We attempt to prolong life even at the expense of living.

We spend billions in the attempt to create a risk free world.

Yet, in the end,

We can’t save others.

We can’t even save ourselves.

 

That’s why we’ve been given a Savior.

This boat is Christ’s boat.

This is where Christ resides.

This is where Christ abides.

 

The same God who created the wind and seas can still them.

The same God who granted free will to man and woman to sin

Sent his Son to wash that same sin away.

The same God who breathed life into our lungs and gave us His Spirit,

Is the same God who will one day,

Safely bring each of us home.

 

Sometimes we float lazily on inner tubes along this river of faith.

Other times we batten down the hatches, hoping to survive the hurricane.

The apostle Peter accurately reports,

“… that with the Lord

One day is as a thousand years,

And a thousand years as one day.”

- 2 Peter 3:8

There isn’t a storm Jesus hasn’t stilled.

There isn’t a gale that God hasn’t quelled.

Spiritually, it’s time to grow up,

Claim our Savior,

And dive deep into discipleship.

Let us always

Have the will and the faith

To cry out to Jesus in the midst of our storms

With confidence

That Jesus has come to save us.

Amen.