“Seeking Calm in the Midst of a Storm”

Mark 4:35-41

June 24, 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 4:35-41 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=396498093)

Prayer.

 

The easy way out for any preacher of this text

Is to state the obvious:

Jesus stilling the storm proves

 

Jesus is master over all things;

Even master over the forces of nature and creation.

This establishes the Divine identity of Jesus Christ

For every recipient of the Gospel, forever more.

 

Simple.

Straight forward.

I think it’s easy enough for everyone to get it.

Throw in a nice illustration,

Give it three points,

And wrap it up in under 20 minutes.

I may have delivered that sermon once or twice before.

 

The identity and divinity of Jesus

Are stated and restated with such frequency in the Gospel

It causes every serious student engaged in intentional discipleship

 

To explore further,

To dig deeper.

The Gospel invites us to ask,

To seek,

To discern the will of God,

To listen,

And to pray.

 

When it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

Never be satisfied with the easy or the obvious.

 

Of course,

Jesus stilling the storm reveals

A metaphor exposing deeper truth.

A sudden, great windstorm that threatens life and limb is the metaphor.

The deeper truth about God,

God’s kingdom and our place in it,

Serves as a hidden gem;

God’s gift for us to find.

 

Storms come in all shapes and sizes,

Differ in context and location, and

Range from the predictable to the unpredictable.

Storms can maim.

Storms can kill.

 

Storms on the Sea of Galilee

In the time of Jesus

… and absent the benefits of modern day weather forecasting …

were quick and unexpected.

Storms would sweep in from the Mediterranean,

Flow over the towering ridges that surround the Sea of Galilee

And accelerate across its surface.

Crossing the expansive lake at night, in a storm, must have been terrifying.

 

Terrifying, like a woman I spoke with in North Carolina two weeks ago.

She’s on the staff of a large United Methodist Church in a suburb of Houston, TX.

 

She was telling me about Hurricane Harvey

The devastation it wrought,

And the pain it continues to bring,

To the local population.

 

Houston is the fourth largest metropolitan region in the United States.

Hurricane warnings went out days before landfall.

“Why didn’t people evacuate?” I asked.

“Too many people and not enough roads,” she replied.

“By the time the magnitude of the impending devastation sunk in

It was too late.

The water rose so fast

The safest place was your roof.”

 

40 inches of water in four days.

One hundred twenty-five billion in damages.

Harvey is tied with Katrina as the costliest tropical hurricane in US history.

 

Terrifying.

Riding out a hurricane perched on your roof.

Truly terrifying.

 

Where, then, is Christ and His Church?

 

The Body of Christ is stilling the storm of Hurricane Harvey

By the thousands of local churches that have been sending work teams

To muck out houses,

Rebuild and restore families and neighborhoods,

Especially among those least able

To right their own sinking ship;

The poor, the homeless, the last and least, the dependent, the ill.

 

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded.

Shovels shoveled.

Hammers hammered.

Saws sawed.

Work continues to this day,

And will for years to come.

The wind and the seas are being calmed

One person,

One family,

One neighborhood

At a time.

 

The storm as a metaphor invites us to push it further.

 

An expansive reading of all four Gospels of Jesus Christ

Reveals the people of Galilee, Samaria, and Judah in the time of Jesus

Faced many of the same storms that you and I face today:

Marriage and divorce, raising children, caring for aging parents.

Illness; both chronic illness and mortal diseases.

Death in the family.

Disability, such as blindness, seizures, a withered hand, an inability to walk.

A society of injustice and inequality: clean and unclean, status, power, authority, and wealth.

People then are not very different than you and me.

 

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded.

The lame man stood, picked up his mat, and followed him.

The eyes of the blind man were opened.

Leprosy was healed.

The woman’s hemorrhaging ceased.

Demons were cast out.

A half-breed, immigrant Samaritan

crossed the road to bind up a victim of a robbery,

The dead were raised back to life.

The wind and seas were calmed.

 

The essential truth that Christ reveals

Is that God sides with victims of injustice,

The poor and marginalized,

The sick and mourning,

The immigrant and foreigner in our land.

 

God is offended by greed and the misuse of power,

By selfish and self-serving behavior.

God is offended by sin and the unrepentant,

In spite of the fact that

Forgiveness and salvation are

His gift of love to all the world.

 

Being the pastoral shepherd of two congregations

Exposes me to the storms of life that many of you are also facing:

 

Death and disability,

Mourning and grief,

Sin, regret, and temptation,

Denial and betrayal,

Isolation and loneliness.

 

Storms of life are

Raising children, caring for aging parents, all-the-while staying employed.

Storms of life are

Seeing adult children move away, a beloved dog or cat being put down, the death of a mom or a dad.

Storms of life are

Repeated hospitalizations, repeated cycles of rehab, endless visits to doctor offices, increase frailty, increased dependence, social isolation.

 

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded.

Prayers go out and are offered up.

Our church family gathers with

Acceptance and support,

Presence and love.

We reach out with hugs and casseroles,

With cards and meat platters.

We meet over coffee or on a quiet backyard deck.

Pain is noticed, wounds are bound and cared for.

Tears are dried.

The Body of Christ abides with us

And in us for others

To still the storms of life.

 

Church is about belonging.

We belong.

We belong with God

And we belong with one another.

 

Are you daring?

Are you courageous?

Come with me.

The Gospel today calls us to

Push the storm as a metaphor

One last step.

 

Disciples of Christ

Were part of a larger Jewish society

That was caught in the whirlwind of a social hurricane.

Rome occupied the nation,

Held captive sacred institutions,

Taxed, dominated, and brutally suppressed dissent.

Jews would soon revolt and be put down,

Slaughtered, chased down like dogs,

Diaspora-ed to the far corners of the planet.

Christians would be driven underground,

Spreading in secret throughout the empire,

Living in fear of persecution and martyrdom.

 

Jesus and his followers lived their lives in the middle of a storm.

 

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded

Even as Peter struck out with his sword and cut off the slave’s ear.

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded

Even as he submitted to the humiliation of the cross.

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded

In his triumph over death and the grave.

“Peace! Be still!” Christ commanded

Even as he was whisked away and ascended into heaven.

 

In case you haven’t noticed

We are living in the middle of a social hurricane today.

 

Love of God and love of neighbor are at an all-time low.

Empathy for others is replaced with partisan stubbornness.

Rage is fanned by social media, 24-hour news channels,

Fake facts, fake news, and outright lies.

Listening is out of vogue.

Shouting is the new style.

Love is replaced by hatred, intolerance, and oppression.

 

The political storm is fracturing families and friends.

The raging storm is the fertile ground for evil to take root and spread.

The social hurricane threatens to fracture the very foundation of our society.

 

Is this what we want?

 

No?

Then stop it!

Stop feeding the beast.

Stop posting and boasting.

Stop arguing, fighting, blathering, and drawing a line in the sand.

Take your flag of honor out of the sand and don’t ever use it to make a stand again.

 

God is calling us to be better.

God is calling Christians and His Church to be better,

To rise above the sin of the world, to

Obey the command of Jesus:

“Peace! Be still!”

 

“Peace! Be still!”

Let peace begin with me.

Be the peace that spreads to our world;

Quenching its evil, poisonous, deadly firestorm;

Bringing stillness;

Placing us at the feet of Jesus.

 

Wouldn’t we rather want peace and stillness at the feet of Jesus?

I would.

 

Peace does not come at the expense of justice.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Rome:

 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

(Romans 12:2)

Just because we live in the world

Doesn’t mean we have to be conformed to it.

Chose differently.

Instead,

Live in the world and allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to renew our minds.

This is the path towards what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

 

I watch politics closely;

Yet, I fight with all my might to not be drawn into it.

I’d like to think that I’m more successful than not.

My politics are not Democrat or Republican,

Liberal or conservative,

Libertarian, Socialism, Communism,

Or any other brand of broad-brush -isms.

 

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My politic is the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

And I invite all Christ’s disciples to believe and behave likewise.

 

The Gospel tells us not to judge others, less we be judged.

Don’t hate the man or the woman;

If you must hate,

Hate behavior that is evil.

Despise behavior that is unbecoming of Jesus.

Rail and resist behavior that is unjust and oppressive,

Just as was agreed by us, or on our behalf,

At our baptismal waters.

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us to love God and love our neighbors,

To love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us.

A pragmatic defense doesn’t cut the mustard.

Contrary to popular believe, the Gospel isn’t naiveté and neither am I.

The Gospel is so revolutionary,

It seeks to turn the world upside down.

 

Jesus knows better.

Jesus was, is, and will forever remain relational,

Connected to us and invested in this world.

We are the Body of Jesus, the Body of Christ,

 

And it is only when we assert the politics of the Gospel

That the kingdom of God might be established on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Can you and I hear Jesus calling out in the midst of today’s storm?

“Peace! Be still!”

Is it possible to allow the peace that Christ brings

To calm the wind and the waves,

To bring peace and healing

To ourselves and our broken world?

 

Yes, Christ is Lord

Over heaven and earth,

Over all of creation.

Jesus is with us, always, able to bring peace and healing

To every storm we face in life.

As disciples of Jesus, we are his body, called to bring peace and healing

To others as they traverse the storms of life.

 

We’re all in this together.

 

Let us treat each other with respect and love,

As Christ’s own chosen and named.

We are called to be the peace,

To live the Gospel,

To transform the world.

 

You can do it;

I can do it;

If together, we so chose.

Amen.