Sermon for June 20, 2021 from Pastor John
Sermon for June 20, 2021
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers and those who serve as father-figures in the congregation this morning. This is day to show special appreciation to our fathers, and for some of us we remember our dads who are no longer with us. My father had a long life living just a few weeks short of his 96th birthday. A memory I share is a little embarrassing for me. It involves Middle School and a class I failed. It was Gym class. I know what you are thinking, just how can anyone fail that class? You got your quarterly report card from your home room teacher with the grade written down. You would go from class to class and the teacher would write your grade. At that time grades were not letter grades but numbers. When it came to Gym class I presented my report card to the teacher. He asked me how many sit-ups I did during a Physical Fitness test. I said ‘50’ which was below the recommended amount by half. So the Gym teacher, whom I liked by the way, took out his red pen and wrote ‘70’ meaning failure. Now when I and siblings took report cards home dad studied them carefully. I was nervous because that red “70” stood out like a sore thumb. Dad wanted to know what that failing grade was all about. I told him I did not do enough sit-ups. Instead of going after me as being unfit he went after the Gym teacher as being unfit to teach. He went and complained going all the way up the hierarchy to the superintendent of schools. From what I can remember dad’s complaint of an unfair grade was heard with sympathy, but the administration would not have the grade changed. What I appreciate about dad was that if he thought something was unfair, he would speak out.
Pro Golfer Bubba Watson listed his priorities on Twitter describing himself as Christian, Husband, Daddy, and then pro-golfer. He and his wife have two adopted children and Watson says that joy of being a father far outweighs any professional success he had achieved. He took time off after the adoption of his first son to bond with him. He explained “I had to be there for my son, so golf was the farthest thing from my mind….Trying to be a good husband and a good dad was the most important thing.
Another memory of my dad was his reaction to storms, severe thunderstorms with high wind velocities. He would become hyper-alert and I can recall leading the family into the basement when trees outside were bending in the wind. In the gospel lesson we heard of Jesus’ behavior during storms, he sleeps. The lesson hinted at a long day for Jesus. He had spent the day by the Sea of Galilee, actually a large lake. The crowds had gathered all around as Jesus taught. At one time he told his disciples, the fishermen ones, to have a boat ready so he could climb in and teach without being crushed by the crowd. Jesus taught by the water and maybe that was good because the water could act to amplify his voice. But a boat was always at the ready.
Now it was evening and Jesus decided to go to the other side of the Lake. The text said he left the crowd behind and Jesus was in the boat, “just as he was” which was totally exhausted. Other boats joined the “Jesus boat”. Although it was night and usually peaceful a great windstorm arose resulting in high waves that threatened to swamp the boat. Jesus was in the stern of the boat where he found a cushion and was fast asleep even with howling winds and splashing waves. Even with commercial fishermen-disciples who knew how to handle boats, they were helpless in the storm. I don’t know how sturdy such a boat was made in first century Palestine, but it could not withstand the wind and waves and was soon to capsize and sink. In desperation they wake Jesus up and give him a piece of their mind: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing!” The disciples had witnessed Jesus’ power on land specifically with healing people of various diseases and sending demons packing. But now in the midst of a storm, they gave Jesus a failing grade, wondering if he actually cared if they lived or died.
In the Psalms, the Prayer Book of the Bible, you can find examples of desperate prayers for help with the people feeling like they were “sinking’ beneath the waves of their many troubles. In Psalm 44 the person at prayer is very bold in giving God a failing grade crying out: “Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.”
Have you ever given God a failing grade? We are taught to remember our baptisms daily, reminding ourselves that we are beloved children of God. We are people who pray remembering the promise of the scriptures “Cast all your anxieties on Jesus because he cares for you.” So it hurts when bad things happen. So in the midst of the storm, whatever that storm may be, we wonder if God has failed us, and if God is asleep at the switch.
After the disciples woke Jesus up he responded immediately and rebuked the wind and said to the pounding waves, Peace! Be still!” Then the wind died down completely and there was a dead calm. It is interesting what the text said; Jesus rebuked the storm commanding silence with the sense that Jesus muzzled the storm. If you recall earlier in the gospel of Mark, this is the language of exorcism. When a man with an unclean spirit began screaming at Jesus during a Sabbath service Jesus rebuked it and told it to be muzzled or silent. Also in Mark’s gospel Jesus told a little parable comparing himself to one who broke into the strong man’s house, tied him up, and rescued those kept captive. Jesus responded to the dangerous storm threatening lives as if he was dealing with Satan and evil. The point is Jesus was revealing his power, whether it be over evil or hurricane force winds on the Sea of Galilee. One commentator said, “The storm in this text is cosmic, demonic, and worthy of Jesus’ scaled up efforts…As strange as it may sound, Jesus is not offering therapy for our fears, but an exorcism for a world out of whack.”
After the dead calm by Jesus’ command, Jesus challenged his disciples saying, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Not only did Jesus rebuke the wind and the waves, but it sounds like a rebuke for his disciples too. We can understand the disciples in the boat for there are situations when we could answer why we are afraid. It sounded like Jesus was hard on his followers, who are human after all. They were overwhelmed with great awe asking the question: ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him.’ They called Jesus “teacher” but now were wondering if Jesus was more than a teacher. Jesus revealed power over Satan and demons, when Jesus told them to leave people alone, they had no choice but to leave. When Jesus said “Your sins are forgiven, the sins and any record of them were removed. When Jesus healed the sick he often would say, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” Jesus revealed himself to be the Son of God.
Jesus wants to give us an “F”, not for fail, but faith. We may wonder at times if Jesus is asleep and not caring, but may we remember Jesus ever remains in the boat with us. He will not opt out, cop out, or stop caring. It is worthy to pause and think of the words of St. Paul today: “we are treated as imposters, yet true; as unknown, yet well known; as dying, and see, we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” As an apostle Paul knew many kinds of storms: persecution, punishment, and imprisonment. The storms Paul mentioned usually meant the cruelties of others. Yet Paul did not quit because of faith, which is really the assurance of Jesus’ faithfulness: as bad as things can get, Jesus was with him and is with you. As we know, Jesus’ faithfulness did not mean he avoided pain and suffering. Jesus has compassion which means he shares the suffering. And on the cross, he took upon himself the sins of the world so we can be people of faith, assured of the steadfast love of God and the forgiveness of sins. By his resurrection from the dead, Jesus has stilled the storm of death, for even though we die, yet shall we live, and faith knows Jesus is with us for nothing can separate us from his love.
I have attended Sunday worship at Trinity Lutheran Church on Washington Island, part of Door County. This is an island in the Great Lakes, and there is a Light House not far on a nearby island. Hanging from the center of the ceiling at Trinity Church is a model of a great sailing ship. At Pioneer Lake we are near the water helping us remember that an ancient symbol for the church is a ship. The sanctuary is called the nave, from the Latin word for ship. Jesus is in the boat with us, our captain if you will. We listen to his instruction, the gospel which ever calls us to know that we are saved by grace through faith. Trusting our captain, our Lord and Savior, we are headed to the goal of the fulfilled Kingdom of God. The wind and the waves are obedient to Jesus revealing the power of the Creator, power of steadfast love, making you and me a new creation, people of faith.