July 9, 2006
5th Sunday After Pentecost
Pastor Tim Smith
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, â€œLet us go over to the other side.â€ 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, â€œTeacher, donâ€™t you care if we drown?â€ 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, â€œQuiet! Be still!â€ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, â€œWhy are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?â€ 41 They were terrified and asked each other, â€œWho is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!â€ (NIV)
WHATâ€™S been the best year of your life? The year that, when you reminisce, you think about that year. Maybe for you, itâ€™s a year of High School or college. Maybe itâ€™s a time when you served in the military, or took a trip overseas. I think about 1995 â€“ the year we got engaged and married, the same year I graduated from Northwestern college, the same year I started my time at the Seminary, and the year I go my first A in Greek. When we truly think about it, those great years in our past are often filled with change or transition. Theyâ€™re years that define us later on. For Jesus, 28 was one of those years. I donâ€™t mean when he was 28 years old (he was probably about 32). I mean the year 28 AD. We call it the YEAR OF POPULARITY, and it was more like the Summer and Fall of Popularity â€“ the second or middle year of our Lordâ€™s ministry on earth. Jesus had already spent a year preaching and teaching and performing a small number of miracles â€“ that year is described in the opening chapters of Johnâ€™s Gospel. Then, Matthew, Mark and Luke jump in and contract the events between Jesusâ€™ baptism and the calling of the first four disciples, and itâ€™s the Call of those four, Andrew, Peter, James and John that really began the second year of his ministry. This year, Jesus had called all Twelve of his Apostles, preached the Sermon on the Mount, and had begun teaching in a new way â€“ through parables. And he had explained the Kingdom of Heaven â€“ the way God gathers believers â€“ through parables like the Sower and his Seed, the Lamp on a stand, the Growing Seed, and the Mustard Seed. Now, it seems as if it was the very same day Jesus preached the Parable of the Mustard Seed (or maybe he had preached all these parables on the same day) that as evening came down, Jesus wanted to cross over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee.
Jesusâ€™ objective was an area called the Gerasenes, and he was going there to find a man in the tombs and heal him. But our text doesnâ€™t quite take us that far today. Our text just takes us out onto the Lake, this remarkable lake we call the Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is also called Lake Kinnereth because itâ€™s shaped a little like a Kinnereth or â€œHarp.â€ Itâ€™s really shaped like your fist. Look at the palm of your right hand. Now make a fist but donâ€™t move your hand. Thatâ€™s the shape of the Sea of Galilee â€“ and Jesus and his Disciples were traveling by boat across from the knuckle of your ring finger (Capernaum) across (East Southeast) to the base of your thumb (Gergesa).
Itâ€™s surrounded by high hills â€“ and the geography of the area can help us to understand something about this story. There are cuts, ravines, through those hills around the Lake, and when the wind blows miles away there might be no warning on the lake at all â€“ a blue sky above and a calm sea below. The facts of meteorology make sudden storms inevitable. Cool Mediterranean air is drawn through these hills and ravines and clashes with the low, hot and humid air that hangs over the Lake, and bang! Suddenly a storm will hit â€“ and even experienced sailors, as most of the apostles were, can get caught.
This time, Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat. The boat kept on repeated the same motion â€“ rise on a wave, roll, then be caught by the wind, list over again, and dip down the back of the wave.
On and on, over and over again. It mustâ€™ve been hard to keep their footing and keep from getting washed overboard each time to bow dipped back down and the listing ship was engulfed in the green water, the deck sometimes completely under the spray of the sea.
You and I both know what happened. They woke Jesus up, he spoke â€“ just spoke â€“ to the wind and the waves: Silent. Be Still. And the sea became as smooth as glass.
This is the God who made the sea, and the wind, and everything else we face in our lives.
God solved the problem of the storm with his word â€“ a word he spoke himself.
How many of our problems are to be solved, not by us speaking, but by God speaking? Our task in life isnâ€™t to talk and talk and talk and give orders. Itâ€™s to listen to God.
Think about the troubles we sometimes have â€“ all couples have â€“ in marriage. When things are going the smoothest, itâ€™s when weâ€™re listening to each other. And on the other side of that, when things are the roughest â€“ itâ€™s usually when weâ€™re not listening to each other, and on top of that, weâ€™re not listening to God, either.Think about that â€“ in the most difficult storms of our lives, the thing that brought the storm on in the first place is most often our own self-centeredness. And the thing that makes the storm get worse, it focusing on me â€“ how bad my life is, how rough my day has been, how bad my problems are. And when the world doesnâ€™t drop everything to help me with my problems, thatâ€™s when the RISEâ€“ROLLâ€“LISTâ€“DIP of our lives becomes more than we can handle. We shut out everything else because the roar of our troubles and the gale of the issues coming at us are overwhelming. And it seems like it’s all we can do to hang on. And weâ€™re not listening.
Weâ€™re not listening.
One of the problems that people have when they listen is that they donâ€™t know how or when to listen. We tend to cram our own ideas in between the lines of what other people say because we think we can figure out more or jump ahead to the end before they get there with their words and have a solution. But we miss what theyâ€™re actually saying along the way.
Do we do that with God, too? Do we give up on listening to God because we think we know what heâ€™s going to say to us, and therefore we can just skip ahead to the next part?God speaks to us in one place â€“ in his word, the Bible. In our passage today, Jesus says five things. The first is â€œLetâ€™s go over to the other side.â€ Then there are two short commands: â€œQuietâ€ and â€œBe still.â€ And then two questions: â€œWhy are you so afraid?â€ and â€œDo you still have no faith?â€ Now, it might be tempting to string together a theology of storms from these five sentences from Jesus â€“ but donâ€™t fall into the easy trap of thinking that only Jesusâ€™ words in the Bible are Godâ€™s words. Everything here is the word of God. Jesus was teaching his disciples about trust, and he was bringing their trust right into their faces with his last question: Do you still have no faith? But the whole story was recorded by Mark for us all to see that TRUST is an important component of faith, right along with knowing what Godâ€™s word says and knowing that itâ€™s true. But also, we see the one we trust in â€“ Jesus Christ.
Jesus has taken the messes we get ourselves into â€“ the disintegrating conversations, the self-centeredness, the mistrust, the jumping to conclusions before sentences are finished â€“ and all our other fatal relationship fiascoes â€“ and he has removed our guilt. He has erased the blackboard tally marks of our sins and washed the board clean, even.
We are forgiven in Jesus. And Jesus keeps on telling us that. Donâ€™t forget that the person you listen to today is also forgiven in Jesus â€“ a forgiven child of God.
Let that be the hearing aid you listen with today: This person is forgiven, too.
Keep listening to God. His word â€“ his, not ours, is what calmed the storm.