Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for Pentecost 4 ~ June 21, 2015

Mark 4:35-41

“What you see is what you get.”  David called that out to the bully Goliath after he brought sandwiches to his brothers in order to report back to his dad how things were going in a scrap with the Philistines.  Although the king’s armour was too big, he decided he could meet the task just as he was.

“What you see is what you get.”  Paul told the skittish Christians in the church at Corinth.  They preferred comfort and convenience.  He reminded them of his life of following Christ and told them he was an open book.  Christ takes us as we are and we open our hearts to others.  It’s not easy, he says, but that’s how it works.

The disciples were really alarmed in the boat with Jesus.  He was asleep and they were terrified.  They took him “just as he was.”  He wouldn’t join them in their fear.  Jesus always accompanies us in the same way: mercy, care and presence as we move from one place to another in life.  “What you see is what you get.”  Where are you going?

 

the other side…

 

As he travels, Jesus directs his followers to support others when times are hard and offer help.  So the disciples get into the boat. They are headed to the other side — for other adventures with people but those journeys to another side of life can be scary. 

 

For example, we’ve been drawn together to support refugees and it’s a lot of work to help just one family. But there are 20 million refugees in the world, most of them children. We challenge environmental hazards like Pope Francis has done with his new encyclical  — some people cheer and others are upset.  A young man shoots nine people after a Bible study in Charleston for racial reasons.  Some scream for the death penalty and others speak forgiveness.  It’s all enough to make a little group just want to pull church walls around them and form a club.  That’s what St. Paul was challenging.  It’s not easy to keep an open heart as we follow Christ.

 

Taking the next steps in life can be daunting.  Many of you have lost loved ones, have changed location and downsized, have significant health issues and will need to make more changes.  A painful question whispers as we go from one place to another: “God, do you even care?” Sometimes, the struggle with everything feels like it’s too much and we throw that question at God, but as I often say to people, God has big shoulders and can take it.  We will get through as long as we don’t jump out of the boat.

 

Don’t you care?

 

Worry fills our lives. Stress management experts say that only 2% of our worrying time is productive.  The rest of this time we fret and fume: 40% on things that never happen; 35% on things that can’t be changed; 15% on things that turned out better than expected; and 8% on useless, petty worries.

 

We try to do the best we can.  Personal storms involve finances, relationships, and health issues.  We get advice, use our resources, do everything possible — but just can’t fix it all.  The waves come over the side and like the disciples in the boat we end up frantic.  The one who claims to care the most is quiet and passive.  Doesn’t God care about my troubles?  Where is the miracle?  Why isn’t this fixed?  I`m so scared.  Is God asleep?  Is God absent? Am I all alone?  I’m just afraid, that’s all.  I don’t know what to do.  And so we see the disciples upset and shaking Jesus.

 

I remember hearing from a lifeguard that when trying to save someone who is struggling from drowning, that person may first have to be subdued.  Shouting or a wrestler’s grip may need to be applied to combat the fear.

 

Maybe the storm is inside rather than outside. When Jesus says, “Peace, be still!” that message  could be for us.  Faith deals with our hearts more than our circumstances.    The calm for our panic is who is with us.  That is faith.  It is trust in the one who cares quietly and deeply even though we may be flapping our arms in worry.

 

What are you afraid of?  People tell me: death, being poor, being discarded, being disabled, being alone.  Those things are scary.  They are real fears.  Jesus never says,“there is nothing to be afraid of.” However, he reminds us of his presence and draws attention to faith.

 

Why are you afraid?

 

Jesus looked up from his snooze in the stern, saw the disciples flailing about, almost tipping the boat in their distress and said, “Enough!”  The sea and the wind responded first.  What about the disciples?  Did they seem sort of crazy?  Were they thinking, “What if this happens? What if that happens?”  Fear was beating them.  They needed to get back on track... and it was only by trusting who was in the boat with them. When they had peace, everything else gradually calmed down as well.

 

Is it simplistic to let go of fear and trust that God will take care of things we cannot fix?  Is it ridiculous to do what we can and then cast our cares on the Lord — like the farmer sleeping while the seeds grow in his field (from last week)?  What do we need in life that settles us down and calms our storms?  Is it that we are loved?  That we are not alone?  That no one, no force, no trouble, no enemy, no disease, no catastrophe can keep God from loving us?

 

That is not crazy.  That is what Jesus calls faith, and it allows us to get to the other side of life… where we have enough peace to live and even help others one person at a time.  Christ will be there as well.

 

What we see is what we get. Jesus hasn’t changed, hasn’t left and hasn’t forgotten us.  As we quiet, we can hear his voice often coming to us through one who loves us and is close at hand. That’s how the Spirit of Christ works: one person helping another. It calms for our storms.  It’s the encouragement for  another side of life…

 

Turn to someone and speak the words that help each of us move forward:

 

“Christ is with us — we’ll get through this together.”

 

Amen.                               

 

Click here for sermon archives.