Broad Brook Congregational Church
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2015
Mark 4: 35-41 Raging Waters, Calming Presence
Our reflection this morning is an African proverb: “Smooth seas do not make for a skillful sailor.” Navigating a boat through raging waters or stormy seas requires a skilled sailor. Navigating the storms of our lives or of our church requires a skillful sailor. For the disciples that skillful sailor was Jesus. For the early church undergoing persecution, Mark uses this miracle of Jesus to provide the good news they were in need of hearing: God would be present with them every step of the way. We need to hear that good news today as well as we are tossed and blown in the midst of life’s storms and raging waters.
Texas certainly knows what it is like to be in the midst of raging waters both literally and figuratively. The death toll, like the waters, continues to rise. Thursday’s news told of a two year old boy that was swept away in those raging waters. A house was literally swallowed up by the swollen river racing past it in Oklahoma. People’s lives have been turned upside down. What is the good news they long to hear? “Do not be afraid!” exclaims Jesus. That statement alone does not calm fears. Our brothers and sisters in the Mid-west are wondering how they will recover? Where will they live? How will all the destruction be cleaned up? What about the essentials of daily life: food, drink, clothing, and hygiene? How will they survive the overwhelming grief and despair? These people have every right to be afraid of their present circumstances. It is Jesus’ action that provides the good news.
What Jesus does is as important as what he says. Yes, he tells his disciples not to be afraid and to have faith but then he calms the storm. Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea saying: “Peace! Be still!” His mysterious power quiets the howling winds and the stormy sea and a dead calm ensues. God’s power to calm our fears by God’s presence with us in every case of “raging waters” is what the glorious good news of this story is about.
Charleston, SC is in the midst of a storm of pure evil; a storm of racial hatred carried out by an individual who has been taught to hate. Children have to be taught to hate.
A sacred place of worship was turned into a place of incomprehensible injustice. Our Story this morning cannot be turned into an assurance that nothing bad will ever happen. We know that to be untrue because of the evil that permeates our world. The message of Jesus’ calming the storm cannot be reduce to a warm, fuzzy comfort either. Some people will ask where God was on Wednesday night at the AME church in Charleston, SC? If we hear this message in its fullness, we can answer that question unequivocally. God was present with each and every one of those faithful individuals and will continue to be with them as they begin to heal.
Frederick Buechner puts it beautifully in a sermon. “As Jesus commanded his followers long ago: Go…Go for God’s sake, and for your own sake, too, and for the world’s sake. Climb into your little tub of a boat and keep going. Christ sleeps in the deepest selves of all of us, and…in whatever way we can call on him as the fisherman did in their boat to come awake within us and to give us courage, to give us hope, to show us, each one, our way. May he be with us especially when the winds go mad and the waves run wild, as they will for all of us before we’re done, so that even in their midst we may find peace, find him” (Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons).
Lest we focus too much on Jesus miracles and less on his teachings we may see him as just a miracle worker or as Scott Hoezee says, “A cosmic Mr. Fixit” (The Lectionary Commentary: The Gospels). How can we blame the disciples for being afraid? As a nation we share fear of terrorism, economic troubles, environmental damage, and war. We preachers will stand in pulpits across our nation and the world this morning and we will talk about Jesus stilling the wind and sea as we look out on our beloved congregations tossed on the stormy seas of health challenges, worries over their children, worries over elderly parents, job loss or changes, economic worries, retirement, fear of being alone, and death itself. There are also congregations that are worried about themselves as communities. This story is as pertinent to us as it was to the community of the early church.
This story was important enough to be included in all four Gospels! In every time of raging waters that make us anxious we hear the words “Do not be afraid!” But fear is not the last word. We need to remember who is in the boat with us as we navigate our storms. We have the best skillful sailor there is on board, God! In the midst of raging waters we have the presence of God who will grant us peace.