Sunday, June 21, 2009

stuck in the boat in a storm

Well I missed the post this week, but I do have some sermon notes so I'll paste them in here.

“ok, admit it, you’ve been in the boat. . .we’ve all been in the boat at some point.
We were taking a normal trip across the lake, or across town.
It was a normal drive on a normal day.
Suddenly, the waves of crisis rise and threaten to swamp the boat.
Maybe it was a car that crashed into yours,
Or a call from your family with shocking news
Or a piece of mail that turned your life upside down.
It could’ve been the sudden end of a job or the death of a loved one.
Maybe it was a diagnosis for you or serious trouble for a family member.
Whatever happened it was overwhelming and potentially life changing.
Do you remember that day? Can you still see the giant waves and feel the water flooding the boat?
When it happens, we sound just like the disciples,
We cry out, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

It is a natural human response to cry out to God, even if our prayer is only an “O God, help me!”
The disciples cry echoes those we hear in the Psalms, written generations ago.

“Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! (v. 24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” Ps. 44:23-24

“Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord!” Ps. 35:23

“Rouse yourself, come to my help and see!” Ps. 59:4b

When our boat is threatened and the waves look like something from the movie, A Perfect Storm, we call out to our Lord and our God.

Communication is always good, any counselor will tell you such. The same is true for communication with God. Calling on God in times of trouble is natural and proper. It is best when part of an on-going communication like daily prayer, but it is good at anytime to talk with God because God welcomes us and desires to be close to us.

Notice (in the story) that Jesus doesn’t wake up and chastise the disciples for rousing him nor for asking for help. He first rebukes the storm. He does so with the same words that he uses to exorcise demons. He commands demons to cease and be silent, and they do.
The Divine Power within Jesus is stronger than the evil, which was seen as the root cause of demons and their uncontrollable behavior. Jesus has power over chaos just as the Creator did in the beginning of the earth.
“the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God* swept over the face of the waters. Then God said,”
KJV says, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

We might look closer at this story. As short as it is, there are details that help us see Jesus and more importantly understand who he is.
• Jesus wants to go across the lake, which is predominantly Gentile territory. We know Jesus’ mission is primarily to Jews, but he is not excluding anyone and this trip foreshadows the later activity of the church. Jesus crosses lakes and crosses boundaries so he can minister to everyone. It was certainly important for Mark’s original readers to hear this message of inclusion when many of them were not Jews.
• Jesus is tired and goes to sleep which shows us his full humanity. We worship the risen and exalted Lord yet it is important for us to remember in his humanity for that was and is, God’s way of connecting with God’s children. Jesus needed to rest. And in his rest we see the trust at the core of his life.
• His sound sleep implies his trust in a watchful God AND it implies trust in his disciples. You don’t curl up and go to sleep in a boat if you don’t feel safe in the hands of those in charge of keeping it afloat.
• Jesus trusts in the skills and judgment of these men who are familiar with the sea. Certainly they have been in troubled waters before and got thru them.

Jesus trusts in God and trusts in his disciples. Which may make their lack of faith seem even greater until we look closer.
Did you notice that Jesus didn’t say, “there is nothing to be afraid of.” Jan Richardson of Painted says
“The disciples were right to feel afraid. Yet their perception of reality was defined solely by the storm and only increased their experience of being overwhelmed. The presence of the storm was not the whole truth of their situation.”

But they began to panic and when we panic, judgment becomes compromised. Our ability to act with decisiveness slips and we tend to become RE- active. When adrenaline flows, ‘Fight or flight’ is our response. When they REacted, IN FEAR and PANIC, the disciples lost the ability to use their experience in the situation.

Jesus calms both the waves and the disciples. THEN he turns and asks for the source of their fears.
He had faith in them, he has faith in God. Do they NOT YET have faith?
Implied in the way he asks (at least in the Greek) is his trust that they WILL come to faith, even if they are not quite there yet. “Have you still no faith?”

And what does faith look like when a crisis hits?
What did you do when your boat swamped?
What happened after the “O God, help me!”

“Living in denial is not the same as having faith. Whatever the sources of our anxiety, faith helps to provide the tools we need to maintain our vision and to see the truth within the waves that seek to command our whole attention. Says Jan Richardson, Faith asks what is defining our reality?”
Faith challenges us to cling to the One who has power over the chaos that is swirling around us. In fact, God’s power can even be found within it.
Perhaps it is hard for us to picture this scene in today’s world. We find it hard to believe -or at least understand- this story of miraculous calming.
• It is hard for us to get our heads around miracle stories. We may not typically be literal readers of the Bible, but we hear these stories in a way that categorizes them as something that happened in biblical times and couldn’t happen today.
o A God who has power over the natural world is ok in theory but how do we really account for times when God doesn’t stop the chaos or the hurricane and people die. In our “post-Enlightenment eyes, nature works by fixed laws and anything miraculous in the natural world is an infringement of these laws. God then becomes an occasional intruder into the world. We either “have faith” or we don’t
o Intruder status limits God to a part-time player in our lives who we call on when crisis hits, “God save us” when at other times God is irrelevant.
o In this worldview, is it no wonder that people today find God incredible or not worthy of faith.”

Yet what if we remember that God is not an “intruder” in our world, but we in God’s. At least that’s the closer to the truth we can’t comprehend. God is in nature itself and do we dare limit God to what we can accept and explain? Or do we prefer to say God is only what we CAN’T explain – at least now, in this century.

Yesterday, at the jr high conference, I showed clips from Al Gore’s movie an Inconvenient Truth and within it were pictures of the earth from space.
It is incredible to see the globe on which we live. And we think we understand it, now. – when truly we are still learning about the miracle of creation and the beginnings of the universe.

How can we comprehend the creation of a human or a gnat when a spacecraft travels far out into the galaxy and looks back at the speck, which is earth.
God is far greater than anything we can imagine.

That’s what the disciples discovered in the storm. When Jesus enters in, their eyes are opened to the presence of the Divine in their midst and they are filled with fear, the kinda scared, and VERY awed, reaction humans have when they are near the Holy.

When Jesus asks the disciples, “why they don’t yet have faith?” he knows they have a lifetime of learning ahead of them but the time is coming when they will have to act on what they DO know. So Jesus keeps teaching them and leading them and TRUSTING in them so they can learn to trust in him and the God from whom he comes.
We are no different than the disciples in the boat.
We’re still trying to understand the Divine Jesus.
We really want to have faith. – we know we need it.

Because we deal with storms all the time and When Jesus enters in, there’s hope for calmer days and clearer vision, even in situations that need a miracle.

A man or woman can find a way out of addiction.
A world on the brink of war, takes a step toward peace.
Or You find a way to live, in spite of the death of a spouse that devastated your life.
Leaders of countries who have no official relations, might find a way to speak.
A path that was not visible before, in the panic of the crisis, become clear.
Or maybe A few loaves of bread feed a multitude of people.

Are any of these things less than miraculous?

It is time for our vision to clear so we can walk in faith.
It is time for us to recognize the holy in our midst, not limit that Spirit to a 2,000 year old story.
It is time for us to claim the assurance that Jesus offers.

Do we YET have faith?

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