“They Took him Just Like He Was!” Jesus Stills the Storm: Pentecost III, June 21, 2009 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA
Pentecost III – June 21, 2009 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA
Job 38.1-11 Psalm 107.1-3, 23-32 II Corinthians 6.1-13 Mark 4.3544
“They Took him Just Like He Was!”
Sometimes an old familiar text has words in it that you never noticed before. A few years ago in this gospel lesson it was “Jesus sleeping on a cushion.” This time it’s “[the disciples] took Jesus [into the boat] just as he was.” Jesus says, “Let’s go to the other side, [that is, of the Sea of Galilee], and leaving the crowd behind, they took him just as he was. And other boats were with him.”
That other boats were with him can easily stand for a little fleet of churches following Jesus, their sails trimmed and trying to stay with him. But perhaps “taking Jesus just as he was” and now, just as he is, brings us to the stormy side, out of our comfort zone and over to a place where we don’t know how to deal with the rising waves of chaos.
On one side of the sea were the Jews, like Jesus and his disciples, and on the other side were all the Gentiles. So there is Jesus taking his disciples out of their comfort zone and now us as well, to people very much unlike us, people who speak a different language, who eat different food, who have other values that are not like ours. We have to get to the principles underlying them, therefore, to the source of our values to be able to discriminate what is right and saving and what is wrong and destructive.
Well, it is no secret that our churches are like ships. The place where you are sitting is called a nave and navis is a ship in Latin. That’s where our word “Navy” came from. Now we come into our church and we want to be in our comfort zone, but Jesus pilots us into a storm where we feel completely unsafe. As a matter of fact, the wind and the waves start gushing over us and we fear that we will lose our lives and our church will sink.
And that is just how Jesus is. Jesus goes and touches lepers and heals them. Hey, we could catch that disease, just like all the brave souls that helped those with HIV and Aids instead of condemning them. You wish Jesus would see things the way we do, but he calls us to serve those who we feel endanger our lives.
For example, why should Jesus care for all those teenagers, with their baggy pants half-way down their buttocks, who don’t wear belts, because all the men in prisons are not allowed to have them? Ah, sure Jesus could send us to real little children, but try to reach out to teenagers and the young crowd! It will be one storm after another, one crisis after another. Add to that that we are grandparents and somehow mothers and fathers of the children have collapsed – how can Jesus call a church to serve those whose wind and waves wash over us completely and threaten to sink us to the bottom under uncontrollable chaos. That’s something we certainly do not need! But that is the way Jesus is!
A-way outside of our comfort zones are the lost ones who have substance addictions, for example. They are alcoholic or drug addicted, sex addicted, those caught up in drug violence, or just control freaks making our relationships impossible. How can Jesus pilot our church toward them and ask us to rescue them, to put our shoulders under their troubles and not just keep our shoulders under our own. We sing, “I’ve got my troubles you’ve got yours” so you take care of yours. That is not what Jesus had in mind. If we take Jesus into our church with us, the way he is, then their troubles become our own, and that takes us deep into stormy waters that go way over our heads, and we say, “Do you know what? We have to think about our survival, forget Jesus. How can he be just the way he is?”
We heard how God put the ocean into its place and said, “Thus far can your proud waves pound the shore and no further!” That is where you will have to stay. But Jesus bids us take this church right out into the wind and the waves that arise because we follow him and “being just the way he is,” eating with tax-collectors and prostitutes! Going to the side that is filled with the lost, the desperate, the hopeless, the dying – and in their midst, going way to the back of our church and there finding Jesus sleeping on a pillow, completely reposed in his trusting God, so that in all the wind and waves and the deadly danger of the storm, he is fast asleep, checking out his dreams, and completely certain that he is safe in the hands of God and his kingdom is coming.
There was a story about my father that I could tell today. He had his faults, but he was a man of faith till his end. And those that have no faith, even their strengths become curses on their children, while because of faith, even a father’s weaknesses turn into blessings for his children. My father attended a bible school rather than a university and thus he was not accepted as a pastor in Germany. So he was sent as a missionary to German speaking Americans as a pastor of the Gospel. He came over on an ocean liner in 1926 and the ship passed through a dreadful storm. My father slept in the bow of the ship through it all. Like Jonah in his storm – and like Jesus they had to wake him up to pray for the passengers’ survival. My father had been a soldier through some of the most terrible battles of World War I and a storm out at sea was hardly as dangerous as the forces storming their trenches in that mass production of death known a World War I. My father brought every man of his machine gun company back safely. The slogan was that it was a great thing to die for the country. He told his soldiers, it is even better to come back alive and live for your country.
Those who want to save their lives for Jesus, however, will lose them, but those who risk everything and lose their lives for Jesus or righteousness sake, will gain them. It does no good keeping the little ship Bethlehem in peace and calm in order to avoid the wind and the waves of the chaos that Jesus sends us into – way outside of our comfort zones.
Thank God that Carey is hitting us with some different ways of singing our old songs. Even if some of us with our hearing aids and our old ears have to sit out in the car, because the music sounds like a storm in our ears. Really, you haven’t heard anything yet. If you have gone to where young people listen to their music, you will hear it so loud that you can lean into it. The power of the sound waves does not let you fall down. I’ve listened to several of the bands that my sons play in and I’ll tell you, they are way outside a sixty-five year old’s comfort zone. Nora and I had to go all the way to the back of the hall not to get our ear drums blown out by a band that came before the one that we came to hear and even that one was called, “This Bike is a Pipe-Bomb.”
But listen to St. Paul: “I speak to you like children: open wide your hearts, because our hearts are open wide to you.” St. Paul does not allow us to restrict our affections for these young people, and we do have to get some music into our church service that they understand and can respond to; even if it is a service where all us old fogies have to wear ear plugs.
Because St. Paul opened his heart so wide, look at the storms he had to go through: afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, and he could add ship wrecks out at sea. And I thought having the little window of my car knocked out here at Bethlehem was something!
Jesus sends us to the other side, out of the crowd that shares our comfort zone and into the one that needs to hear the gospel of God’s grace. There they are overcome by the waves of violence and addiction with drugs and alcohol and Jesus can be awakened for them. And he will command the wind and the waves in their lives to be still. And they too will find rest for their souls. People are dying out there and what is this rescue mission called Bethlehem doing? Are we busy saving our own lives? Are we thinking only of our survival?
Churches are sent by Jesus like sailors who go down to the sea in ships, to go into the chaos and become a rescue mission. Like Jesus commanded his disciples, we too are commanded to sail to the other side and that means right through the storm. When the waves wash over us and some of us even get washed overboard, like the “Deadliest Catch” of those crab fishermen on the Discovery Channel on TV, Jesus is back there in our church fast asleep, replete with trust, completely filled by trust in God. Then we say, “Jesus wake up! Don’t you care that we are perishing?”
“O you of little faith!” he’ll answer. And he’ll command the wind and the waves” “Peace be still!” and a whole ‘nother part of chaos will get saved by God’s continuous creation.
Have you ever read Psalm 107 all the way through? Do it! It is a wonderful Psalm. There are four scenarios of people in distress described in the psalm. We only read the one about those who go down to the sea in ships, but there are those lost in the desert, thirsting to death for lack of water; those who are sick and in the crisis of their illness, they stare at the doorway of death already open; and all cry to the Lord in their distress and he answers them and delivers them out of their trouble.
I mentioned the youth mostly in this sermon, but I could have brought up those caught in the great storm of this recession, unemployed, underwater in their mortgage, and newly homeless. I could bring up all the inmates of our prisons and how they are languishing in those isolation cells, the prisons inside our prisons. I could have spoken about gays or the problems of the immigrants in our midst: talk about taking us out of our comfort zones! Or we could bring up all the aged in our senior citizen homes, about whom no one cares and who are just waiting to die.
Now we can choose the mission from these and any number of different scenarios. But there is no question that Jesus commands us to sail to the other side with his mission of the Gospel. With vision, purpose, and leadership, we will brave the wind and the waves, trusting in the one asleep in us, whom when we enter the storm, we will wake up. And he’ll stand up and command the wind and the waves “Peace be still!”
All glory, laud, and honor to our precious Lord Jesus Christ and we thank God that our Savior is gracious, merciful, and filled with steadfast love for us, because that’s just the way he is! Amen.
For the Children’s Sermon:
As the disciples were sailing
in the Sea of Galilee,
way, hey, blow them all down.
Jesus was sleeping,
back on a cushion was he.
The storm had some time to blow them around.
The storm it arose
and the waves pounded on them,
way, hey, blow them all down.
The waves beat the boat
and the water poured on them,
there for a while they thought they’d all drown.
So scared they were drowning
and frightened to death,
way, hey blow them all down.
They ran back to Jesus
and gasped out of breath,
“Won’t you wake up, we’re all going down.”
Then Jesus spoke to the wind
and commanded the sea
way, hey, blow the storm down.
Peace! Mind, you waves,
now be still, dreadful sea.
Jesus got up and the storm it died down.
So why are you frightened
and where is your faith?
way, hey he blew the storm down
so trust in the one
Whom the great waves obey
give him some time to make your life calm.
P. Krey June 22, 2003 for Bethlehem Lutheran Church Youth Sunday Oakland CA 94607. The melody from an old sea chantey, “Blow the Man Down.” Mark and I sang it again for Bethlehem June 21, 2009.
For a real treat click on the pictures of Jesus’ stilling the storm on Free Christ Images: