So this was the sermon I wrote to preach last Sunday. I preached some version that was close to this
I just love Mark. I actually knew that I could pull off a last minute sermon knowing that we are in a Mark year in the lectionary. Mark gets right to it. There is no fluff. Mark put Jesus and his disciples right at the center of the story. The other thing that I love about Mark is that he is tough on the disciples. They just don’t get it, they don’t get Jesus. A mentor, of mine often said that the disciples in Mark should be name the DUH-ciples. This story is one of those quintessential moments when the disciples don’t get it. Now I am not a Bible literalist, the stories are just to vast and varied for me personally to take them all literally. So when I look at this passage I am not sure that Mark is necessarily talking about a physical storm. If fact for me in this particular story he can’t be. He can’t be talking about an actual thunder storm because in verse 40 “Jesus reprimands his disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards?’ Don’t you have any faith at all?” Faith wouldn’t play a role in this story if it were an actual thunderstorm. Remember a number of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. They had been out to sea, they had survived storms. They are not likely to go running to Jesus for some type of reassurance. For them this was a typical day on the job. They knew you either lived through a storm or you didn’t. How many of you have ever seen the show Deadliest Catch? In case you haven’t the show follows several fishing boats as they Fish for Alaskan Crab. If you have ever wondered why Crab is so expensive watch this show and you will figure out why. Anyway, they see storm after storm and they never seek out the captain. The disciples are not going to Jesus because they are afraid of a lot of wind and some pretty bad rain. No the Disciples are going to Jesus because they are afraid that in this is an actual storm or just a “storm of their life” they are afraid they are going to lose Jesus.
How many of us have been there? In the storm. We are in freak out mode. Everything is falling apart. The alarm doesn’t go off in the morning, you rush to get ready there is no coffee, you drive to work there is an accident, that presentation that was due on Friday it’s now due this Wed., a phone call comes your kid is on a field trip with summer camp she/he fell and broke their arm, you get home to hear a phone call- aunt Sally died. It’s one of those times when you say huh things can’t get any worse, but you don’t say it out loud because you certainly don’t want the universe to think you are challenging it. Or maybe that storm is some something different, maybe it is your best friend moving away, or you’re going through a tough time in your marriage, or you are at the point of a divorce , or have a serious diagnoses or love one with a serious diagnoses, or maybe it is grief. Or some combination of the above or nothing from my list, but you’ve had a storm. We do. We have them. We are the disciples.
So I think what we often hear, what we want to hear in this story is just go to Jesus. Just take your problems to Jesus and Jesus will fix them. He quieted the storm for the disciples he will quiet our storms too. Well, if you thought that was where I was going so you figured you could tune me out for the next 15 minutes or so you were wrong. You need to tune back in, sorry. What I focused on when I read this scripture, what called to me the loudest was that reprimand or in other translations Jesus rebuke of the disciples, “Don’t you have any faith at all?” He isn’t please with them. He doesn’t pat them on the head and say wow you have figured it out. Give me your problems and I fix them. He gives them the fix but, He is frustrated, and annoyed.
I read this story and I was so drawn to it because I feel like our Domination, is in this storm and we are like the disciples, we are looking for a quick fix. Now I know Pastor Dee was at General Conference, and Pastor Alan is very tuned in to what happens at the General Church level, and you have members of this congregation who are very active at the general church and annual conference level. So, I am sorry if some this information is information that you know. However, I went to General Conference, GC 2012 as it has became affectionately known as. I attended as part of a coalition working on social justice issues. So I had months of preparation going into GC2012 and I knew a storm was brewing. There were a lot of storms brewing but the big storm was how do we restructure the United Methodist Church to make it viable again. I am sure you might have heard this before but Methodism along with other Mainline denominations are dying. We are losing membership is droves. So for about a year prior to GC2012 a group of church leaders both laity and clergy got together to figure out how to fix the church or in their words make it more viable. The report on how they thought we should do this came out about 2 months in advance of GC2012. I read it and I just knew a fire storm would brew and it did. Basically the idea was to cut the general board and agencies( which in the simplest terms is to carry out the missional work across the connection. They include COSROW, GCORR, UMNEWS, UMCOR etc) many of the things that define us as Methodists. They want to combine many of those agencies into one small consolidated group. When that didn’t work they sought to combine in particular COSROW and GCORR in to one small group. Basically ending the groups that carries out social justice and ensures equality for a number of marginalized groups. Now my thoughts on the reasoning behind this is a sermon all unto itself. The heart of the matter is how it this scripture applies is; This small group like the disciples, Wanted a simple answer.
What this small group did not seem to have was a whole lot of faith. You see in order to try to get the church to accept this plan they showed this sad presentation. The presentation had all kinds of depressing numbers in it. Membership decline, the lack of young clergy, there was even a segment where we watched as a woman locked the doors to her church for the very last time as the church closed. They used all sorts of wind and rain to make us want to run for a simple solution.
There were many of us who watched the video and who heard the plan who were scared. Not sacred about what they had told , and showed us. We were scared of how they were going to fix it. You see in this scripture Jesus is telling the Disciples that fear cannot rule their actions. Not even fear of death. What must rule their lives is Faith. They must hang onto faith even in the face of death. They must understand that in Faith there is even something bigger than his physical presence.
Jesus wants his disciples to get that what is most important is their faith, their relationship with God. What is not important is the boat, or the presentation that is now due 3 days earlier, or the diagnoses that seems unbearable, and sure as heck not what our membership numbers look like. What Jesus wants them and us, to understand is our faith. Jesus wants us to get is that in their own faith there is “possibility” and “power”. They had the “power” to quiet the storm.
Now that is scary to think about. We, in our faith have “possibility” and “power”. I cannot tell you the number of times that I just wanted to throw my problems at the feet of someone else or even lay them down for God to pick up and be returned with a step by step list of how to make it right. What Jesus is asking of us is to stop acting out of fear and start stepping boldly with faith. The plans that were put forth at GC2012 were to save what we have now. Basically to save what isn’t working. In the storms of the Church and in our lives we want the comfortable. Ever hear the saying that the Church’s job is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. Well if ever there is a time where that is true-- it is right now. Accept that the problem is- that we are the comfortable. We are comfortable in what we have or actually in more cases than not what we had and we want to go back to it.
We have lost sight of Jesus. We have lost sight of Jesus bold acts to stand up to the Pharisees and point out their hypocrisy, we have lost sight of Jesus sitting with prostitutes and tax collectors, we have lost sight of the healing on the Sabbath because it is the right thing to do instead of doing the right thing in the eyes of the outside world.
Jesus isn’t present for his disciples and for us simply to fix the problem. Nor can we quell our storms on our own. We need Jesus we need Jesus and his example to get us through our storms. In James we hear faith without works is dead. Faith in Jesus cannot act on its own to heal our wounds. A faith lived out in Jesus’ example where we are living into the possibility, and being creative and innovative of the solution is when we start creating the realm of God on Earth.
Can we be a community that lives and acts on faith? Who do we want to be those who talked about the power of faith or do we want to be the ones who have experienced the power of faith and have helped others to experience it as well.
The end of the story there is Hope they click they see what Jesus can do. Do they fully understand what Jesus can do. I think they start to understand that with Jesus in their life anything is possible. Not just by him but with him, and alongside of him And that is good news