The Church that Feeds People

Pentecost service

Sermons

Finding Hope

Year B, Proper 7

Mark 4:35-41

Last week I invited you to become agents of hope by looking for hope as you go through your week. I asked you to take pictures of the people and places where you see hope and then share the pictures, and the stories, with the rest of us by sending them to me. I asked you to do this for two reasons: first, when we are looking for hope, we are more likely to find hope. Second, when we share stories of hope, we actually share hope. Hearing someone else’ story of hope gives us hope ourselves.

So I encourage you to continue to look for signs of hope in your lives and share the stories and pictures. We need all the hope we can find. This is a hard world we live in. When we are slammed with another tragedy or another loss or another conflict, fear and anxiety can to easily crowd out hope.

We see that in the Gospel reading today. In the midst of a great windstorm and waves that are swamping their boat, the disciples turn to Jesus and cry, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Haven’t we all felt that way?

  • Three weeks ago a mentally ill man with a gun walked into a Seattle café and killed four people. Then he killed another woman in a parking lot across town while stealing her car.
  • The week before that a man was driving with his family, and his own father, when he was struck by a stray bullet. He died in his father’s arms.
  • Twenty-one people have died violently in Seattle already this year, 20 of them from gun violence.

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

  • I read an article this week about an undertaker in Chicago. A plague of violence is sweeping that city, and many of the victims are young people, not even out of their teens.

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

  • Every week we hear about a friend or acquaintance or even a family member who is struggling with cancer.
  • Loved ones die.
  • Marriages struggle and fail.
  • Our children suffer. We can’t protect them from the world. They fall prey to addiction or accidents, or they just move away.
  • In this “Great Recession” unemployment batters families and relationships. Young people graduating from college struggle to find work.
  • One in five children in the United States live in poverty, not knowing where their next meal is coming from far too often.

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

 

On that day so many years ago, Jesus set off across the sea with his disciples to take the Gospel message, God’s message of hope, to the gentile towns across the lake. After a long day of teaching and healing, Jesus slept in the back of the boat on a cushion. A great windstorm arose, casting waves over the small boats. Even the experienced fishermen among the disciples were afraid for their lives. Jesus told them to cross to the other side of the sea, but the storm threatens to kill them, and Jesus is asleep.

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

This is a story about who Jesus is, and what we can expect from God. As usual in Mark, the text is sparse and we have to pay close attention to the details. The first thing to note is that the disciples are frightened. They are terrified. This is a serious storm: the wind is strong, the waves are high, and the boat is small. By the time the disciples wake Jesus up, they are panicked.

But notice what Jesus does. First, he rebukes the wind and the sea! “Peace, Be still!” Jesus rebukes the wind and the storm stops. The wave cease and there is a dead calm.

Jesus does not panic. He is not afraid. That’s impressive, but even more impressive, he actually calms the storm! Jesus has power over the wind and the sea. Jesus is more than a teacher, healer or prophet. Jesus is the Son of God. He has power over nature itself.

Imagine the scene with me. Jesus is standing in a small boat with half a dozen or so others. Around them is a flotilla of small boats with the other disciples, and people from the crowds following Jesus. Where a moment ago there were shouts of fear as they fought the wind and waves, now there is a dead calm. Where a moment before there was chaos and noise and wind and waves and fear, … now there is silence and calm. The disciples on the boat with Jesus turn to him in awe. Slowly, the people on the other boats turn to look at Jesus. “What just happened?”

Jesus looks back at them and asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Who is this, that sleeps on a cushion in the midst of a storm at sea?

Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Jesus is the one who truly knows God. Jesus is the one who has complete trust and faith in God’s love. Jesus is the one who shows us what it means to be created in the image of the Creator God. Jesus, the true image of God, the Son of God, calms the storm.

Standing in the boat with Jesus, the other disciples were filled with awe. Standing here, 2000 years later, we can imagine their awe, but we also see hope. Jesus did care that they were perishing, so he calmed the storm.

God does care that we are perishing.

  • When people die in senseless gun violence, God cares.
  • When loved ones are struggling with cancer, God cares.
  • When marriages fail, God does care.
  • When we can’t find work and when 1 in 5 children are going hungry, God cares.

God cares, and when we put our trust and faith in God, we find hope. Faith in God gives us an attitude of hopefulness. Faith in Jesus, the one who calmed the storm, orients us to find hope and see hope and nurture hope.

Last week, when I asked you to be agents of hope, I was inviting you to live into your faith. Let your faith form your thinking. Let your faith guide your vision and your actions. Look for hope in the world around you and share that hope with others.

God cares, and God will work in your heart and through you in the world to calm storms and to spread hope. God will work through you to bring hope to the desperate and love to the lost. So be agents of hope. Look for hope. Nurture hope. Share hope.

The Rev. David Marshall

St. Dunstan’s Church, Shoreline WA

June 24, 2012

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