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Saturday, 23 June 2018

June 24, 2018

Stilling the Storm - Pentecost 5

 Stilling the Storm – Pentecost 5

June 24, 2018

Mark 4:35-41

 

My favorite musical is “Les Miserable”.  The story is inspiring and the music is amazing.  Close behind as one of my favorites is “Man of La Mancha”.  The story of a crazy old man who wants to change the world is also inspiring and the musical contains one of my favorite songs, “The Impossible Dream”.  One of the lines from the song tells of Don Quixote’s desire “to run where the brave dare not go.”  I thought of that line when I was reading today’s Bible lesson.

 

Boundaries.  They are designed to help us know where we can and where we dare not go.  Jesus didn’t pay attention to boundaries.  He crossed them all the time.

 

Jesus crossed geographic boundaries.  “The wilderness” was looked on as a place where even the brave dare not go.  Bad things happened in the wilderness.  Before he began his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness. 

 

Good Jews avoided Samaria.  The Samaritans were looked at as unclean people. Jesus not only went into Samaria, he sometimes stayed there. 

 

Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon.  They were in Syria.  The Hebrews and the Syrians were ancient enemies.  The Romans were enemies, too.  Jesus traveled to Caesarea Philippi, one of the Roman strongholds.

 

Mount Hermon was a place where just about every conceivable god had been worshiped.  It was considered dangerous to be among pagan places of worship.  Jesus went there. 

 

And Jesus allowed himself to be taken to a garbage dump where they hung him on a cross.  He went to the place of the dead.

 

Jesus also crossed boundaries with people.  He spent time with those who were outcast.  He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He not only came into contact with, he healed lepers, blind people, deaf people, crippled people and people with demons.  He touched dead people and brought them back to life.  Suffering was looked on as a judgement of God.  Jesus crossed the boundaries to stop suffering.  And he didn’t care if people were Jewish or Roman, or Samaritan, or Syro-Phoenician. 

 

The Jewish laws were set up to be boundaries.  They kept people from going where they should not go. Jesus broke the laws with a purpose.  His purpose was to show God’s love to all people.

 

In our lesson today Jesus is breaking boundaries.  He’s going to the Gerasenes.  It’s a place on the east side of the Sea of Galilee and it was the home of people who were looked on as almost being like animals.  And, if that were not bad enough, he wants to sail across the sea at night.

 

Wise sailors did not sail at night.  Sailing was dangerous enough in the daytime, but at least you could watch the clouds to be prepared for bad weather.  Darkness made that impossible.  Storms could come up at any time.

 

A storm did come up. The lesson says a “great gale arose”.  The Greek word for great is “megas”.  The gale caused waves and waves were filling the boat.  The disciples thought they were going to die.

 

Jesus slept. The storm was intense and Jesus was sleeping.  They woke him up. “Don’t you care that we are all going to die?” they asked.  I’m sure Jesus didn’t take the question, “Don’t you care?” very well.  Caring was what he was all about.  So he simply “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’”  With that the storm ended.  The lesson said there was “dead calm”, in Greek “megas” calm.  

 

The lesson says, “And they were filled with great awe.”  In Greek the phrase is “megas” awe.  They had great amazement for Jesus and what he had done.

 

Then it was Jesus’ turn to ask a question.  “Why are you afraid?”   He was asking his disciples. He’s asking us.  Don’t we know that he does care?  Don’t we know that he is with us?  When storms come into our lives, and they do and they will, Jesus lets us know we are not alone and we can find “megas” peace.

 

Jesus faced the greatest storm.  He was beaten and taken to the garbage dump.  He was nailed to a cross where he hung until he died.  But three days later was alive again.  He was alive and sin was defeated.  Death was defeated.  We are now and always will be God’s loving care.

 

When Peace Like a River” is one of my favorite hymns.  The story behind it is even more powerful than the hymn.  Horatio Spafford was a lawyer who invested in property in his hometown of Chicago. In 1871 his 4 year old son died and the Chicago fire wiped out much of the property investments he had made.  But Spafford weathered that storm and continued his worked. He and his wife eventually had four daughters.  One summer Spafford decided the family should vacation in Europe, but, when it was time for the ship to sail, business kept him behind and he said he would catch up with them later.  That ship sank and his wife was saved but his four daughters were lost.

 

It was while he was on a ship traveling to be with his wife that he wrote the famous hymn.  But that’s not the end of the story. 

 

When they returned, they had three more children, a son and two daughters.  The little boy died at the age of 2 of Scarlett Fever.  That’s when the Presbyterian Church decided that all the tragedies Spafford had suffered must be the judgement of God against him and excommunicated him.

 

Spafford then took his wife and two young daughters and moved to Jerusalem where they, along with some Swedish Christians, started an organization that helped the poor; Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.  He went where many brave people dared not go. Their work helped remove boundaries between those religious groups.

 

Horatio Spafford’s hymn speaks of peace.  It’s a hymn of faith.  It helps us find peace and not be afraid.

 

When Peace, like a River

It Is Well with My Soul

 

1          When peace, like a river, attendeth my way;

when sorrows, like sea billows, roll;

whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

it is well, it is well with my soul.

 

Refrain

It is well (it is well)

with my soul, (with my soul,)

it is well, it is well with my soul.

 

2          Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

let this blest assurance control,

that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

and hath shed his own blood for my soul.  Refrain

 

3          He lives--oh, the bliss of this glorious thought;

my sin, not in part, but the whole,

is nailed to his cross and I bear it no more.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!  Refrain

 

4          And Lord, haste the day when our faith shall be sight,

the clouds be rolled back as a scroll,

the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend;

even so it is well with my soul.  Refrain

 

So if there are storms in our lives or when there are storms in our lives, we can listen to the voice of Jesus ask, “Why are you afraid?”  The answer will give us great peace. Jesus is with us and he cares.  It can be and is “well with our souls”.   And finding the peace of Jesus can help us bring that peace to others . . . and perhaps run where the brave dare not go.  AMEN

 

May the peace of God which goes beyond all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN