Good morning. Today I'm preaching on Mark , Chapter 4, verses 35-41. Here begins the reading:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher do you not care if we perish?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid?
Have you no faith?" And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit. Amen.
You have just heard my favorite story in my favorite Gospel. As a matter of fact, this could be the best story in the whole Bible. Here is the situation: Jesus and his friends have been hard at work, and decide to go out and do some fishing,. Suddenly the wind begins to blow. Great waves develop. The boat rocks back and forth. Water splashes in. Rain comes pouring down, and the disciples are afraid. I can imagine them scrambling back and forth, securing lines and their cargo in order to make sure nothing gets lost. The wind continues to blow, with no end in sight, and where is Jesus? Is he helping them? Is he maybe grabbing a rope? Is he providing any encouragement at all? No, the text says Jesus was asleep on the cushion.
This is good. Jesus was confident they were safe. The text Implies all of them had a very hectic day, and it describes some of the teaching Jesus had just given, which wasn't the easiest in the world for everyone to understand, so Jesus must have been exhausted. His disciples were probably glad he could get a little shut-eye, certainly at first, but as the storm grew worse and worse, I can see why they might be a little upset to have Jesus snoozing right through it.
At length, his friends decide to wake him up, and ask for help. and they say to him in utter desperation," Teacher do you not care if we perish?"
What does Jesus do? Does he join in the panic? Does he wail with fear? Is he at all anxious? - of course not – He probably yawns and stretches. Then looks around to see what all of the commotion is about, and seeing the disciples distress and frantic activity, the text says he uttered three words: Peace. Be still. And the wind stops blowing. Like magic, everything becomes calm. It doesn't say that Jesus stood up and roared like a lion, in order to get the wind to stop. He knew he didn't have to. All he needed to do was to be calm. Who the heck is this guy that wind and storm cease at his command? The disciples ask themselves.
I believe his three words, "Peace! Be still!" were directed to his disciples as much as they were directed to the wind, and what a good lesson this is for all of us.
This miracle could have happened just in the way it was described too. It
Is a question of timing. My only storm experience in a boat occurred when I was sailing with mama and Dad in Delaware. It was a special day for me, because they had to get permission from the Hospital to take me this time. I used to love these sailing trips. No matter how crabby any of us felt when we started out, once we got on the water, everything was harmony and peace. Dad used to navigate with the tiller. Mama held the sail, and my job was to duck out of the way of the boom when we came about, and pull up the center-board when we landed.
This particular day started out sunny and beautiful. There were a few stormy looking clouds in the distance, but we thought they were nothing to be concerned about. Then, about an hour or so in our sail, mama observed the wind was picking up, and she recommended we head for home. Dad thought everything was fine, of course, and we lingered a bit, but he did steer us nearer to the shore. All of a sudden, and practically without warning huge gusts of wind hit our little craft, and we tipped dangerously sideways, speeding towards the bank. Dad yelled at mama to hold on, but the sail was ripped from her hand. Dad lept out of the boat about 3 feet from the bank and dragged it to safety while I was pulling up the center- board. Rain started pouring down in buckets." My hair! Oh my hair!" cried mama, as Dad helped her out, and then lifted me out to safety. We were in woods, miles from nowhere, and without a cell phone. Dad made a tent out of the sail; mama and I sat side by side on the centerboard, and we waited. And we waited. We laughed, talked some, and waited some more, huddled beneath the sail. All of a sudden, the rain and wind stopped. It felt like magic. I'm sure it's the same magic the disciples felt at Jesus' words ," Peace. Be still!"
The three of us got back in the boat. Mama and Dad hoisted the sail, and we sailed very happily back from where we had started. Naturally we were a little cold and wet. And poor mama's hair was a bit of a disaster, but all in all it was a wonderful day. Mama tried to apologize for it when we got back to the Hospital, but I wouldn't let her. I told her I had had, the time of my life!
As I look back on it, I can't stop thinking of this Gospel story, and how much Dad was like Jesus. I don't think he actually said , "Peace! Be still!" to me and mama when we were racing towards the shore, but his whole being manifested calm, and this rubbed off on both me and mama as we worked together to get settled under our make-shift tent quickly.
In the Bible, storms are a metaphor for tribulation and hard times. The words of Jesus are perfect for me. I remember getting almost hysterical with tears and worry when I thought my little dog, Yensa, was lost, and again, it was my father who held me, uttering soothing words of peace and calm. I am in general, a worrier, and often get frantic at the smallest things. However, since I started working on this sermon, "Peace! Be still!" has become my new mantra. I think it is a good mantra for all of us. Come, let us pray: Holy and loving God, we thank you for our many blessings. We thank you for our families, our friends, this Church, and the earth, our island home. We thank you for giving us Jesus and this Gospel story. We thank you for his calm presence of mind in the middle of a storm, and for the peace this gave to his friends. When we are gripped by fear in the storms of our own lives, please give us the same, calm, presence of mind. Be with all of our leaders in this political season. Watch over and protect our troops who are abroad, and show us how to be peaceful and still. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.