Sunday, 25 June 2006

A Jesus Calms the Storm Sermon: Mark 4.35-41

Jesus, the one who died in our place, yours and mine, on a cross, for our sins, yours and mine—and not just in a general, generic sense but for the worst, most embarrassing, if it were ever known, snakiest, particular things we’ve ever thought or done. Jesus, if we believe, our Saviour and Lord...
That day when evening came, …said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
Jesus is always calling us to go over to the other side. He is always calling us to leave something behind—crowds, some particular sin that binds us, some disordered attachment, a way of doing things which is no longer fruitful—to move on, to grow, to make progress, to reach others. And we, like the disciples, are well-advised to be sure to take Him along in whatever boat we happen to be in.

St Barnabas is just such a boat, or ship. What are boats for? They are designed to make voyages, to carry cargo, to fish, sometimes to fight. They are not designed to be permanent fixtures in a harbour—unless their useful life is over and they are moth-balled, like HMS Victory or the Queen Mary, and become museums where past glories are put on display. But they are going no where.

So what is the other side Jesus is calling us over to as the St Barnabas ship’s company?

Yesterday, was a bit of a watershed day for me. I thought the Lord might have been calling me to be a bishop. I was wrong. I get to continue as your sailing-master, under Jesus and our new Bishop, for His Majesty’s Ship St Barnabas. I want you to know this morning that I don't consider that to be second prize in any way. During the election process I realized that I now have to seriously consider, “Where does our captain, Jesus, want me to sail this ship and where is the "other side" he wants us to be in six years, which could be my retirement date?”

Is my job to pay this ship off and moth-ball it? I think not. I hope not. Or is it to say to you, “Let’s get this old ship sea-worthy again—retrain the crew where necessary, train the new-recruits, get more of them, repair the sails, renew the rigging, throw off the lines, hoist the sails and head out to sea, taking Jesus along with us!”
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
Furious squalls and storms will come up. We had a bit of a squall around our annual meeting, didn’t we. We’re in the middle of a world-wide Anglican Communion storm right now. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is that now Jesus never sleeps. We no longer have to wake Him. He is risen!
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid?”
What are we afraid of? Change? Of leaving familiar crowds or familiar other things behind? Storms? Afraid of what we might find on the other side? Of being criticized, hurt or of suffering? Wrong? We fear loss of control. What if the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit blows us where we don’t want to go? Are we afraid of other members of the crew? The unknown? Failure or being humiliated (a big one for me and which made the whole election process a real challenge)? Most of all, for me, I fear coming face to face with my God and having Him say, “Gene, I appointed you to my ship, St Barnabas, I gave you a crew, but you’d didn’t really go anywhere—you ran some drills, you ferried a few people back and forth across the harbour, but you never really made an attempt to go to sea, to reach that “other side” to which the wind of my Holy Spirit might blow you.”

He will not leave us. The wind may blow and the waves may roll, but this ship was made to travel in just such waters, to punch through. The ride might be a bit lively from time to time, we might even feel a little motion sickness—maybe even a lot! But Jesus is on board, He is not asleep and one day He will again command the storms of life to Quiet! And be still.

Jesus said…
“Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
Do we have faith? Do we believe? Who is this Jesus? Is he worth the journey? Or is He just a museum piece? In our fear and lack of faith are we limited to wringing our hands and asking one another “Who is this?” while making sure our ship is firmly and safely tied up to the wharf?

Or do we exercise our faith, nurture and grow it, spelling it out in our lives day after day—R, I, S, K—and by hoisting our sails so that the voyage of our lives and of this good ship answers that question for all those with whom we come in contact.

Who is this? This is Jesus, Saviour of the world, Captain of our souls and of this ship. We sail under his command and we’re proud to be a part of His crew. We’re headed for Paradise and eternal life in the loving presence of the Living God. On the way we get to visit all sorts of wonderful, exotic, exciting places. Our crew-mates are great—well most of them are, there’s a few weird ones—me, for example—and there’s some I don’t even like but you know what, our Captain loves them and me anyway and He loves you, too. Would you like to join us? We’d love to have you. Come on aboard! Join His Navy and see the very Heavens.