Ninth Sunday after Pentecost 2015

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost | Jesus Comes to the Disciples on the Water

July 26, 2015   PASTOR HOPKINS


It was a favorite time of year for me and my brother –
Our spring fishing trip with dad to the boundary waters of Minnesota to chase after walleye and eat big pancake breakfasts and hear strange stories about the ‘60s from my uncle Chris.

Dad took care of everything. He got us where we were going, arranged for the cabin, steered the boat, and made sure that we had enough to eat. Dad stuff.

But I was at that age when I wanted to start doing things for myself.
So I encouraged him to take a nap while I went to the lodge for a burger and then to go track down the fish myself.
I told him that I could handle it, and to my surprise, he said, “OK.”

But I wasn’t as skilled as I thought. A storm rolled in as storms do, and before long I realized I was no longer in control. I felt very afraid and very alone.

But I wasn’t. My dad had acquired another boat, and come out to get me. And when I saw his face and heard his voice, I knew it was going to be alright.

In the darkest hours of the morning, the ones that come just before dawn, we find the disciples alone in a boat feeling quite afraid and quite alone.

It was only a matter of hours ago, while dismissing the 5,000 whom He had miraculously fed, that Jesus told His disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to Bethsaida.

But now in the pitch black the winds have picked up. The disciples are being tossed around, and are so scared that they’re seeing ghosts!

You might think that this was a rather cruel thing to do.
Jesus knew there would be a storm.
He knew they would not be able to steer the boat.
And yet He told them to cast off anyways.

Why? Verse 52. St. Mark tells us “…they did not understand about the loaves…”
What they did not understand from that miracle is that Jesus is the one responsible for feeding them, caring for them, guiding them, and protecting them.
Like many in the crowd, they were just happy to have gotten a free meal.

And so rather than learning what it means to be completely dependent on Jesus, their lack of understanding left them as independent and self-reliant as they were the morning prior.

That might not seem so bad to us.
Because of all the most cherished traits in a person today,
Being independent is among the most celebrated.
We even have a holiday for it.

“No one can tell me what to do. No one can make me do it. I’m an independent person in a free country. I’ll do what I want. I can take care of myself. I can fix my own problems. I don’t need anyone else. I can figure it out on my own.”

Then we learn that, sometimes, when we really want it, God will let us have our folly. He will let us have our independence.
When you pray again and again “MY will be done.” Eventually, the Lord’s answer is, “ok.”

Because Jesus does not operate by force. And pain is an effective teacher.

Or as that great American theologian, Mark Twain put it: “There are things you can learn picking up a cat by its tail, that you can’t learn any other way.”

But, just as it is for the disciples, while you’re off doing our own thing, messing with that cat against all the best advice, Jesus will be praying for you. Verse 46.

It’s important that you remember, as St. Augustine writes, that boat is the Church!
That boat is the Church, and Jesus will not let it sink.

No matter the waves, no matter the wind, no matter the fear, no matter if you are seeing ghosts, Jesus will make the move. Jesus will come to us and to you.

Because if you know anything about ships. You know that a ship needs a captain.

Not just a captain who would go down with the ship, but a Captain who will go down FOR the ship.
The Church needs a captain who will die for her.
And that’s exactly the Captain she has.
Captain Jesus, crucified and risen, keeping His Church afloat.

So what’s the cure for your worry and your fear?
What is the cure for your fear on the days when Jesus seems most far away?
When you feel most alone and most unloved, when the winds are blowing, and you are seeing ghosts?

The cure is this story.
The cure is this truth: that Jesus sees you. Jesus comes to you. Jesus listens to you. Jesus speaks to you.
“Take heart,” says Jesus. “I AM; have no fear.”

However you feel. However far away He seems to be. Jesus is always as close to you as your own skin. Your own baptized skin.
No matter how it seems, you are never alone and never unloved.

Remember that when Jesus went up the mountain to pray He was praying for you.
He was praying for the disciples.
He tells us when He gives us His own prayer, the “Our Father” that He is praying for all of us.

And when Jesus is done praying for you, He comes to you.
So there is nothing that can separate you from the love of Christ,
even when He lets you take that boat out for a spin all by yourself,
Jesus prays for you and comes to you – closing the distance.

So if your life is stormy-wavy right now.
Don’t try to steer it out of the storm.
Don’t try to fix it yourself.
Stay where Jesus has put you by virtue of your baptism.

Stay here in the Church.
In the forgiveness of sins.
In the community.
In mercy.
In grace.
In the Holy Spirit.

And you will see.
Jesus comes, to be here for you to see and to touch and to taste;
as soon as the verba are spoken to the bread and the wine at the Eucharist.

Jesus will be here.
So stay here in the boat.
Stay in the love.
Stay where Jesus has put you.
Please please, in the forgiveness, in the community.

And when you see Him you will know
That He quite patiently will pull you back and speak to you and touch you and love you,
and draw you near again and forgive everything you’ve got.
And save you,
and the wind will cease,
and the waves will stop,
and all will be well.

You will see.


*For the closing section to this sermon, I have drawn on a 2009 sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Scott Bruzek of St. John Lutheran Church in Wheaton, IL

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