Devotional Message: The 5th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 7B (6/24/2018)

Lessons

Job 38:1-11
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2nd Corinthians 6:1-13
St. Mark 4:35-41

Semicontinuous Series

1st Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20

Prayer of the Day

O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

St. Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Who, then, Is This?

There are stories from the Gospel accounts that make me realize how astounding it must have been to be a follower of Jesus. This certainly is true as the disciples watch him heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the masses, speak truth to power, and teach with wisdom. But this story: astounding:

Jesus is at the seaside teaching, possibly near Capernaum on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. The crowds become so large, that he boards a small boat, puts out a short distance from the shore, and teaches them from there. A sower… a lamp under a bushel… a growing crop… a mustard seed...

After spending time with the crowd, Jesus decides to make his way across the waters, toward the land of the Gadarenes. From the safety and familiarity of Galilee, to the unknown and threatening land across the way. (Where, by the way, he immediately meets a man who is afflicted with an unclean spirit, and who lives in the tombs, but I get ahead of the story here.)

Making their way across the waters Jesus, exhausted after being pressed by the crowds, finds a place in the stern where he can catch a few winks on a cushion. While he is asleep,  a great windstorm arises, and the boat begins filling up with water. The disciples are terrified. At his word — at his word! — the winds cease, and there is a dead calm. The disciples say to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

No kidding! Who is this? The spirits flee from him. The religious elite fear him. Damaged and unwell bodies respond to him. Even the winds seem to be at his beck and call. “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

This is early in the story, of course. There is much more to come. Soon the disciples will begin to hear testimony from Jesus that will astonish them. Bit by bit they will come to understand him in new and amazing ways. It will all culminate in the eighth chapter when Peter cries out, “You are the Messiah.” (8:29) But at this point in the story is is simply amazement. “A great awe,” St. Mark tells us.

And so a great storm is followed by a great calm which causes a great awe to take hold of his followers. Who is this? It is Jesus. The Son of God. The incarnate Christ. The fullness of God, living among us; an expression of God’s deep and passionate desire that we be well.

In the midst of our difficult times, how often has it been the case that Jesus was right there — maybe even asleep on the cushion at our side — and we didn’t even know it? Yet he continues with us. At our side every step of the way. Never leaving us. Always loving us. Our rock and our salvation. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil: for thou art with me!”

Who is this? The one who is with me. Thanks be to God!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What causes the disciples to be so afraid?
  2. Why do they ask him (accuse him?) about whether he cares that they are perishing?
  3. What must they be thinking, as they row the rest of the way to the land of the Gadarenes?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When has God been with me, in a time when I was unaware of it?
  2. How has the presence of God in my life carried me through an especially difficult time?
  3. How might I become an instrument of God’s presence for someone else, in a difficult time?