Sermons

"Does Jesus Care?": Sermon for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

"Does Jesus Care?": Sermon for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

Jun 24, 2018

Passage:Mark 4:35-41

Preacher: The Rev. Canon Mike Ehmer

Series: Pentecost

Category: Love, Incarnation

Keywords: faith, fear, hope, love

Summary:

In Mark's Gospel, we hear the disciples ask Jesus in the midst of their fear, "Do you even care that we are perishing?" The Rev. Canon Mike Ehmer preaches that we all still ask this question of Jesus. "Do you care about me?" And he answers: "Absolutely!"

Detail:

 The father discovered his five-year old son playing with blocks and asked what he was building.

“A church,” the young boy replied in a whisper. “We must be very quiet.”

The father was impressed with his son’s understanding of the quiet reverence practiced in church. “And why must we be so quiet in church?” he asked him softly.

The boy whispered back, “Because the people are all sleeping.”

As a preacher, I’m almost offended by that joke. After all, during what part of the service does most of the sleeping take place? During the sermon, of course!

I remember an elderly parishioner many years ago, named Charles, who consistently slept through my sermons. Like clockwork, a minute or two into the sermon and his chin was resting on his chest. I was just happy he didn’t snore. Well, at least not too loudly!

In today’s gospel we heard about another sleeper—Jesus. While we really can’t compare a raging storm at sea with a sermon preached from the pulpit, nevertheless, there is a similarity. Sleeping in either situation may possibly indicate rudeness or indifference. Did Charles not care about the preacher, me? Did Jesus not care about his disciples?

While the sailing was smooth, the disciples didn’t mind Jesus sleeping soundly in the stern. But when things got rough—when the storm blew up and their lives were in jeopardy—Jesus’ sleeping was suddenly a matter of paramount importance. In the middle of the peril they came to him and asked, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They wanted to know if Jesus truly cared about them.

Why is it that we’re perfectly willing to let Jesus sleep though the smooth times in our lives, but when the storms arise we’re upset if he appears to be sleeping?

Most of us have probably never been out at sea when a huge storm came along and threatened our lives, but we’ve probably been through some rough-air turbulence in an airplane. When that happens, what’s the first thing many of us do? Pray—right? We weren’t too concerned about God’s presence with us before the rough air, but once we’re in the thick of the stormy turbulence we want to know immediately that God is there with us—that Jesus is awake! We want to be sure that God does, indeed, care about us, and that we won’t be left alone.

Don’t we want the same thing in the other rough spots of our lives: illnesses, relationships, finances, jobs, any stress-filled situation? We want the security of knowing that God is not asleep, but is, instead, awake and fully present with us to come to our aid.

It’s important to note, however, what does and does not happen in the gospel story. Does Jesus snap his fingers and place the whole crew suddenly on safe, dry land—out of all danger? No! Instead he calms the sea—he makes their current place bearable. They’re still right where they were, in the middle of the lake. Their task is still the same. But now they are better able to cope with the situation. Jesus made an out-of-control situation manageable; he didn’t make it go away! Rather than taking over completely, Jesus helped them to handle the situation.

So, does Jesus care about us? Yes, absolutely! Will he do everything for us, removing all dangers, all obstacles? No, he’ll help us though tough situations, he’ll help us not to panic, but he loves us far too much to simply do everything for us.

Another question is asked in the last line of our gospel reading. The disciples “… filled with great awe … said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” The disciples want to know, who is this guy?

Very typical of Mark, however, the question goes unanswered. Mark does not tell us, at this point, who Jesus is, or how he is able to calm the rough sea. Interestingly, more than the other gospels, Mark’s Jesus tends to conceal as much of himself as he reveals.

That’s a real problem in our scientific, technological, information-saturated society, because we want to know the specifics of how it happened. We want an explanation—something we can understand intellectually. How does this thing work? We want the definitive answer—the truth!

But is there only one truth—one explanation, one answer, applicable to all situations? Is Christ the same for each one of us in every possible situation? Does God respond to each of us in exactly the same way at all times? With all our modern technology, is it possible to quantify God’s response to humanity so we can put all the variables into a fancy equation and solve the problem—predict exactly what God’s going to do in every situation?

I don’t know about you, but in my experience, God is certainly not predictable—at least in the specifics! God is, however, very predicable in the sense that God loves and cares for us and will always be with us. As in our reading, we don’t have a good answer as to how that happens. Even with our 21st century science, we cannot quantify how God’s Spirit works in this world.

But rather than being handed the answer to the mystery equation, perhaps God wants each of us to search for and work out the answer for ourselves. Perhaps there isn’t a standard conclusion common to all of humanity. Perhaps God wants each of us to discover the true God on our own, and perhaps, at least in the specifics, each of our answers will differ.

Generally speaking, however, as our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is so fond of reminding us (as he did here in this very space), the Bible is clear, if it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God! And out of God’s love for humanity, God endowed each of us with unique gifts and talents. Those abilities, however, are not meant for our exclusive use. They are intended for the good of the community—for the welfare and wellbeing of humanity!

We are to be the physical presence of Jesus with one another. We are the ones to whom others are looking to see God. We are the ones to whom others turn to bring some calm into their lives. We are the ones who will show how much God cares about them. We are the ones to show our sisters and brothers that God is not asleep but is wide awake to aid them in their time of need.

That’s true for the members here at St. Andrew’s. It’s also true for others in the community of Amarillo. And it’s just as true for refugees and their families along the Mexican border. Jesus is present within each of us and we are expected to share that love with others, for the good of God’s creation.

So, how do we Christians reflect the love of the God who created us in God’s own imagine? How are we Christians—disciples of Jesus of Nazareth—showing our loving God to others in our lives?