Sunday Sermon, June 24, 2018

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

This is a question that stands at the intersection of fear and love. A question that reveals that love is what is desperately sought after, desperately wanted, and yet a question that is fueled by fear.

It has been said that “there are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” When we are afraid, we pull back. We see smaller. When we love, we open to all that life has to offer. We see expansively.

Our Gospel reading this morning is one that many of us are familiar with. In it, we see the disciples struggling at this intersection. Jesus has just finished his parables about the Kingdom of God and now he suggests that he and his disciples go by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

This is more than just a change of location. Jesus has preached the Kingdom of God thus far to the home crowd, if you will, on the safer side of the Sea. Now, Jesus will make his first crossing into what would reasonably be considered a dangerous, perhaps even an inappropriate, destination. Yes, Jesus has spoken of the Kingdom of God and now Jesus will demonstrate that Kingdom through a vulnerable proximity to the stranger, to that which is other. Those across a border, marked by the Sea of Galilee. But, Jesus does not go alone. He requests that his disciples board the boat and make this Kingdom crossing with him.

Let’s stay here for just a moment. The disciples get on board the boat. That, in and of itself, is remarkable. Faithful. The Gospel does not say, “Jesus then told the disciples his plans and they agreed that these were good and worthy and right.” No. Jesus simply says, “Let us Go,” and they go.  They did not know the whole plan, just the next step that Jesus was asking them to take. Get on the boat and cross the border that lies between what you know, where your comfort is, and that which is wholly other to you. Theirs was a response of faith, not fear.

But, it is not long after the journey begins that the boat is threatened, and with it the lives of those on board, by a raging storm and ferocious winds. There on the water the disciples confront a chaos that leaves them frightened and without much hope for what will come. I imagine that it is only after doing everything that they know to do as fishermen, as people familiar with the sea, that they, fearing that all is lost, look to Jesus, who is asleep.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Yes, this is a story that many of us have heard. But, more than that, it is a story that many of us have lived. Who among us has not feared the wind and the waves that threaten our own fragile vessels? As human beings, we cross seas of uncertainty all the time, whether we like it or not, navigating waters that raise questions about who we believe we are, what we believe about the world, and, finally, who we believe God to be. This is what it means to be alive. And, as Christians who follow a Risen Lord, we profess a faith that calls us to get in the boat – to act in faith even where chaos looms, even where fear would have us do differently.

The disciples fear the storm, they fear their own destruction, and that, in and of itself, seems reasonable. The water is churning. The waves are growing larger. The wind has picked up to such a degree that they can barely stay on their own feet or hear one another’s shouts over the violence of its roar. They are doing all they know to do, and the boat is taking on water. It is first at their heels, and then at their ankles, and it appears that, at any moment, the vessel will be lost to the hunger of the sea. They are, quite literally, sinking and what are they to do and, by the way, why in the world is Jesus sleeping?

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you not care? Do you not hear our prayers? Do you not truly love us after all?

But, here’s the thing, for the disciples then and for us now. While fear might lead us to believe that we are alone, faith knows differently. The disciples not only have each other in that boat, they also have Jesus, literally, in the boat with them. And, their boat wasn’t even the only boat crossing the Sea. Scripture tells us that other boats were with them. Now, we don’t know what was happening with those other boats that would have been experiencing the same storm. Maybe because, when chaos strikes and the winds pick up, we tend to forget that the world is bigger than just us. Our fear can lead to a distortion of perception. Things can grow smaller. The world. Our capabilities. Our resources. Even our perception of God.

Crystal Hardin, Seminiarian

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