The Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 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?” 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. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 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?”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: This morning I am very aware that I need to be concise and to the point so that we can be sure to assemble on time for Donna's celebration after the service this morning.
So, let me begin by saying when it comes to encouraging people to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, the call of Jesus, or the call of the Scriptures this reading from the Gospel this morning does not help. We are in the Gospel of Mark again this morning. Our first image this morning is one we have had before. It encourages us to "Follow the son of God."
Our second image this morning is of a tombstone with a Celtic Blessing engraved on it that reads like this:
"Help me to find my happiness in my acceptance of what is my purpose.
In friendly eyes.
In work well done.
In quietness born of trust.
And most of all in the awareness of spirit in my being."
I think that most of us are drawn to that blessing, aren't we? After all, it is a gentle lyrical, poetic expression of what we all desire to know and wish that we could live into.
"happiness in acceptance of my purpose"
"quietness born of trust" and "most of all in the awareness of spirit in my being"
What great satisfaction there is in knowing our purpose and living it out in our daily lives. What great settledness there is, in our interior being, when we know that quietness that comes from our knowing where, and in whom to place our trust. To know that the spirit dwells within us. An interior knowing that the spirit guides and directs us in ways that we can accept and in confidence follow.
I don't know about you but for me, the third image illustrates a question that I have spent a lot of time and energy on throughout my life. "What does following Jesus look like?" It is a recurring theme through the stories in the Book of Mark. It is one of Mark's central themes and it is one which we find ourselves, in our faith journey, we come back to time and time again.
Our next image is a wonderful illustration of what we sometimes picture in our minds it would be like to be called by Jesus. That reassuring, gentle Jesus reaching out his hand while he smiles warmly to encourage us to come with him. We also have in our minds a picture much like the one from the movie The Hobbit which is our 5th image. Bilbo Baggins walks joyfully away from his home in The Shire. He is beginning a great adventure, one which will bring him much joy and excitement. A rewarding stroll through the countryside. I have to admit I have never read the book but I have seen the Peter Jackson movie several times and it doesn't take long before poor Bilbo is questioning his decision and regretting he didn't stay home.
Suddenly we are with the disciples in the boat on that fateful night. Our sixth image this morning encompasses everything we fear about saying yes to Jesus doesn't it? The green rolling hills of Bilbo's stroll have been replaced with the green menacing waves of the storm which the wind has whipped up and are threatening to swamp the boat we are in. To make things worse Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat oblivious to everything that is going on. That is really what we dread, isn't it? If we get in that boat or say yes to going on that journey with Jesus we know that we are going to find ourselves in some perilous situation without any recourse.
Finally, in desperation, the disciples manage to wake Jesus up and he calms the storm. Our 7th image shows Jesus standing firmly in the bow of the boat and with an outstretched hand bringing a halt to all the threats and the menace of the storm. The disciples are in awe of this manifestation of the man they know as Jesus of Nazareth. "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
So, we come to our last image and we are once again faced with the difficulty that I presented in my opening paragraph this morning: " let me begin by saying when it comes to encouraging people to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, the call of Jesus, or the call of the Scriptures this reading from the Gospel this morning does not help.
"You may not be able to read the writing on that last image so let me tell you what it says:
"Walking into the UNKNOWN"
"Have you ever felt like Jesus
was calling you out to a place
that required you
to trust in him wholeheartedly"
It is really difficult to get people to sign up for life as a disciple when they know they will face living events like the one recorded in Mark's Gospel this morning.
A study resource I found describes that life this way:
Following Jesus Through Mark: A Guide to Faith in Action (Stonecroft Bible Studies) As readers acquaint themselves with the life of Jesus Christ as reported by Mark, their perspective will be radically and refreshingly altered. Jesus, the greatest, became the least, serving every man and woman so He could bring them back to God. This study guides readers through selected Bible passages, presents straightforward explanations and applications, and provides open-ended discussion questions. Participants will find themselves changed as they see how the greatest Servant now lives His life in us and through us.
On this fourth Sunday after Pentecost are you hearing the call of the Lord? Come follow Me.