Monday, July 27, 2009

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 6:45-56
Bror Erickson

[48] And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, [49] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, [50] for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." [51] And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, [52] for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:48-52 (ESV)

“Take heart, it is I, ego eimi, Do not be afraid.” The words of the great I Am, who spoke to Moses from the Burning bush, and brought Israel out of their painful adversities in Egypt, now speaks to his disciples battling a storm in the middle of the night on the sea of Galilee, the same words he speaks to us as the waters of baptism drown our old Adam in the sea of life, Take heart, it is I, I am, do not be afraid..
Life, as fickle as the sea, full of calm days, and days with good wind that inevitably blow us into the worst of tempests. And we like the disciples are not always happy to have God along for the ride.
I don’t know what my reaction would be to see someone walking on water in the midst of a storm. The disciples didn’t understand about the loaves, Mark says their hearts had been hardened. They were upset it seems with Jesus. Maybe even disgusted. He had not done what they had wanted him to do. He made them leave, put them in the boat, and sent them to the other side. He himself stayed to pray. The disciples were upset with Him. Perhaps he was upset with them for not understanding the compassion he felt for the people scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Upset with them for not understanding why he had fed the five thousand with the five loaves of bread, and two fish. So he made them leave, and he took some time to pray alone up on the mountain, away from everyone else.
I’m sure a large part of his prayer had to do with reconciliation with his disciples. If he was upset with them, it was from concern for them. Perhaps concern for their lack of compassion on the people. Compassion they would need to have should they ever become his apostles and carry salvation to sinners throughout the world.
Jesus spent a lot of time alone in prayer it seems. We can learn from that I think. I don’t think I can over emphasize prayer at all. It is good for the soul, prayer, meditation alone with God, conversing with God. Especially in times of discord among family members. Not getting along with each other? Pray for one another, pray together, and pray alone, but pray. If nothing else pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then forgive the other their sins, as Christ has forgiven you. Believe me he has forgiven far worse in you than you will ever have to forgive in someone else. We’re so blind to sin, we don’t even recognize all the ways, and in what a foul manner we sin against God and each other. Take that cue from Christ, when times are hard, pray, as he did for his disciples when they failed to understand him.
But while he was praying they were headed against the wind, making little headway, struggling through the storm of the night, as they were struggling with their faith, hearts hardened, not understanding. It gets that way, doesn’t it. We struggle to understand why this or that happens. How could he let this happen to me? Why do I have to struggle with this? Can I still believe in God, when he let this happen? A spouse hardens their heart and resolves to divorce, and no amount of prayer stops it. A family member gets sick, and despite all prayer, and medical attention the prognosis keeps worsening until death finally takes over. And perhaps that is when it is hardest, when God does not answer our prayers in a way befitting to us. Oh, we can cope, when it is a child’s prayer for a new bicycle. But when children are deprived of a parent, a spouse deprived of his or her loved one, or parents no longer get to dream of seeing their child graduate, go to college, get married, and have children of their own, that is when the tempests hit hard, and faith is challenged to the core. Seems hard to make headway in life. Losing a job, or not being able to find one. That is when it seems hard to understand, that is when hearts tend to harden a little.
The disciples they thought they knew Jesus, they thought Jesus knew them and understood their needs. Yet, he seemed so much more concerned about others. Perhaps they misinterpreted it for grandstanding. Turning his back on them, to feed his ego, rather than their souls, on the praise of the crowds. And now he turns them away, makes them leave without him in a boat, as night starts to fall, and a storm blows in. And there they are in the boat, on the sea, going no where fast, but possibly under in a second. And now this, a man walking on the water. Are they seeing things? A ghost? Fear strikes panick,
But it is right then that Jesus answers take heart, it is I, ego eimi, I am, do not be afraid. I am, I, I am, am with you.
And he gets in the boat with them. The storm fades, the wind ceases. Perhaps, the storms don’t always fade so nicely as the storm did for the disciples that night. Perhaps, there is still a little too much drama. Perhaps, there is still a great deal of sorrow. Jesus, promises tribulation in this world, but he also promises to be in the boat with us.
[33] I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (ESV)
And so he has overcome the world, when he died on the cross and rose again from the dead. He overcame the world for us. And he tells us to take heart. He tells us to take heart in him, He forgives our sins. He understands when we don’t understand him, or his will in our lives, why he lets this or that happen. We won’t know the answers to those questions. But we can take heart in him, because we know the will he has for our lives, that our sins would be forgiven. And so he forgives them in the waters of Holy baptism, he forgives them in his spoken word, and with his very own body and blood, true food from heaven, with which he sustains us in the faith, and nourishes us for the journey, strengthens us for the storms. All the while saying take heart, it is I, the great I am, you are with me, there is no reason to be afraid. For when the storms of this world have done their best, and have beaten you down, you will have life, life in me. And when the storms of this world pass, and the dawn breaks, we will live in the light of the lamb forever, and the sorrows will be gone.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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