Sermon: Very, Very Special

June 24, 2018
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 4:35-41

The power of nature can be, probably always should be, a scary thing: something to stimulate the fear that becomes caution, consideration, respect. The prayer of Breton fishermen could be echoed by ocean voyagers of every sea and every language: “O God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” Living here on the slopes of an active – a very active – volcano for so many centuries, people learned to grieve the losses and also to not cling too tightly to what exists today but might not be here tomorrow.

In much of the rest of our nation, people have come to believe that natural forces can be controlled, harnessed, or simply disregarded by human beings, that we can live as comfortably as we like. On Hawai’i Island, we can not afford that illusion, because Tutu Pele will remind us we are wrong.

For wiser people, the storm becomes the inevitable metaphor for the most challenging, the most threatening times of life. Diagnosis and treatment of a major or a life-threatening illness feels like a storm. The body that once did what it was told suddenly is tossed about. You may find yourself reporting for treatment regimens which have you doing things you never wanted to do. Other people now tell you, “Do this!” and “Don’t do that!” and you do it, we do it, because somehow we’ve got to get through the storm and we know how to sail our boat in gentle breezes.

We listen to the people who say, “Do this!” and “Don’t do that!” because they understand how to get through the storms.

We know, from our own experience or accompanying a loved one or friend through such a journey, about the storms of illness.

The storm is an inevitable metaphor for other crises of life as well: the waves of emotion that sweep across us at significant losses, such as a death, a break-up, a business failure, being fired, a dear friend moving away. The storm once more echoes that loss of control, and the vanished sense of stability.

The storm is also an inevitable metaphor for social and political furor or conflict. When justice, let alone mercy, seems scarce, we find ourselves in the storm. When statement after statement can be easily demonstrated to be false, we find ourselves in the storm. When loyalty, not wise policy, becomes the standard for government service, we find ourselves in the storm.

And so we are.

The disciples, much to their regret, didn’t sail into a metaphor. They sailed into a storm. It’s Mark who insisted on using their experience as a metaphor, tying it to the parables Jesus told in the verses before. Jesus had been talking about the realm of God, comparing it to things that grow. Out on the lake, Mark showed how those who are part of God’s realm confront the storms of life: both how they do confront them, and how they might.

What did the disciples do?

They sailed the boats (I don’t know if you noticed, but there were more than one).

That made perfect sense. Of Jesus’ closest disciples, we know that four of them had experience with boats. It’s possible that one or more of them had protested when Jesus wanted to make an evening sail across the lake, which, it must be said, was a Bad Idea. When the storm rose, those four – Peter, Andrew, James, and John – would have taken charge. They would have had their hands on the tillers and been shouting their orders at the others, probably with a certain amount of “No, pull that rope not that one!” going on.

That’s a sensible way to get through a storm. Among us, there are people who are very, very special. They have skills and training. They have talents, perhaps even genius. They know things we don’t. Perhaps they can coordinate or lead. Whether it’s the physician preparing a treatment plan, or the friend who organizes the meals coming to a grieving family, or the folks sorting donations at the Food Basket, or the volunteer coordinators for Puna, these are very, very special people. They can help get us through the storms.

The Rev. Sara Ofner-Seals wrote this week: “What if church is not meant to be our shelter in the storm? What if church is meant to be the boat that carries us through the storm together?”

What if the boat also carries these very, very special people who can keep the boat afloat through the storm?

That, incidentally, is why they didn’t wake Jesus earlier. Jesus was a teacher. Jesus was a preacher. Jesus was a healer. He wasn’t a sailor. He was a very, very special person, but not one that would keep the boat afloat in a storm.

They woke him, in fact, more out of frustration than with an expectation he’d do something to help. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

That’s the same tone of voice I used as a child, waking my mother because I had a leg cramp. “Do you not care?”

My mother cared. Jesus cares. Neither of them would ever buy, let alone wear, a jacket that says, “I don’t really care, do u?”

If you’re thinking, “Well, why didn’t they wake Jesus because they knew he was the Messiah?” I’ll remind you that you have an advantage over the disciples. You’ve read the rest of the book. They hadn’t. They experienced the stilling of the storm, and they still asked, “Who then is this?”

It reminds me that in our storms, there’s often somebody in the boat with us who isn’t a medical professional, or a great speaker and organizer, or a licensed captain, but someone whose skills might dramatically affect the storm itself. The trick is, we don’t usually know who it is, or what they can do. The only way I know of to learn is to ask. “What can you do? How can you help? You know, let’s give that a try, because nothing else is working.”

Jesus’ disciples didn’t wake him with anywhere near as good a question as that. But it did work.

We are in the boat together, and we are with people who are very, very special. With some of them, we know: We know the skills they have, we appreciate the talents they share. With others of them, we don’t know. Oh, we may know some of what they can do, but if we’ve never been through this kind of storm with them, the talents they’ve never been summoned to exercise might even be hidden from them. So we ask: “How can you help?”

Jesus had something else to say about that storm. “Why are you afraid (the translation might read, “Why are you cowards”)? Have you still no faith?” Mark’s original audience knew that first generation of Christians as faith-filled, courageous people, who themselves would display the power of God. At this stage in their lives, however, they didn’t know themselves for that. Do we know ourselves for that? Do we realize that we are very, very special people because God has promised to be with us? Do we realize the power of the Holy Spirit among us? Do we realize that we are greater than we believe?

Do we realize that we can not merely survive the storm, but insist on peace?

Do we realize that we can also call upon Jesus, who can sleep amongst us because he knows that we have full access to the power of God, but who will also wake among us, if only to show us that he cares?

Karoline Lewis writes: “And while Jesus is always in that ‘spiritual’ ship with us, this sea tale reminds us that the storms that rage against God’s will, God’s vision, God’s love, God’s Kingdom, are ever present, most certainly real, and unnervingly unpredictable. Yes, Jesus is there, this is most certainly true. But more so? Be ready. Be vigilant. Be resilient. Because you just never know when that which rages against God’s reign will rear its ugly head.”

Well, it has. And it will: illnesses, tragedies, losses, suffering, political turmoil, rank injustice. It all rages against God’s reign.

But we are very, very special people. We have the skills to weather the storm, whether we know it or not. We are very, very special people, because we have the power of the Holy Spirit given us. And we are very, very special people, because the very, very special person of Jesus rides with us. If our skills fail, and our voices quiver when we seek to still the sea, then Jesus will rise, and cry, “Peace!”

And it will be still.


Listen to the Recorded Sermon

Pastor Eric remembered to turn on the recorder! So you can, once more, appreciate how tied to the manuscript he… isn’t.

The image is “Jesus mit den Jüngern im Sturm” by German artist Waldemar Flaig –, Public Domain,

Categories Sermons | Tags: , , , | Posted on June 24, 2018

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google Stumble Upon Digg Reddit

Leave a Reply

close window

Service Times & Directions

Sunday School Classes

Sunday 8:45 am

Sunday Worship Service

Sunday 10:00 am

Adult Bible Study

Monday 6:30 pm, Wednesday 9:00 am

(International Young Adults Association)
Bible Study

Wednesday 7:30 pm

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga

(The Rev. Tevita) Sunday 1:00 pm Wednesday 7:00 pm (Sanctuary)

The United Church of Christ, Pohnpei - Hilo

(The Rev. Ichiro) Sunday 10:00 am (Bdg. of Faith)

The Samoan Church

(The Rev. Sunia) Sunday 4:00 pm (Sanctuary)

440 W. Lanikaula Street
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-1283