12 Sunday-B June 24 - Sermon -1

12 Sunday

June 24, 2012

Mark 4:35-41 - "Calming of the Tempest"
Mark 4:35-41 - "Stand by Me" by Leonard Sweet
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Victor Hugo, who is famous for his novel the Hunchback of Notre Dame, also wrote a story called "Ninety-Three." It tells of a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas. At the height of the storm, the frightened sailors heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck. They knew at once that this new noise came from a cannon, part of the ship's cargo, that had broken loose. It was moving back and forth with the swaying of the ship, crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact. Knowing that it could cause the ship to sink, two brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to retie the loose cannon. They knew the danger of a shipwreck from the cannon was greater than the fury of the storm.

That is like human life. Storms of life may blow about us, but it is not these exterior storms that pose the gravest danger. It is the terrible corruption that can exist within us which can overwhelm us. The furious storm outside may be overwhelming but what is going on inside can pose the greater threat to our lives. Our only hope lies in conquering that wild enemy...

1. Storms Come Suddenly.
2. Storms Can Make You Lose Direction.
3. Our Fear of the Storm Has the Power to Paralyze.
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As summer heats up it is important to always bring a sweater with you.
Huh?! (Yes, I know a sweater is something your mother puts on you when she is cold!)
Likewise if you head to Minnesota in mid-winter you would be wise to bring something lightweight and with short sleeves.
Crazy?!
These seemingly illogical suggestion are actually good ideas. Why? Because our culture is addicted to "climate control." Air conditioning and central heating make it possible for us to create any kind of climate, any sort of indoor "weather," we want. Since we still cannot control what kind of weather we encounter outside, in the real world, we over-compensate in our encapsulated climates - our homes, shopping malls, restaurants, office buildings, airplanes...
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Unanswered Prayer
To someone like me, who was rescued from drowning in wind and wave, the imagery is very powerful without even descending to a symbolic level. I can recall being physically tossed about by powerful waves and buffeted by the cold wind; I know what it is like to be sinking in the sea for what seems to be the very last time, although in my case I didn't have the benefit of a boat to slow my demise. I understand with absolute clarity how the disciples must have felt as disaster overtook them while their Master slept.

I lived out this Bible story on March 12, 1967 in a very literal way.

Since then, I have had several occasions to live it out in a metaphorical way, and I am ashamed that I still haven't learned my lesson despite all these years.

You know what I am talking about: there are times in your life when you know a great upheaval is coming. The wind rises ominously and the clouds don't look right. People suddenly start doing and saying strange things and you know something is afoot. Relatives fall prey to strange persuasions; your health might even fail. The news on television starts sounding Biblical, and there are rumors the like of which you haven't heard before. Your life is tossed upon the waves like a small ship on an angry sea. Panic sets in as you decide that the end of something is near; if not your family, if not your finances, if not your career, then maybe the whole world!

"Master, Master," you cry to God, "Don't you even care that I am perishing?"

And you sit in your quiet room and stare at the ceiling, as if all your prayers never got past that point, and the silence from heaven is deafening. At most points in your life, if you heard an audible voice in answer to your prayer, you'd smile and look for the person who's playing a joke on you. Or perhaps you'd search the yellow pages for a good psychiatrist who specializes in auditory hallucinations; but today in your distress there is a part of you that demands to hear what you've never heard, to see what you've never seen, because you are scared to your innermost being and you need comfort and rescue, and you need it now.

How impudent of God not to answer. Doesn't He know what you're going through?

Kenneth W. Collins, 'Unanswered' Prayer?
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Fearful Times

When I was a kid, I was terrified of spiders. Even Daddy Long Legs, which I now understand are not, technically, spiders but have a very spiderly look about them, scared me to death. Once, almost literally, when one leapt out of a half bushel of peaches we had just bought by a road side stand, I leapt out of the car into the road. Fear can do that.

My sisters and brother didn't help. They enjoyed picking Daddy Long Legs up by a long leg and chasing me around the yard!

Since then, my fears have grown up a little. Now I fear things that really can hurt me like the national debt and global warming. Yesterday, the headlines named another fear, terrorists, this time, U.S. citizens, independent, guided by some 5,000 do-it-yourself terrorist self-help websites.

On top of these overwhelming world fears, each of us carries personal fears - a deadline, a pink slip, a visa bill, a doctor's appointment. We all have spiders - some fear that gets us in the gut.

These are fearful times, but then - they always have been. You would think, if ever there were a time and people who would be fearless it would be the disciples, walking and living in the very presence of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, Light of the World, 2000 years ago. But as Mark tells it, they could panic right along with the best of us.

Heather Entrekin, When We Are Afraid
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Listen for the Questions
The Scriptures include a significant number of life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose and value in life. Consider some of the questions posed by Scripture:

What will it profit us if we gain the whole world but forfeit our life? (Matthew 16:26)
Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15)
What are you looking for? (John 1:38)
Who is my neighbor? (Like 10:29)
What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17)
Who can separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:35)
Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (Mark 10:38)
Which commandment is the first of all? (Mark 12:28)
Where can I go from your Spirit? (Psalm 139:7).
What is this new teaching, with authority? (Mark 1:27)
Who is this about whom I hear such things? (Luke 9:9)
What is truth? (John 18:38)

And this morning's Gospel lesson ends with the question, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41). Who is this Jesus, the one who speaks with a new level of authority, the one who is able to bring calm into the storms of life, the one who comes among us as prince of peace, suffering servant, fount of compassion and grace?

Joel D. Kline, Listen for the Questions
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Humor: Sucked In, Washed Up, Blown Over

Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

The bird's owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum cleaner, and opened the bag. There was Chippie - still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust, hair and all the stuff you find in a dust bag, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the tap, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, a friend who had heard about Chippie's troubles contacted his owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore - he just sits and stares."

Who can blame him? Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

Things happen in our lives that come along unexpectedly and we end up feeling a bit like Chippie - sucked in, washed up, and blown over - the song stolen from the stoutest of hearts.

I reckon there are very few here this morning who couldn't stand up and give testimony to some aspect of their lives where they feel a bit like the disciples in that boat - afraid, vulnerable, a decidedly sinking feeling! You know what it's like to feel as though you are in the middle of a storm, tossed this way and that, and you wonder how you're ever going to get to calmer waters.

Vince Gerhardy, Calm in a Storm
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Hard Work Is Required

Somewhere in my past, it was pointed out to me that having the wind stop is disastrous for sail boats. It means that the sailors have to do hard, manual labor to move the boat to where it is going. Even the presence of Christ and his great miracles may still mean a lot of hard work on our part to get where Christ wants us to go. If Jesus wanted the disciples on the other side of the lake, why not just "beam them over," rather than have them go through a storm and then to row the boat to shore?

While we may pray that Jesus would work miracles in our lives and in our world and in our neighborhoods, the miracles that come probably won't let us off the hook from doing some of the hard work required to do what Jesus has called us to do.

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
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Courage in the Midst of Fear

I have several books on the shelves in my office that have stories of genuine heroes in them. These are people who have performed remarkable acts of courage. I find their stories thrilling. I also find them a little unsettling. How do people do those things? In a real crisis, what is to keep me from running in the other direction? The stories I like best are the ones that talk about courage in the midst of fear. Those are people I can really admire ... people who are scared to death and still do what needs to be done.

One such person was Marshall Ney, a captain in Napoleon's army. Napoleon often referred to Marshall Ney as the bravest man he had ever known. Yet, the captain's knees trembled so badly one morning before a battle that he had trouble getting on his horse. When he was finally in the saddle, he looked at his knees and said with disgust, "Shake away, knees. You would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you." Now that's a man I can really like!

Kristin Borsgard Wee, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (First Third): Do You Love Me?, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
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The Four Chaplains
On a cold February 4, 1943, the American ship, the Dorchester, was carrying several hundred soldiers off the coast of Greenland. Suddenly, an enemy torpedo ripped into its hull. Within minutes the ship would go under. Amid the panic and confusion, four chaplains, Alex Good, Jewish; John Washington, Catholic; Clark Poling and George Fox, Protestants, stood together with their life belts on. Many of the soldiers had none. Without lifeboats, their chances for survival were nil. Quickly, the chaplains took off their belts and gave them to four men. As the ship sank, the chaplains, with hands firmly clasped, prayed the Lord's prayer. The chaplains gave their lives for the others, because One other had first stood in for them. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12) That's a tall order. Well, not so unreal, considering his love stands taller than life itself.

James Weekley, Tilted Haloes, CSS Publishing Company
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Why Not You?

A ministerial colleague tells of a conversation he had one day with a female medical assistant in a doctor's office, as he was waiting to see the doctor. The woman recognized him because she had occasionally attended his church, though she was a member of another church. "I want to tell you about my experience," she said. "I got saved in the Assemblies of God Church ... I gave my life to God ... and guess what? ... Life tumbled in! I developed a heart problem. My husband lost his executive job ... and he recently died of cancer." The minister says he tried to mumble a few theological sounding explanatory words about God's mysterious ways, thinking that was what the woman wanted. But she went right on with her story, indicating that she had repeatedly asked God, "Why me?" "And what do you think God told me?" she continued. "'Why not you?' That's what God said. 'Why should you be spared all the crises of life that everyone else must go through?'" Then she wound up her story saying, "One day I said to God, 'Lord, you've forgiven me. Now I forgive you.'"

There is a woman who, from my point of view, has a healthy faith. Her faith is not a series of propositions, it is a relationship, and as in all relationships, it is one that changes and can tolerate challenges. It is vital because it is honest.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company
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Porcupines

Pastor John Ortberg has a delight discussion on porcupines in his book, Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them. Porcupines are members of the rodent family, says Ortberg. They have around 30,000 quills attached to their bodies. Each quill can be driven into an enemy, and the enemy's body heat will cause the microscopic barb to expand and become more firmly embedded. The wounds can fester; the more dangerous ones, affecting vital organs, can be fatal.

The porcupine is not generally regarded as a lovable animal, Ortberg continues. Books and movies celebrate almost every other conceivable ani­mal. Dogs, cats, horses, pigs like Babe or Arnold Ziffel in the old TV show Green Acres, spiders as in Charlotte's Web, dolphins like Flipper, bears like Gentle Ben, and killer whales as in Free Willy. Even skunks have Pepe Le Pew. There are no famous porcupines.

"As a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling rela­tionships: withdrawal and attack...