Jesus on the Loose.9

by admin on March 2, 2014

Mark 4:35-41
Reflections for 2 March 2014

Small Craft Warnings

“Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” Eugene Peterson

George Lindbeck: to become a Christian involves learning the story of Jesus well enough to interpret and experience your world and yourself in its terms

Let’s think about summer and sunny days. Summer storms come up quickly. In just a moment trees sway, grass bends over and the waves on Lake Erie jump onto the deck. That small craft warning flag always flies off the coast guard station.

Just a minute ago the sun was shining; gentle breeze; sticky heat. It’s easy to get lulled into believing in our summer routine. And then the wind changes and there’s a mad dash to shut the windows, head for shelter, race towards the shore.

Summer has a routine. Get the kids off to soccer camp; get in an early round of golf, head for the lake. A couple of Saturdays ago we took the ferry over to Put-In-Bay. At 9:30 am the routine was already in full swing— bleary eyed men drinking breakfast at the Roundhouse. Hey, that’s summer.

We’ve done it forever. Our lives take on the summer rhythm that moves us along, just like always and we fell protected, safe, and secure. Then a storm.

A loved one is diagnosed with life threatening disease. The marriage of friends unravels. Long awaited retirement turns into a bust as now you’re stuck with him 24 hours a day.
When life gets unpredictable and out of control, that’s when we break into a cold sweat.

This story of Jesus we just heard has long been seen and believed as the antidote for the pains of life’s little cloud bursts. There is no guarantee that the sudden storms of summer won’t come thundering into our lives. But somebody is with us in the boat. Look, it’s a bird, it’s a plane—no, it’s Jesus to the rescue.

Is that true? If it is, how come when the first gales begin to blow we get nervous? There’s more to Jesus than a magic rabbit foot; the divine good luck charm; the heavenly bodyguard. We need a fuller picture.

Christianity is held in suspicion by so many because Jesus is merely reduced down to this. He ends up a kind of ancient version of Mr. Rogers in a toga and sandals. Nice, but largely irrelevant to a world of microchips, SUVs and House of Cards.

Three ideas in this reading worth some deeper reflection.

1. Remember, it was Jesus’ idea in the first place to get into the boat and set sail. If it weren’t for him the disciples wouldn’t be in this mess. Echoes of Laurel and Hardy: another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.

Why would Jesus take off on a cockamamie scheme? To get to the other side! The other side is full of demons and Gentiles.

This is the first time Jesus ventures into new territory to proclaim the good news of God. If the disciples were scared in the boat, just wait until they stand face to face with people they can’t’ like, accept, or shake hands with.

When God writes the trip-tik, no telling where you’ll end up. Grace draws a wider perimeter than our geometry will allow.

2. Here’s an interesting twist. The disciples are experienced sailors; they’ve been out on the water all their lives. What’s another storm? And yet they are scared. And Jesus? He’s a landlubber and snoozing away.

What gives? Jesus was very trusting. On one level he trusted his disciples. They knew this territory, they were competent; they could get the boat to the other side, so why worry?

On a deeper level, Jesus trusted God with the big picture. Sleeping isn’t a sign of fatigue or indifference; it’s Mark’s way of saying Jesus had total trust that his father would guide the boat in safety.

Trust becomes the essential mark of a follower of Jesus. He modeled it, he evoked it. We all have several levels of trust operating in our lives: we trust the car will start; the church will be open; the sun will come out. Those are the incidentals—what about the big picture? The essence of trust is knowing and accepting we can’t control a whole lot in life.

3. I’m intrigued by the dialogue, the conversation in this story. Not much of it and what there is is short—POW—right to the point. The boat is in deep water: “we’ll have to bail. Hey, where’s Jesus? What? Sleeping!! Hey, don’t you care about us?”

Don’t you care? It’s rough and indignant. Evermore so when we read Matthew’s and Luke’s cleaned up version. Apart from one other instance in chapter one—(another whining)—these are the very first words the disciple address to Jesus in Mark.

Jesus’ immediate reply is short—two words: be quiet; shut up! And there was immediate calm.

“Have you no faith?” is better understood: don’t you guys get it yet? What will it take? They miss Jesus’ point completely. Soaked to the bone, they ask who is this man that even the sea obeys?

So, Who is Jesus?

I’ve noticed in the last decade or so Jesus has become pretty popular, as kind of cultural hero. New films and books are constantly being cranked out. He’s a spiritual guru; a nomadic preacher; the model CEO; the best ever QB for Dallas.

There’s a new movie coming out soon—Son of God.

Jesus is the subject of all kinds of reflection and reporting. If only we can get to the bottom of the story, or incorporate Jesus’ no fail principles of personal leadership—then we got something.

This story is a pivotal one in Mark—they all are! A storm tossed boat launches out into new territory and the disciples are challenged to do only one thing: trust Jesus.

This is exactly what we want to avoid. Jesus’ image has been reworked, refashioned, and rehabilitated to make him anything other than the object of trust.

To trust—the fellows in the boat have to do a single thing—give up; relax; stop worrying. It doesn’t take much for life to be spinning out of control—then what?

We bark orders; furiously make plans on our iPhone; resort to emotional extortion: if you really cared…..

Life out of control happens to all of us—4 months to 94 years. How we learn to handle it spells a lifetime of character.

I used to think that enough self-help books and personal insight was all I needed. If I could just control my surroundings then I wouldn’t blow a gasket, have a meltdown, and go on a yelling rampage—at least publicly.

What do we do when the boat is tossing? Try giving up. This story isn’t about Jesus will calm the storm—It’s about Jesus will get us to the other side.

So many times we want faith to be a quick fix; an easy answer to difficult situations; a stamp of approval on our way of thinking and behaving.

There is real truth to the observation that our character is revealed in a crisis. Life is filled with crises. So you want to be the man who blows his stack at everything? The woman whose insides have become an emotional timebomb?

Or would you like to get to the other side and land in a whole new territory?

The small craft warnings are flying everyday we wake up Just for today try trusting Jesus. We’ll always end up surrounded by grace. We’ll discover that it is possible to give up. And we will be on our way to a lifetime handling life’s difficult moments.

Here’s a couple of suggestions as to how to do this:

—Pray everyday: Lord, I offer myself to you…fill me with love so I won’t be afraid for life’s storms.
—hang around other Christians…come to church and pay attention. Not to the brilliant sermons, but to the whole picture…people of God sitting in the presence of God.
—read the Bible; study it; listen to the story of Jesus; interact with other people who read it.
—act in faith…get into the boat, raise the anchor, shove off..and know that God is there.

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