4th Sunday After Pentecost; Year B 2015
Job 38.1-11; Psalm 107.1-3, 23-32; 2 Cor. 6.1-13; Mark 4.35-41
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace to you and peace to you from the One who loves and cares for you, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
On Friday night we had a whirlwind, a terrifying storm, blow through Mandan and Bismarck. With the torrential downpour, the howling wind, the crack of thunder, and the flashes of lightening, even though while safe inside the walls of our home, it was a reminder of how vulnerable and small one can feel in the face of such power. The storm gave incredible imagery for the whirlwind mentioned in Job and the great windstorm in our Gospel reading.
These kinds of storms can do serious damage, and even kill people. It’s no wonder the disciples feared death was upon them trapped in their swamped boat when they woke Jesus up and cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
“Do you not care…”
Countless people, including many of us here today, have asked the creator of all things at one point or another: “Do you not care, God…”
“Do you not care that I am sick…
Do you not care that my mom is dying…
Do you not care that we do not have food on the table tonight…
Do you not care, God, that I’m struggling with addiction…
That I can’t pay my rent…
That I feel depressed…
That my mental illness seems to rule my life…
That my friend died…
That I’m locked up…”
Do you not care, God…giver and sustainer of all life?
When death is near or when life is really difficult, we wonder whether or not God is real, if God is good, and if God cares about our life and ultimately our death. Our own personal suffering and loss naturally cause us to wonder these things, but so does suffering on a larger scale:
Refugees drown every day trying to cross oceans and seas to escape genocide and war. Tens of thousands of people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. Around the world there are children who are forced to be soldiers and slaves.
In Charleston, South Carolina, this past week, a 21 year-old walks into a church, even participates in Bible study for an hour and then afterwards he opens fire and kills 9 of his brothers and sisters in Christ.
I say brothers and sisters in Christ because there is only one baptism in Christ, and the man happened to be a member of our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This young man had been baptized and marked with the cross of Christ forever, and yet nine lives are now lost because of hate and racism.
We appeal to the One who we trust and believe holds all things…Do you not care, Lord God Almighty?
We ask the question…what do we expect or want for an answer?
Job asks the question, a man who had lost his entire family, his home, all his possessions, and had such immense physical suffering he could no longer bear to not ask God why. Finally after 38 chapters of Job suffering and wondering and being abandoned by his friends, God visits Job. God answers Job out of the whirlwind, the same word for storm.
Instead of God answering Job directly, God asks him a simple question: Where were you, Job, when I laid the foundation of the earth? Right about then Job must have felt this big, not only because of the whirlwind around him and the fact that he wasn’t even a twinkle in his mother’s eye, but he had to come to recognize his suffering in light of all of existence.
Job was not God, but a creature. Job would not even have life if it wasn’t for God, and just because Job was a good person didn’t mean that nothing bad would happen to him. There were simply things Job could never know because he was not God.
In the end, Job receives something he needed more than an answer… knowing that God did not abandon him.
Jesus, God in the flesh, also responds to the disciples’ question with more questions after calming the deadly waves: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
With the calming of the waters the disciples are beginning to understand that the power of God through which all things came into being is the same power that is embodied in Jesus. This power they are recognizing in Jesus, is a power greater than suffering, greater than evil, greater than racism and hate, greater even than death itself.
Just one amazing and small example of this power of and faith is how the families of the nine victims are responding to the one who killed their loved ones. Addressing him by video camera in the court room they said things like:
“We welcomed you in our Bible study on Wednesday night…Every fiber in my body hurts and I’ll never be the same…yet what we say in Bible study…my God have mercy on your soul.”
Another said: “Their legacies were lived in love…hate won’t win.”
And another: “I am angry. But we are the family that love built, so we have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”
And yet another: “Give your life to the one who matters the most…Christ. He can change you.”
This is profound faith in the midst of incredible hurt and loss. These people know God cares, and they know it because of Jesus. They know that Christ went to the cross and died for their sake, for the sake of their loved ones, and even for the sake of the one who killed their family members.
They know that on the cross Jesus cries out to God asking if God cares in his words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
The disciples will not truly comprehend how much Jesus cares for them until they witness him dying on the cross in order to swallow up death forever.
We know death is not the end of the story…God did not abandon Jesus, but raised him up from the grave on the third day. And God accomplished all this through Jesus, in order that we would know that God indeed does care. God cares about you and your life. God never abandons you. God cares about all the happenings in the world God loves so much.
There is much that happens that we cannot understand, but God does care and we are supposed to care too and respond in faith.
We are not only called to have faith when life is good and going our way, when we think we can live each day without God’s help and God’s presence; We are called to have faith when there seems to be no hope, when we have no good answer for the cause of suffering, when God seems to be silent and far away, when we are one breath away from our last.
Faith in the Gospel of Mark is about following and clinging to Jesus and trusting in him no matter what comes our way in life because there will always be storms. And this is not blind faith, but a deep trust in the One who has created you, loves you, and died for you.
During the storm on Friday night I held my infant son, Gabriel, close. He slept peacefully in my arms throughout the whirlwind. We too are to rest like Gabriel and rest like Jesus in the front of the boat throughout the storms of life in our Maker’s loving arms. Peace! Be still…