Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2018
St. Jacob’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
Mark 4:35-41; Job 38:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
There are times when I have wondered how person’s in the Bible, like Job and Jesus’ twelve disciples could be so thick headed. Job is crazy to insist, like many do, that God meet you one on one, not for assistance but to justify himself. How could disciples be with someone who cast out demons and cured diseases with a word be fearful about drowning during a storm when Jesus is less than 10 feet away?
On reflection I easily recall with how similar I am to Job and the twelve on less pressing situations than they faced. I too need remember the words of Canticle 13 from the green LBW: “Keep in mind Jesus Christ has died for us and is risen from the dead. He is our saving Lord; he is joy for all ages.”
About 10 years ago Linda and I went on an Alaska cruise. We saw the wonders of God’s creation: incredibly steep, thickly forested mountains while in channels over 1,000 ft from shore to shore, whales, a bear, arctic terns, seals, bald eagles that seemed commonplace, and the deep blue of glacial ice. Yet on the last day at sea, after enjoying the morning breakfast, selecting cruise photos to send family, and finding humor in a ship in the Pacific Northwest having a fire sale on Hawaii themed goods left over from their previous cruise there. Eventually I noticed my cap was missing, probably set on a display table amidst the souvenirs. I spent the next few hours, retracing steps, checking out the lost and found and generally getting bummed out. I was mad that a passenger or staff may have taken it. I was torqued that the sellers either tossed it or stored it when gathering the tropic merchandise. I began complaining to God that it seemed I got dumped on whenever I became comfortable and genuinely enjoying myself. I recalled that several months earlier a man did steal a recently purchased cap when in a Seattle hospital when I was in the waiting room during a very serious surgery my brother Scott was undergoing. I began asking what God was trying to teach me such as ‘you still have too much on your mind’ or ‘you are not resting in Jesus and letting things go.’ It bore fruit in late afternoon as I began counting the blessings of sights seen, interesting people met, and having an opportunity to witness when explaining the Christian symbolism on a lapel pin I was wearing when a waiter asked me about it. As good as that was it never crossed my mind that a major part of the answer probably was, “I was placing too much emphasis on my toys.”
Of course a few weeks after our return the lessons featured God’s reply to Job, Jesus calming a storm for his disciples, and the things Paul willingly went through to when Jesus came to him and his life afterward. The lessons showed the movement from challenging God, to being fearers of God, and finally lovers of God. Comparing my cruise ship experience with their experiences I felt a little embarrassed and foolish.
Take Job. He had it all and now just about everything has been taken from him: family, possessions, health, and community respect for no reason obvious to him and his neighbors. Job concludes he is unjustly persecuted and his comforters see him as hiding a secret sin.
Understandably, even if foolish, several times he asks God to appear and let Job state his case.
Job gets quite an answer when God speaks and asks “Who are you to go after me?” For 129 verses God asks Job formulates responses that ask Job “Where were you when I created?” and “Can you control the elements and the other creatures?” Job now sees himself like a character in a Jack Black playing then. A scrawny man is being flogged. He says, “I would like to see how big you are without that whip?” The man about the size of a guard on professional football team drops his whip. The man notes his tormenter is still big enough to thrash him. Like that character hearing God, Job shifts his challenge. At the end he responds, “I have uttered what I do not understand, I have heard you but now I see you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job shows the first movement when he realizes God is God and he is not.
Acknowledging God’s power puts us in an awkward position. It would be great to be able to tap into that power in hard times. But what if that power operates under the dictum of many an earthly dictator: “Let many suffer for my vision of the greater good.”
The disciples wondered about that. They are on a large lake in fishing boat not designed to weather powerful storms. That evening a storm arises. The waves are huge. The boat might capsize. Some or all of them might drown. In the middle of this their powerful rabbi Jesus is sleeping soundly. They are afraid enough to wake him and challenge his provision. “Teacher, do you not care we perishing.” Jesus does not respond like the comedian W.C. Fields, “Go away kids, you bother me.” Jesus cares. As in other situations, he calms the storm with a word. After their collective sigh of relief, they begin grasping his care and divinely originated power, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Fear for their lives has shifted to awe at a power that has been used for their benefit.
Paul spells out the transformation that comes in knowing one is loved by Christ Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection, which he did not believe, Paul concluded his followers were dangerous to true faith in God. On the road with the power to clean out the synagogues and arrest people following Jesus’ way, Jesus knocks him down and asks, “Why do you persecute me?” Paul’s what you mean response is not followed by boulder rolling over him. Jesus blinds him and instructs him to await welcome by a Christian, and tells him he has been chosen. Paul experiences power, purpose all grounded in Jesus’ love on his behalf Paul becomes a willing servant using his experience and learning to speak of Christ’s salvation. Knowing Jesus care and awareness he is willing to take the bad that comes from proclaiming him. Paul maintains an open heart, mind, and vision so others may have the same richness in life Paul and his companions have. Paul moves from challenge, to awe, to trust in and love for Jesus Christ.
It is a life changing moment when we recognize with Job there is a difference in vantage point between us and God. It is a life changing moment when like the twelve disciples we see the power and love of God and really start asking who Jesus is while being grateful for his rescue.
It is a life changing moment when like Paul one responds in gratitude and trust for Jesus power and grace, which is greater than the hardships.
As for the missing cap, unlike the hospital theft, I did not travel all over the area between Oakland and Sacramento looking for a replacement, nor did I have a strong desire to replace it. I did find and buy a gray cap with ear flaps five years later when catching a sale when in Branson, Missouri, celebrating my parent’s sixtieth anniversary with Linda.
Whether the storms are great like Job, the twelve, and Paul faced, or true tempests in a teapot like mine, Jesus Christ is there to shift the perspective and help us grow into better loving witnesses of and witnesses of God’s kingdom. Amen.