With Jesus In My Boat

Preacher: 
Rachel Bauer Eskite
Sermon Text: 

Proper 7, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
24 June 2018, Year B: Mark 4:35-41

With Jesus in my Boat…

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you, Oh Lord our God.

A little while ago, I was having a conversation. I had met some new people and I was trying to show them that I was so excited to be having a conversation with them. Kind of like a kid in a candy shop—so probably a little over zealous at wanting to include them.

It came from a purely loving place, a place in my heart that most assuredly overflows with the love of God, so much so that it overflows onto other people.

Then we got to the point in the conversation where I felt I made a faux pas. Call the awkward police.

Immediately, my brain started screaming at me. I picked up and kept going, though. The conversation went on, and eventually came to a natural conclusion. I went on with my day.

Then I came to a period where I had to drive home.

Driving is a time where everything that has been bubbling in the back of my brain suddenly wants to come to the forefront. For example, if I’m wrestling with something I need to write, I often will get a breakthrough when I’m driving and it is least convenient to grab a pen and paper and make a note. Or I can go back through my day and critique everything that I did not do perfectly.

In short, my mind can start racing. I can create a storm.

After this particular conversation, in the midst of the brain storm, I started praying. I asked God for help. I asked God why God didn’t help me not be so awkward. I asked God to make sure the people in the conversation knew they were loved. I tried to make it be OK. Then I heard, somewhere from the depths, “Do you trust me?”

To which I said, “yes, but…”

With the many “but’s” waiting to pour out of my lips, I heard again: “Do you trust me?”

“Yes.” That time it landed. I managed to get a “but” in though: “Yes, I trust You, but I’m scared.”

I was thinking about this encounter when I read today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark.

The disciples are on a boat with Jesus. Jesus, who is clearly exhausted from teaching and ministering, falls asleep in the front of the boat. A storm comes up, and the disciples panic. Fearing for their lives, they wake Jesus up. Jesus calms the storm…

Let’s pause here: I want to talk about the storm.

Storm, I think, has many meanings.

Sometimes the storm is inside.

These storms are not always something we have control over.

These storms can be a byproduct of depression or anxiety or general malaise.

Then there are times we participate in creating these internal storms.

For me, there are times I want so badly to do something well, that when I am anything less than perfect that bully, the inner critic, that oppressing self-doubt in my head tells me how far I am away from who I want to be.

Sometimes it is easier to be in crisis. Sometimes it is easier to be the disciples crying out in the boat, waking up Jesus, than it is to realize I am an active agent in my own liberation.

Sometimes prayer is hard in these places.  Sometimes it is hard to remember Emmanuel---God with us. No matter what.

It can be hardest to hear the still, small voice of God in the places where the storm is the loudest.

Sometimes the storm is outside. Coming from other people or from the world around us.

Sometimes the storm is the nation’s next crisis—whether it’s gun violence in schools, shooting in a Florida night club, water in Flint, flooding from hurricanes, electricity in Puerto Rico, protests about statues in Charlottesville, suicide, a pipeline through Standing Rock, Me Too & sexual violence, homelessness we encounter every day on the streets, the separation of children from their families along the border…

It can be easy to go from crisis to crisis, storm to storm, and forget where we’ve been and who we are as God’s people.

In all these storms, in order to act as we are called to, we must be able to distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the storm. We must be able to find “Peace,” and “Be Still” in a world that never stops moving.

What I have learned from a practice of prayer and meditation is that the goal is not to control my thoughts. The mind is made to think, it’s what it is designed to do, so I cannot stop my brain from thinking any more than I can stop my lungs from breathing.

Rather, the practice is to move the focus away from the thoughts. Instead of being attached to the thoughts, you step back and observe them.

Another way of looking at it is this: it is a practice of moving the focus from reaction & chaos to God.

Me, in my worry about being awkward, or not being perfect, forgot about God. The disciples, in their fear over perishing in the storm, forgot about God. We, in our desire to help, can wind up feeling helpless, like we don’t know what to do.

Then I think of what I heard in the car: “Do you trust me?”

The answer from the depth of my being is: Yes.

Yes—I remember God. Yes—I remember life.

Yes—I remember the message of the Gospel, which is a message of truth, hope, peace, joy, &  love, NOT panic, anger, or fear.[i]

What I hear when Jesus asks his disciples: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” is “Do you trust me?”

And when the disciples are in complete awe and comment to each other “who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” I hear a Yes.

Yes, I trust God. Yes, the disciples do, too.

But, it takes practice.

It takes practice to trust God when your circumstances change or when life doesn’t feel like it used to.

It takes practice to build this kind of trust because we have been hurt a lot. By ourselves and by others. By policies and by the chaos of the world.

But the practice is WORTH IT. Being broken open is sometimes not as scary as trying to keep it all together.

Practice gives us the integrity to be like a boat that travels where the water of the Spirit takes us, no matter what.

So, be in the storm. Educate yourself. Know what you have energy to respond to and what you don’t. Trust that there are enough of us to be in the places where others can’t.

Finding a voice to express how we feel honestly and openly is an act of faith.

And remember, that even if all feels out of control or like it is not happening in a timely fashion, God is with us in it, even if it seems like He is sleeping.

Amen.

[i] See Karl Vaters. “The Importance of Doing lowercase ministry in an ALL CAPS World.” https://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2018/june/importance-of-do... 19 June 2018.

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