The 4th Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 7B (6/24/2012)

Lessons: Job 38:1-11 Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 St. Mark 4:35-41 Semicontinuous Series: 1 Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49 Psalm 9:9-20

Prayer of the Day O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

St. Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

This devotional message is an approximation of what I shared with my friends and colleagues at Wartburg Seminary’s “Luther Academy of the Rockies” — held at Meeker Park Lodge near Allenspark, Colorado. A great group of pastors and their families, it is a joy to have time with them at this event. I’ll dedicate this message to them, with wishes that God’s presence will always be near for them, no matter how challenging the journey. Dave

Calming the Seas

Among my fondest childhood memories are summers with cousin Jack. He was an only child, a few months older than me, and living in Alexandria, Virginia. His parents had many friends and relatives in northern Minnesota, and most years would make an annual pilgrimage to visit them. They would always swing through Stillwater, pick me up, and have me join them for the trip. I assumed, in those days, that it was because of their great fondness for me. That certainly was true to some degree, but most likely they were at least as interested in keeping their son preoccupied, so they wouldn’t be distracted from parties with their circle of friends.

We’d spend time around Detroit Lakes, but the highlight was the stay on Gull Lake near Brainerd. For a kid who grew up in modest surroundings, it was quite a thrill to spend time every summer around lake cabins, sailboats, speed boats, and adults who partied well into the night.

On Gull Lake, Jack and I were issued our own marine craft: a 14’ aluminum boat with an 18 horsepower outboard motor (quite an upgrade from my grandfather’s Johnson Seahorse 5 hp). We loved cruising around that lake, and thought we were pretty hot stuff. I’ll never forget one afternoon, though, when we wandered a bit farther than we should have, and ended up on the far side of the lake, just as those dark thunderheads started rolling in. We made a beeline for the cabin, straight across the middle of the lake, but with that small motor, and a fairly stiff headwind, it was slow going. Every clap of thunder sent chills down our spine, as we thought about how stupid we were to be out in the middle of a large lake, in an aluminum boat, in the middle of an electrical storm.

We actually made it back safely, and I think the adult festivities had already begun, so we didn’t even get scolded for being out there. But those twenty or thirty minutes of terror have burned their way into my memory. Just to tell the story brings me right back to the middle of that lake.

Gull Lake isn’t the Sea of Galilee, of course, but it’s where I end up every time I turn my attention to this week’s Gospel lesson. There is a part of me that can identify with these disciples. Aware of the danger. Working as hard as possible to get through it. Uncertain as to what the outcome would be. Wanting to say to God, “Wake up, for crying out loud, and save me from this mess!”

In the text, Jesus is one who rebukes the winds and commands that the seas be still. His followers are struck by his power, and it fills them with awe. I wish it always turned out that way. It doesn’t.

I was terrified to the point of paralysis that day on Gull Lake, right up until the moment we tied the boat up at the dock. I have been so worried about my friend, Jerry, who has been fighting brain cancer for three years, right up until this past Tuesday morning, when he finally lost the battle. I worry about my kids. I worry about my congregation. I worry about my country. I worry about the earth. I worry about my ELCA pension accumulations… It seems, sometimes, as though I am surrounded by raging seas. I want to say to God, “Wake up, for crying out loud, and save me from this mess!”

I do lift these times up in prayer, but I honestly don’t know if it’s faithful, or even wise, to ask God to calm the seas that surround me. I do know this, though: the experience very quickly is transformed when I shift my attention from the dangers that surround me, to Jesus. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the winds are rebuked and the seas become still. But a certain calm comes over me, and I know that I am not alone.

When storms rage in our lives, we are blessed to know that we are not alone. Our Lord, who has power to rebuke the winds and still the seas, is with us, now and always. And that makes all the difference in the world.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What kind of storm must it have been, to frighten fishermen who spent their lives on the water?
  2. Given what they had already seen Jesus do, why were they afraid in the boat?
  3. How must Jesus’ actions have become a reassurance to them, even many years later?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What particular storms are passing through my life right now?
  2. How might I turn them over to God, and trust that God will guide me through them?
  3. How does the experience of a stormy time change, when I sense God’s presence with me?