“Get Out of the Boat!”

Mark 4:35-41 (MSG)
South Presbyterian Church – June 21, 2015
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift

            He told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

It’s been quite a week: the mass murders at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston … the two escaped murderers still on the loose … shootings in the city … for Kerrie Ann, Mike Sixbey, and our youth – uncertainty about jobs … Sandy moving out of her house in preparation for the sale next week … Shacora, Imani and Carly preparing to walk the stage for graduation … and some of us right here struggling with family issues … health issues … concerns about money.

We are being tossed around on the sea of life just as certainly as those disciples were being tossed around in their little boat.

He told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

But in OUR little storms, we have politicians gearing up for next year’s election … the uncertainty of the world markets as Greece again flirts with insolvency … What IS Putin trying to do in the Ukraine? … How do we deal with ISIS in Syria? … What about Global Warming? … How do we address racism and gun violence in this country? … How do we solve the problems of poverty and poor public education right here in Rochester?

It’s enough to make us DIZZY with all of the issues grabbing our attention one right after the other, isn’t it!

He told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

Don’t you wish it were that simple?

Sometimes I wish I could look over and see Jesus sleeping in the boat with me just so I’d be reassured that at least he’s HERE! I think I’d be willing to RISK getting scolded by him just to have the boat stop rocking for a minute or two. Just to have “the wind run out of breath” and “the sea become smooth as glass.”

But y’know what?

It does.

It DOES stop rocking and pitching forward and back. It DOES even our in our lives. There comes a time when we are able to regain our balance and we see that he HAS gotten us through the storms of life. The wind HAS run out of air. The sea HAS become smooth as glass.

Just think back to the hard, hard times we’ve had … either individually … or maybe as a family … or think of what this COUNTRY has been through just in your lifetime whether it’s war, natural disaster, or financial upheaval.

EVENTUALLY, everything evens out, doesn’t it?

Yet time and again we seem to be so much like Peter (ah… Peter … impetuous … hot-tempered … emotional … quick to react, Peter) and in one way or another we say, “Is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

We say, “Where are you, God?  Don’t you CARE?”

“Why aren’t you HELPING us?”

“How come these things keep HAPPENING?”

We forget about all of those other times when things were bad but we came through them.

We set aside all of the times that the storm raged and then SUBSIDED.

We’re so caught up in our little boats that are pitching to and fro that we forget to look and see that he’s right there with us.

Gosh, we have short memories, sometimes.

But today I want to look at what happens AFTER the storm.

After we have seen or felt the storm subside.

AFTER Jesus has reminded us that he will not leave us … and that no matter what happens it will be ok because we are with HIM.

EVENTUALLY … the boat comes back to shore.

Eventually we find ourselves docking the boat.

And THEN what???

Well, eventually we have to GET OUT OF THE BOAT!

The waters calm … we go back to our lives. Jesus gets out and continues his teaching.

And that’s when the work really begins because we have to ask ourselves:  Okay. NOW what?

Do we go back to life as it was before the storm?

Do we start over in another place? Has the storm RELOCATED us to another location … or maybe another place in our THINKING?

Do we just forget about the storm on the sea?

Some people do.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I hear, “Just put it behind you and don’t THINK about it anymore.” And while that might have a real appeal in trying to NORMALIZE things … it never really works long term.

Oh, you might be able to get back to WORK faster that way, but it you don’t take time to acknowledge what happened … what the storm was like and what it felt like to be caught up in it … then the experience just comes back to haunt you more later on.

No. We have to get out of the boat and PROCESS what happened.

Now, by “processing” I don’t mean having big meetings … let’s sit around and talk about this for hours while we sing “Kumbaya.”  I mean looking at what happened and seeing what the lessons are that we can learn from the storm. Look at how being tossed around in the boat has changed our perspective and our vision of what will come next for us.

Are we even in the same place that we were BEFORE the storm, or has it swept us into new, uncharted territory?

Has our boat been damaged? Do we need to make repairs before the next storm hits? (Because you KNOW there will always be a next storm!)

What did we LEARN about navigating in the storm?

And then … what ALL good sailors do???? We have to share that information with each other.

It’s so tempting, though, to stay right where we are … with Jesus … even if he HAS scolded us for not believing. It’s so TEMPTING to remain right there and want to just sit tight in the boat!!! I mean … this is where the interaction happened. This is where I came to know him in a different way. This is where HE SAVED MY LIFE and it’s human nature to want to stay right there and hold onto that moment a little while longer. It’s just like the disciples who wanted to stay on top of the mountain after the transfiguration!

Too bad, huh?

Too bad that we can’t do that.

But the boat docks and Jesus is up and outa there, on to his next encounter.

That’s what WE’RE supposed to be doing, too.

No sitting around and basking in the glow. He leads us on to the next challenge … the next storm … the next realization … because that’s how we grow in our faith and share it with others.

Well, today we’re honoring that there’s a change in the weather. There’s a change in who’s in the boat!

One of our Elders … Summer … who is in seminary studying to become a minister, perhaps … is about to start her field ed placement. She’ll be working at Asbury Methodist Church beginning in August. And along with that she WORKS full time while going to SCHOOL full time. So for her to continue to be able to focus on her work on the Session would take a Herculean effort. The Session, therefore, has agreed to accept her resignation with our thanks for all that she gave us during the last four years on the stormy seas. And you all have just elected Amy to serve in her stead.

This process or electing, ordaining, and installing our own leaders as we believe them called by God is what makes us PRESBYTERIAN. As you all should remember by now … “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros) which means “elder.”

You can tell a LOT about a church by its name.  Catholic means “universal.”  Roman Catholic means it’s the universal church centered in Rome.

Baptist tells you that the teachings of John, the Baptist … the practice of being baptized in order to turn away from sis is paramount to their belief system.

Methodists  practice a strict METHOD of worship and personal piety in order to connect with God.

Well, for Presbyterians … the ELDERS are the most important people … not the bishop or priest.  Jane’s and my title, as ordained Ministers of Word & Sacrament is “Teaching ELDER.”  And in terms of a congregation, it is the SESSION … the group of Ruling Elders … NOT the minister …  that is responsible for the spiritual life and well-being of the members. The Session holds all the power in a Presbyterian Church.

And I can tell you as someone who has worked closely with Amy for the last seven years … she makes SURE that we don’t stay in the boat any longer than we have to.  In fact, at the recent Leadership Retreat a couple of weeks ago, when I announced that New Life would like to work with us, she blurted out something like, “Oh good … I’ve been waiting for this!”  So in front of everybody I asked her what she meant, only to have her tell us that she’d been waiting to see where God was going to lead us next … what our next project or challenge would be.

She doesn’t wait around in the boat … and she drags the rest of us out of it, too. J

The challenge for ALL of us this week is to look at ourselves and see where we are just a little too comfortable … where we are wanting to just stay in the boat and bask in the glow of the good things, or our closeness with God, or … whatever it is that we are basking in.

And once we notice ourselves being a little reluctant, to hike ourselves up and GET. OUT. OF. THE. BOAT! Get ourselves back into life where we can share what we learned there … get ourselves talking with other sailors who might be able to benefit from our learnings … follow JESUS and get on about our business on shore. We may think he’s sleeping sometimes, but he’s right there with us … and he’s the only one who can make the wind run out of breath and the sea become smooth as glass.

May God give us the courage to get out of the boat and get on with life … for we ask this in the name of Jesus who’s right here with us.    Amen.


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