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June 20, 2021

“Where’s Your Faith?”

(From Mark 4:35-41)

 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 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?” 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. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 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?”

     Johnny was a very inquisitive and independent young boy.  He was the oldest sibling, and the one who looked after his sister, for she was several years his junior.  It did not seem that there was much that would rattle Johnny’s cage; he appeared to possess a self-assurance far beyond his ten years of age.   Then, came the summer program at the local YMCA.  Part of the program’s activities included lessons in swimming.  Johnny did not have any experience with swimming, and so he was eager to start his classes. 

     The swimming classes began with the swimming coaches holding each child afloat as they learned to kick their feet and paddle their hands.  Johnny liked learning to swim so far.  Then, one day, the coaches began holding the swimmers afloat, but then they dropped their arms and allowed the children to float, kick their feet, and paddle through the water on their own.  Johnny immediately sank down into the water, and forgetting to hold his breath as his head went underwater, he took in a snoot-full of pool water and began to flail his arms in panic. A coach rushed over to rescue Johnny, who was in the shallow water that allowed him simply to stand and gain his balance and composure.  As he stood up, Johnny blurted out, “Hey, where were you, don’t you know I could have drowned?”

     Needless to say, the story is told that Johnny was also quite a bit miffed at his Dad about the whole situation, which Johnny shared on the trip home that day.  After all, Dad had neglected to warn Johnny about the time to come when he would be placed under his own power, and left to navigate the task of swimming solely by virtue of his own novice swimming resources.  Johnny’s angry and disappointed response to his summer swimming experience at the Y mirrors the response of Jesus’ Disciples in our gospel Lesson this morning.  The Disciples were with Jesus in a boat traveling to the other side of the sea.  They had just completed a day where Jesus had preached to a large crowd that had gathered by the sea to hear him.  The crowd grew so large that Jesus and the Disciples climbed into the boat and set out away from the shore so that everyone could hear Jesus.  It had been a good day.  Now, the boat was heading to a new community where Jesus would teach and heal, sharing God’s love in a new setting. As the boat journeyed on toward the next destination, Jesus fell asleep at the stern of the boat.

     Suddenly, the wind rose up and the waves it created began to rock the boat so that it took in a large amount of water.  The Disciples began to panic, fearing for their very lives.  “TEACHER!” they cried out, waking Jesus from his rest; “Do you not care that we are perishing?”  Their pleasant boat trip now seemed like a waterborne death sentence, and they were unhappy about a situation they felt unable to handle.      Jesus awoke, and he immediately rebuked the wind and calmed the storm, and a peaceful sea was restored.  At this, however, Jesus looked around at his companions on the journey.  “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus asked them. 

It is the word “still” in Jesus response to his Disciples on the sea that day that caught my attention.  Jesus had expected that his Disciples were coming to him in need of some convincing about just who he was and about the power of his ministry.  But, they had been walking with him for a while now, and they were witnesses to both his merciful compassion and the power of his authority over this world.  Yet, they still had not internalized their witness of Jesus’ mighty acts of healing and restoration into a personal faith in him-even a small grain of faith that, with him, all was well.   I began to consider my own times of doubt, doubt when, like the Disciples, I was faced with the unanticipated storms of life; storms for which I felt ill-prepared to cope.  How often had I called out to Jesus, “Jesus, do you see me struggling here?  Do you care that I am perishing?  Help me!”

     Well friends, I stand here before you as a witness that Jesus cares about those moments in life when we feel that we are perishing.   Just as he did for his Disciples that day, Jesus calms our storm and rebukes the winds and waves that threaten us—I know this to be true because Jesus has done this for me time and time again.  As my faith journey has continued, I can now often sense Jesus saying to me, as he has to his Disciples, “I am right here with you, where is your faith?”  Have I, too, failed so many times to internalize my witness of Jesus’ power and authority into a faith that trusts he is with me whenever life’s storms, literal and metaphorical, come threatening?  Where was my faith amid those various storms?  Faith, like a muscle, must be exercised to grow firm and strong.   

     Robert Browning penned the famous words, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.”  Let me modernize with inclusion Browning’s words for us today- “A person’s reach should exceed their grasp.”  I have heard these words spoken many times to challenge people to step out of their comfort zones and into new horizons, new opportunities to grow faith.  What I did not know until I Googled this phrase is that there is more to it.  Browning’s phrase continues, “or what’s heaven for?”  Wow, what new meaning this full phrase brings to God’s people.  It is by reaching out with trust, as we look toward God in heaven, that we encounter our new horizons.  We do this not because we can accomplish something new all by ourselves; but, because Jesus is in the boat with us, and we can trust him.  The scriptures reveal that he has proven himself to be worthy of our faith.

     There is a verse of scripture that is a helpful guide to our life’s journey of growing in faith.  Acts 10: 34 states, Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”  There is no favoritism with God.  It doesn’t matter where you are from or how much money and status you may have acquired. As the Hymn says, “What he’s done for others, he’ll do for you.”  We have a trustworthy God, as God has been revealed to us in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus.  

     So, Church, you may be asking yourselves right about now what all of this has to do with our celebration of Father’s Day today?  I respond to you that Jesus has set the bar for us: as fathers, mothers, teachers, mentors and many and various other types of role models for our youth, as well as for those who look to us for guidance in matters of faith.  If we share our common witness to all that Jesus has done for us along our journey of faith, if we come alongside our brothers and sisters, and children, and neighbors with the good news that we can, by our faith, do all things in Christ, because Christ has done for others all that he will continue to do for us; then, friends, we will be the fathers, mothers, friends and neighbors that point people to a faith in Christ Jesus. And, as we have seen, he is trustworthy. We can guide others to experience for themselves his power and his love.  So, Church–where’s your faith?  Why, it’s in the Rock of Ages, the Lamb of God, our Redeemer, Lord and Savior, the calmer of our life’s greatest storms—Christ Jesus.  He is worthy of our faith.  Blessed Happy Father’s Day!  Amen.

Hymn-“It Is Well with My Soul”

(words-Horatio G. Spafford, music-Phillip P. Bliss)

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

A Father’s Day Prayer

(by Chuck Currie)

We give our thanks, Creator God, for the fathers in our lives.

Fatherhood does not come with a manual, and reality teaches us that some fathers excel while others fail.

We ask for Your blessings for them all – and forgiveness where it is needed.

This Father’s Day we remember the many sacrifices fathers make for their children and families, and the ways – both big and small – they lift children to achieve dreams thought beyond reach.

So too, we remember all those who have helped fill the void when fathers pass early or are absent – grandfathers and uncles, brothers and cousins, teachers, pastors and coaches – and for the women of our families who serve in these roles.

For all those who are fathers, we ask for wisdom and humility in the face of the task of parenting. Give them the strength to do well by their children and by You.

In Your Holy name, O God, we pray. Amen.