Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 28, 2020
Promise Not To Blush
June 28, 2020
Promise Not To Blush
Mark 4: 35-41
TEXT: "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
There is a story of a pioneer couple, Zeb and Martha, who staked a claim and settled down in an area where neighbors were few and far between. They built a cabin to live in, and a barn and corral for their livestock. In front of the cabin was a tree, and on the tree Zeb hung a big bell. He explained to Martha that there were outlaws roaming around. "When I'm out in the field," he said, "I want you to ring this bell in case you really need me. But, remember, ring the bell only in an emergency." Days later, as Zeb rode into the fields to cut wood, he heard the bell ring and he immediately headed home at full gallop. "What's wrong," he asked Martha anxiously. "I just thought you'd like some fresh coffee," Martha replied. "Now listen once again carefully," Zeb said. "The bell is for emergencies only. Half the day is gone and I'll have a hard time finishing my chores now." Once more he rode out into the field, and as he picked up his axe to begin chopping wood, once more he heard the bell ringing. Again he started for home, full speed ahead. "What's wrong?" he asked. "The washtub's leaking," Martha replied. "That's no emergency," Zeb said. "I can take care of the washtub later. Right now I have to chop wood." And off he went! After an hour's chopping, Zeb heard the bell ring for the third time. He immediately charged home to find the cabin in flames, the barn burned to the ground and the livestock stampeding. Then he saw Martha, slumped near the bell, tied to the tree. "Now, Martha," Zeb exclaimed, "this is more like it!"
In today's Gospel Lesson, the Apostles are sounding the alarm. They are crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with Jesus. A violent storm comes up. "And the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped " (Mark 4:37). Things look bad and the Apostles feel sure that their boat is going to sink. Fear takes hold of them -- the deep-rooted fear that one feels in the face of death. They feel that death is very close. And, to their total consternation, Jesus is sleeping peacefully on a cushion in the back of the boat. Jesus is their last resort in the emergency. They wake Him up, crying out, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" (Mk. 4:38). Then Jesus says to the sea, "Peace! Be still." And the winds grow calm. And the storm is over. And, for the Apostles, "this is more like it." But Jesus says to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And the Apostles are "filled with great awe," Mark tells us.
"There is an indispensible, happy little word being elbowed out of Christianity," someone has written. "That word is wonder. Take the wonder out of Christmas, for example, and you not only take a star out of the skies, but out of our eyes. Take away the soft edges of awe and wonder, and you wind up with only hard questions. Whatever else Christianity is, it is wonder's response to something bigger than life."
Oh the wonder of it all
Oh the wonder of it all
Just to think that
God loves me!
Dag Hammarskjold echoed those words from the George Beverly Shea song when he wrote:
God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in
a personal Deity, but we die should our lives cease to
be illumined by the steady radiance of a wonder, the
Source of which is beyond all reason.
It has been said that human beings "have lost their sense of wonder and mystery" . . .
If that be true, then we have one of the reasons why our faith is having a difficult time being understood by modern people, for Christianity is a religion that embraces mystery and awe and wonder, and often the unknown. A leap of faith is required. "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion," the Apostle Paul wrote (I Tim. 3:16). Take away the mystery -- we're talking about the Mystery of God -- take away the awe, take away the wonder, take away the reverence, and you've taken away the core of the faith.
A little boy in Sunday School class really caught the spirit of this when he blurted out, "God wonders me!" We are failing our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren if we're not demonstrating to them the childlikeness that opens us up to the awesome Mystery of God's Loving Presence in our lives.
In a computer age we have computer-conditioned minds. If it doesn't compute, it doesn't exist. If you can't touch it, taste it, smell it, hear it, it isn't there. But the Bible says, if your life lacks reverence, awe, wonder, and respect for the unseen, you probably aren't there -- at least you're not where you should be. But when Jesus enters into your life, He opens you up again to wonder, and life becomes wonder-full. Life is not a puzzle to be solved. Life is a mystery to be lived.
Time and again, when Jesus was emphasizing the glory of God, He would say, "Consider the lilies of the field," or "look at the sparrows," or the "wheat fields," or the "fig tree." Jesus used these images to trigger people's awareness of the Presence of God in His creation. "What can be known about God is plain," the Apostle Paul wrote. "Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely His eternal Power and Deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made"(Rom. 1:19-20).
Glimpses of the wonder and the glory of God are everywhere. And as we take these in through our senses, they become the catalysts that trigger our awareness of God’s Presence within us.
It is not when we take God in from "out there" that saves us and heals us. Rather it is when we allow the God who is within us -- the Christ Spirit of God -- to well up and fill our being to overflowing, literally. And when we experience the Divine Presence in this way, like the Apostles in today's Gospel Lesson who were eyewitnesses to the saving Power of God in Jesus Christ, we find it awesome.
There was a Church with a bright young pastor but a very small congregation. Among the handful of parishioners was a devout young woman. One Sunday morning, as she left the Church, someone asked her, "How did you like the sermon?" "I think it was perfectly wonderful," she replied, "but there were so few of us in there that every time the preacher said 'Dearly Beloved,' I positively blushed."
"Dearly Beloved," who are you? Before I tell you, I want you to promise not to blush. You are a human being! You are a unique masterpiece of God's creation! You are a child of God! Without you this world could not be the world God intended it to be. You occupy your own special place in God's Plan for the fulfillment of His creation. Your purpose in being here is special!
You are needed! God has need of you. God needs you to express His attributes through you! God needs you to allow Him to express through you His tremendous Love -- for your family, your friends, your neighbors, even strangers, even your so-called enemies. Isn't that awesome? Think about it as you leave here today. But promise not to blush!