One of my best friends has the most amazing mountain house. It sits on top of the mountain overlooking a valley. It’s an amazing view. You can see for miles. And one of our favorite things to do was to sit on the porch overlooking the valley and watch the storms roll below from one end to the next. It was beautiful to see the dark clouds with the blinking of the lightning slowly crawl across the valley.
It’s easy to appreciate the beauty and admire the power of a storm when you’re safely removed from it.
But when you’re in the storm, it’s more difficult to appreciate the beauty and power isn’t it? When you’re in the storm you’re often confronted with the risk and the pain and fear that comes with storms.
So it’s only natural that rather than face these storms we would give up and retreat to what is comfortable. To seek cover, where we feel safe. Its only human nature that we would place our hands over our eyes, our fingers in our ears, and stay put with what is known rather than to venture out into the storms that seem inevitable with taking risk.
But safety is not the life Jesus calls us to.
I’m sorry to report that followers of Christ don’t have the luxury of remaining ensconced in safe, comfortable places. We are called to face those storms so we may partner in the development of the kingdom of God. A kingdom defined by love, equality, justice, and peace. And these are not easy tasks and they’re not void of risk. But Jesus gives us a righteous battle cry.
Jesus calls us to speak truth to power even when our safety is at risk.
Jesus calls us to care for the poor and marginalized even when it risks our reputations or livelihoods.
Jesus calls us to risk everything- our jobs, our families, our communities, our reputations – EVERYTHING for the building of the kingdom.
And we aren’t to delay.
“How about I go get my affairs in order, Jesus, then I will follow you…”
“What if I wait until I have this much in my bank account, then I will freely give to your ministry…”
“Can’t we just process this a little bit, maybe send it to committee, vote on it, and then…”
This isn’t what Jesus teaches. There is an urgency to the work of the Gospel. And no place is it better illustrated then in Mark, where “immediately” and “At once” are frequent beginnings to sentences.
Today’s Gospel speaks to this reality.
At this point in the story, Jesus has established a pretty successful ministry. He’s called a team of dedicated and loyal disciples for which to partner in ministry, he’s healed people from all sorts of diseases, he’s cast out demons, and he’s preached to large crowds.
One might think he could even sit back and rest a bit.
But that’s not the call of Jesus.
Rather than resting on his laurels, Jesus announces, “Ok, Let’s cross over to the other side.” There is little time between when he is teaching the crowds from the boat and when he announces the next move. The text reads, “later that day…” and off they go. “Just as he was” the text reads. No preparation. No delay.
I can’t imagine the disciples were very happy with this. Even in the midst of the uncertainty for which they were living, they probably liked this side of the lake. There was the security of it being somewhat known. They knew the lay of the land. They had grown up there, worked there, so they knew folks. Who knows what’s on the other side. They might have even heard stories about “those people”.
But rather than let them get comfortable, Jesus calls them to pick up and go there. To step faithfully into the unknown. Because this is always where God seems to be calling us. God is always urging us to step outside of our comfort zones, to break down the divides which separate us and cross over into the other side.
God doesn’t see boundaries. God is constantly tearing down walls, tearing down boundaries to unite God’s people. God is always pushing us, calling us, urging us to cross over to the other side to care for those who have been discarded, outcast, or ignored. Throughout all of Scripture just when boundaries are established, there is God stretching them, dismantling them, and tearing them down. God knows that these boundaries we create only give us an illusion of safety. And what’s more, they only serve to divide when God is in unity.
As Christians when we encounter the “other” that is where we truly encounter Christ. When we are on the other side- wherever it may be—the other side of the tracks, the other side of town, the other side of our borders, that’s often when we are doing the most effective kingdom building.
This is where the disciples find themselves. Called to go there.
And to their credit, they obediently follow. Leaving behind the shore of comfort and off to spread the good news on a new shore.
And just as they probably feared, crossing to the other side involves some storms.
And despite being expert fishermen, familiar with the territory, the text tells us, they’re afraid. Deeply afraid.
And in their struggle they are aghast to see Jesus asleep in the in the rear of the boat.
“Don’t you care that we are drowning??” they scream. They don’t ask “Don’t you see?” they ask, “Don’t you CARE.” It’s almost as if they’re asking if Jesus values them at all. It’s almost as if they’re accusing Jesus of abandoning them in the midst of their storm.
How many of us have felt this? I know I have.
How many of us have felt like in the darkest of nights, when we are tossing and turning awake, battling the storms in our own lives, that Jesus was asleep, with what we think is little regard for us.
How many of us have felt like, frankly, Jesus didn’t seem to care about us at all?
But Jesus’ response is telling.
When awakened, Jesus speaks to the wind and it settles down. Jesus speaks to the sea, and it calms. Jesus establishes his authority over creation and at once settles the chaos around. With just words, Jesus demonstrates his power. Jesus demonstrates a sovereignty over all of creation- the winds, the rains, the seas, and the land.
And then he turns to them and asks, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith?”
Convicting words for sure. Because even though the disciples had witnessed Jesus performing great miracles and even though they had risked everything to embark on this journey with him, maybe just maybe they weren’t’…quite…sure.
Who could blame them?
But Jesus’s words remind them, and remind us, that his power is ever-present.
Because even when we are called to new shores, even when called to the other side, Jesus is always with us, even when we think he might be asleep in the stern. Jesus is right there with us in the midst of our storms, ready and willing to calm them so that we might do the work for the kingdom.
But notice the purpose is not just to calm the storms in our lives just so we will be happy. That doesn’t seem to be the point at all. Jesus doesn’t seem to be so interested in protecting us from danger and risk so that we will feel safe and protected and comfortable. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Jesus is equipping us for the journey. Jesus is working with us so that we might continue on in our efforts to help usher in the kingdom. To bridge divides. To love those who are feeling discarded. To accompany those who feel abandoned. To care for those who are neglected. To liberate those who are persecuted. This is the kingdom of God!
Jesus is removing all those excuses which seem to keep us safe and protected, absent from the courageous work of the gospel. Jesus is calming those storms that keep us on the shores of our safety.
But that doesn’t make it less scary. We can know that Jesus has the power to calm our storms but that doesn’t mean the foreboding darkness that builds and threatens isn’t still scary. And those risks can drive us back to our comfortable shore that is known.
What does it look like for you? For me, I often feel reluctant to preach challenging sermons if there is a risk of political backlash. That’s just one of my storms. Sometimes I am reluctant to speak out on social justice issues, even when the Gospel requires me to do so, because I really, really like to be liked.
What is yours? What are the storms in your life that might be keeping you from stepping into the boat with faith?
Those things that frighten us, those storms that keep us at bay, those things that prevent us from building the kingdom of God, Jesus is with us in those storms. Jesus equips us for the journey.
Jesus is telling us to not be afraid.
Even when the storms roar and rain starts to pour.
Even when the waves crash into our boats and we feel like we are sinking
Do not be afraid.
Jesus is with us in the boats.
But when he seems to quiet your storm and the calms has settled.
Because this is when the work really begins.