Care ( A Seriously Theological Sermon)
June 28, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills
Verse: Mark 4:37–4:38
Sermon - 6/25/18
PROPER 7/B (2018): Job 38:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And [the disciples] woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (vv. 37, 38)
This is the same complaint Job lodged against YHWH, a seeming indiscriminate lack of concern over man’s weal and woe, especially in our experience of peril and distress in the world.
In the background of Jesus’ sea voyage to the Gerasenes, is not only Job’s ignorant “faith” that puts at issue his vaunted “righteousness”; but also the account of Jonah’s anger at God’s merciful concern for pagan Ninevites.
YHWH addressed Job out of a whirlwind, connoting his divine distress at Job’s judgmental, ignorant, and inappropriate complaint. God does not directly answer Job’s self-oriented concerns; rather he takes on the role of Teacher, redirecting Job to a proper mindset toward his Creator.
Job had taken a posture toward God, much as Satan, a contending strong man (cf. Mk 3:27). In effect God responds to Job, “So you would to counsel me; well then man gird yourself, dress for action, for there is only one who is my Counselor whom I call ‘Wonderful’… Tell me where you were when I laid the foundation of the earth… on what were its pillars sunk and its cosmic Cornerstone laid? Tell me if you have understanding.”
As an instance, God points Job to his architecture of the sea, creation’s primeval element. Theologians describe the sea, as a dark place, filled with unseen monsters, the realm of chaos and demonic, in which absent rescue or saving boat, certain death obtains.
And this is true, not only in theology, but in the real threat of physical destruction. It is why at every chapel Service of the Annapolis Naval Academy, cadets sing a hymn-prayer, “for those in peril on the sea” (LSB 717 ss. 1, 2a, 3a, 4).
And yet YHWH describes this fearsome sea to Job, as his own; personifying it a petulant, willful child. When the sea burst from the womb, God fashioned doors to contain its “wild confusion”, and bound its limits in a dark swaddling, veiled in heaven’s clouds. The sea and all therein belong to God.
In today’s Gospel Jesus and his disciples are on the Sea of Galilee; Jesus sleeps in the rear of the boat. Before leaving on their voyage Jesus exorcised a demon on the Sabbath, releasing a possessed man. On the following evening (Sunday) at Peter’s house, several Gentiles were also released from demon possession. By parable, Jesus declared himself, the Man stronger than Satan come to plunder his household.
Now on the water, demons from the Deep’s dark place threaten to swamp Jesus’ nascent church riding over its chaotic waves. Like Job, complaining against YHWH, the disciples awaken Jesus from a complacent rest, to accuse him of unconcern for their welfare.
As YHWH spoke to Job from out of a whirlwind, Jesus now speaks in the midst of a sea-tempest. At his word the raging waters turned to great calm. Jesus scolds his disciples for their fear, their lack of faith in him, giving the disciples pause to ask, “Who then is this…?” (Mk. 4:41).
In peace, Jesus and the disciples soon reach the far shore to encounter the peculiar scourge of pagans, and another man possessed by a demon. This demon is stronger than the last; he is named, “Legion”, denoting some 5,000 spirits that easily broke iron fetters at human attempts to restrain the wild man.
But Jesus, the Stronger Man, has just “bound the restless wave”, now releases the possessed man from demonic bondage. The evil spirits entered a pig herd and were consigned to the “heart of the sea” for destruction.
As dramatic as these exorcisms by Jesus are, they perhaps also serve to obscure our understanding; from the whirlwind YHWH challenged Job, “Tell me if you have understanding” (38:4b).
This morning we entered the church-boat riding out this world’s “hill and gully” sea-tempests to be with Jesus by word and meal. We sang from Ps. 107, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress… Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!”
The problem is, we rarely comprehend either the true depth of our distress or God’s deeper steadfast love. Instead, Job like, our focus is on the hurly-burly of the world, and like Jesus’ disciples we look for miraculous relief from the momentary things that plague us. You know the list, we need only look to those for whom we pray who suffer one malady, tribulation, or another; certainly this is all right, as far as it goes.
These are the “distresses” that confused Job about YHWH. He thought himself a “righteous man” undeserving of worldly tribulations. Jesus’ disciples, for fear of death, resurrected him from his sleep, addressing him as “Teacher”; and so he is, and ours as well. His disciples assumed the unbridled sea was independent of God, and so the imminence of destruction as though death in the first creation was our end, all that there is.
It is precisely this fear of death that Jesus rebukes his disciples as faithless. We don’t have faith in Jesus to avoid the world’s unpleasantness, difficulties, or attacks. We don’t even have faith in Jesus to avoid death out of this life. Instead our faith is grounded in the knowledge that his death, by our sinking into the water of our Baptism, is our death; and that apart from his death, our destruction is indeed all that there is.
Jonah is Baptism’s case in point. Like Job, Jonah thought he understood how God should be God and ran from God’s command to preach repentance to the Ninevites. Jonah knew full well that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, relenting from disaster (Jonan 4:4), and that, “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (2:9c).
Like Job, Jonah’s “faith” dangerously tested God; obstinately pitting a contrary will toward the Lord. When God asserted himself from the sea-tempest, threatening to destroy Jonah and his boat crew, Jonah slept unconcerned in the hold. Jonah may well have been wise to fear the Lord, but of the perils of the sea, he knew that all therein are the Lord’s and of itself the sea holds no terror for men.
When the crew, at their wits end, asked Jonah what they should do, he told them, they should sacrifice him into the sea. They did, and the sea became calm. Jonah sunk, recognizing his descent into the “belly of Sheol”, the “heart of the sea” (2:2, 3).
So, Jesus’ self-sacrificial offering on the cross, comprehends what neither Job, nor you or I will ever experience in Christ, utter abandoned by God in the “belly of Sheol”; and yet like Jonah, Jesus fully trusted that, “Salvation belongs to the LORD!”
This is the faith Jesus would have us know by baptismal death, and so discern the depth of God’s steadfast love in the wondrous work of Christ crucified; that by our death in Christ we are made new creations by the breath of the HS.
On the Last Day, what we are becoming in the promise of the Lord’s Supper will be manifest; that in the Boat we are not only the body of our physically resurrected Lord, but on that day we obtain, what Job confessed (19:25-27), our own flesh.
St. Paul prayed for the church of Corinth; that his sufferings might be an example in this life, and more importantly that the tribulations of this world, and even death, not restrict our affection for his teaching that, “for our sake [Jesus] made himself to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
“In return [we] widen our hearts” (6:13) beyond self-absorbed affections (6:12) to comprehend, in and out of worldly suffering, the mind and love of God, especially toward those with whom we find ourselves uncharitably angry (Jonah 4:4; Gen. 4:6). Amen.