Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 12)

July 26, 2015
Text: Mark 6:45-56

            “Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:45; ESV).  What do you fear?  What is it that keeps you up at night?  We all have our fears.  I won’t tell you my deepest, darkest ones right now, though I will tell you just a little bit about how messed up I am.  I love cars and I love to drive.  I love road trips.  But there are things about it that make me really nervous, that cause me to fear.  Traffic, confusion, aggressive drivers, getting lost in unknown territory, finding myself in a bad neighborhood.  So Bray MacIntosh sent me to Detroit this week.  Free tickets to the Mariners at Detroit.  The D.  The personification of all my fears, rolled up with a large crowd of people in an enclosed space, which also makes me very nervous.  Then I found out that day was the anniversary of the 1967 race riots.  Thanks Bray.  Well, we made it out alive, and actually, we really enjoyed ourselves.  So really, thanks Bray.  It was a great day we’ll never forget.  But for the purposes of this sermon, what is it about all those things I just mentioned that cause me to fear?  Chaos.  No ability to control the variables.  Anything could happen.  There are unknown dangers around every corner.  And there is no escape if the worst should happen.  I have no way to save my family.  I have no way to save myself.  And that is what I really fear.  And truth be told, so do you.  The root of all our fears is the knowledge that we cannot save ourselves.
            Immediately after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side (v. 45).  Our Lord stayed behind to dismiss the crowds and take time alone to pray.  And we should note, though it is not the main point of the text, that even Jesus, the Son of God, makes prayer His priority, even when He is exhausted from a busy day of teaching and healing and feeding.  Now it is night, and there has been a change in the weather.  Jesus is on the land and the disciples are on the sea.  The wind begins to howl.  The waves begin to toss the boat about.  What should have been an easy troll across the lake becomes a perilous night at sea.  The sea in ancient literature, and especially in the Bible, is a place of chaos, danger, and death.  It is the place of Satan and the demons.  The disciples are terrified.  Things don’t look good.  After hours of fighting the wind and the waves and holding on for dear life, things take a turn for the worse.  It is the 4th watch, 3 am, the witching hour, and what is that out there on the sea?  It looks like a man, walking on the water.  But men don’t walk on water.  It must be a spirit!  Not just a ghost, as our translation says.  A phantasm, that’s the Greek word.  Remember, the sea is the place of demons, and in Jewish theology, the phantasm is the demon who comes and pulls you down to hell when you die.  Well, no wonder the disciples cry out in terror!  Two thoughts occur to them simultaneously: We’re going to die.  And not only are we going to die, we’re going to hell.  And there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.
            Now, of course, we’re in on the secret.  We know this is no phantasm.  This is Jesus, walking on the water.  And He doesn’t seem concerned.  In fact, our text says “He meant to pass by them” (v. 48).  He sees their struggle.  He knows their fears.  But He told them He would meet them on the other side.  And they should have believed Him.  No storm can void the Lord’s Promises.  But the disciples… well, “they did not understand about the loaves… their hearts were hardened” (v. 52).  Even though they’ve been there for all the miracles, witnessed all the healings, known firsthand the Lord’s faithfulness and the power of His Word… they forgot.  They forgot who Jesus is, and what He has come to do.  They forgot that Jesus loves them and works all things for their good and for their salvation.  They forgot that, because they cannot save themselves, Jesus has come to save them.  And that is your story, too.  You do not understand about the loaves, either… the Bread Jesus feeds you here at His altar, the Bread of Life that is His Body, crucified and risen for you.  If you understood that, you would not fear.  Your heart would not be hardened.  You would believe the Lord’s Promises.  Repent.  You fear death, but why?  Jesus tells you He will meet you on the other side.  He has been through death.  He has come out of it again.  He is risen.  And He promises that you will come through death, too… to life and resurrection and eternal communion with Him.  You fear death because you know there is no way to save yourself.  But you don’t have to save yourself, because Jesus already has.  He died for your sins.  He is risen.  He will bring you to eternal life.  No phantasm will meet you in death.  Only the risen Lord Jesus.  Your sins are forgiven.  You are saved. 
            So the disciples doubt, and you doubt, and you’re terrified when it looks like you’re about to perish.  But here is the comfort.  The Lord Jesus hears the cries of His terrified people.  He heard the disciples.  He hears you.  And when He hears, He speaks His all-powerful, Spirit imparting, faith creating, life giving Word.  “Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid” (v. 45).  Or I like a more literal translation: “Courage!  I AM.  Fear not.”  What is this all about… the storm, the fear, Jesus walking on the sea?  This is all on purpose.  It is a demonstration that chaos and danger and death and demons have nothing on Jesus.  Jesus is YHWH, I AM!  Jesus is God!  He is the Creator of heaven and earth.  He made the wind and the sea.  He controls every gust and every wave.  He cannot die until He gives Himself into death.  And you cannot and will not die apart from His knowledge and compassion.  He hears your cry.  He will save you.  He can, because He is God.  He will because He has promised it.  So “Courage,” He says.  He speaks His courage into you.  “Fear not,” He says.  He speaks the fear out of you.  Why can you be courageous?  Why should not fear not?  Because, says Jesus, “I AM.”  God has come in the flesh to save you.
            Matthew Harrison, our Synod president, loves to remind us that “Courage is fear that has been baptized.”  You are a sinner.  You are a fallen bag of bones.  You have your fears and your vain attempts to save yourself.  Jesus knows your weakness and He hears your cries.  You are baptized!  Jesus has already met you on the sea.  The life of the Baptized can be stormy to say the least.  There is temptation and sin and the frustration of living in a world that wouldn’t know the truth if it bit ‘em on the nose.  There is pain and disease and death and decay, chaos and confusion, hatred and race riots.  There are companies in the business of murdering babies and selling their body parts.  There are shootings at schools and at shopping malls and at Navy recruitment centers, and even at churches during Bible Study.  And we fear.  Because we cannot save ourselves.  Especially when there is evidence that the phantasm, the devil, is out to get us.  But Jesus speaks: “Courage!  I AM.  Fear not.”  You are baptized!  Jesus promises to meet you on the other side.  And He does even better than that.  For when the disciples cry out in fear, our Lord not only speaks.  He gets into the boat with them.  He gets into the boat, and immediately the wind ceases.  There is one place the disciples will always be safe.  In the boat, with Jesus.

            And what is the boat but the Holy Christian Church?  You are sitting in the nave, the same root from which we get the word “Navy.”  And here is Jesus in His Word and in His Body and Blood, with you just as surely as He was with the disciples in the boat on the sea.  It’s just that you can’t see Him.  But you know He is with you because He speaks: “Courage!  I AM.  Fear not.”  So you are safe.  And now that Jesus has spoken His courage into you, you know that it’s okay when the wind picks up and the boat starts to rock and the waves come splashing over the side.  You don’t have to save yourself.  Jesus is with you, and you can leave all the saving to Him.  Don’t forget who He is (I AM, YHWH).  Don’t forget what He has come to do (Jesus: YHWH saves, because He will save His people from their sins).  And don’t forget the loaves.  Don’t forget what it is Jesus feeds you.  His Body, crucified and risen, for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Jesus doesn’t just speak the courage into you, He feeds it to you, right in the mouth.  He Bodies and Bloods it into you.  And if He does that, He won’t leave you to perish in the storm.  The phantasm can’t have you.  The sea cannot swallow you.  What do you fear?  What keeps you up at night?  Those things have come to an end.  For Jesus is God, and He has spoken: “Courage!  I AM.  Fear not.”  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

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