Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pentecost 9 - Proper 12

29 July 2012
Mark 6:45-56

Almighty and most merciful God, the protector of all who trust in You, strengthen our faith and give us courage to believe that in Your love You will rescue us from all adversities;

The disciples were terrified. If the rough waters and the strain of keeping the boat afloat were not enough, there was this presence, this vision, this ghostlike figure walking across the sea. Their fear only grew; they could understand the feelings of the psalmist in Psalm 69:1-2 … “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”

Jesus had sent them out, while He attended to the crowds. Now He was walking to them. Why was He walking on the waves? Was He coming to pass them by or to confront them? Had He come save or destroy?

Almighty and most merciful God, [You are] the protector of all who trust in You. Faith calls for us to believe a reality for which we have prayed this morning. Do you believe this? Is this your experience? Do you trust these words? Is Jesus really the protector of all who trust in Him? Or, are they idle empty words?

Adversity, temptation, the effects of our own flesh can all weigh us down, causing fear and doubt to come on every side.  Add to this, the times in which we live. They are challenging times. Add to this, your own personal crosses that only you and you alone must face; crosses which only are known to you and Him. Lord You are the protector of all who trust in You. Is this so? Did God really say this? Will He always protect, always provide, always prevail?  We are tempted on every side to think this is not so.

Why had the disciples struggled?  Why had they fought to understand the Savior? Why had they failed to recognize that He truly was their God and provider? Why did not comprehend He was the protector of all who trust in Him. Why?  They had not understood about the loaves; for their hearts were hardened.
Such was the case of the disciples. Experienced fishermen, they found themselves struggling against the wind and waves.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. When they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost.

It wasn’t as if they had never been out on the lake. They knew this body of water like the back of their hand. They knew the currents and the weather patterns. They knew when to set sail and when it wasn’t safe. They had seen it all. But this storm was different. They had launched out because the Savior had commanded them. Seeing this ghost walking on the surface of the water they knew their end was near. God had come out to destroy them. Their goose was cooked. Their end had come. Their hearts were hardened.  They reasoned, Jesus had come out to destroy them.

Christ shows how powerful He is by delivering them from that which would destroy them. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.  They were completely amazed. The wind and the waves obey Him. The elements must obey Him. He is their creator. All are subject to Him. All things must be put in subjection under His feet.

The last enemy to be put under is death.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. When death is destroyed, death will cease to reign. No more will ever die. All that will be raised up shall live forever. This is the Savior’s promise.  The effects of sin and rebellion in this world will be ended forever. The kingdom of God will be restored according to His perfect timing. Death is a tyrant.  Death exercises absolute power over the human race; and the Savior’s promise to you - "he" is to be subdued.

Christ delivers us from the powers of fear and doubt. But not as you might think. Yes, He puts all things under His feet but He does it in different and subtle ways. He strengthens you with those means, which appear to be weak by the world. He speaks through the Word of truth from His gospel. He brings you into the safety of His family the Church through the Waters of baptism. He sustains and strengthens faith through the simple elements of His supper. He speaks the promise of restoration in the words of absolution. This is how He always speaks to you. This is how He has always calmed you. This will always be His word of peace.  God does not always act in ways that we humans consider appropriate. He comes to us through the birth of a child and becomes God- with-us, Emmanuel. He comes as the most vulnerable of creatures: an infant human. It was the Father’s plan that this Son of God would suffer, die and rise again for you. He promises to come to you, and He will come, but often in simple, hidden ways. 

The Savior has promise to rescue once again.  You can take courage to believe that the Savior’s love will never fail. He will rescue you from all adversity. When you feel you’re drowning in life’s situations, take heart Your life guard walks on water. Even when He comes to you, riding on the waves of adversity, confusion, and doubt. His words of peace will always prevail.  

Illustration from a woodcut by Baron Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, © WELS Permission to use this copyrighted item is limited to personal and congregational use.