Stand With Christ, Stand With Others (A Sermon for Proper 7B)

Stand With Christ, Stand With Others (A Sermon for Proper 7B)
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas)
Mark 4:25–41
June 24, 2018

On the last day I preach here, of course the readings are about a storm and rising water. The past two years at St. Mary’s have been shaped by storms and rising waters, both literal and figurative. It almost seems too perfect that this is the Gospel reading for today.

We know what it means to see water rising. We know what it means to be scared.

So it doesn’t take too much imagination to put us in that boat with those disciples.

The disciples were familiar with this lake. They knew what it was like to be caught out on the water in a sudden storm, and they also knew that it was safer to stay near shore, where they could get to land in a hurry. And the bad storms on the lake happen at night, so heading out across the lake at that time was just asking for trouble.

Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus told the disciples to do.

And it is exactly what Jesus tells us to do. He sends us out, often in the most dangerous directions, often at the most dangerous moments.

As the wind whips up the waves, water swamps the boat. There are no life jackets. There is no Red Cross Certified Swimming Instructor on board. The disciples have at least four fishermen among them, and these men are very familiar with this lake, but their experience has taught them to stay near the shore, where it is safe.

They are, quite literally, out of their depth as the threat of drowning becomes real to them.

But Jesus is already in the boat. Jesus has been in this boat all day, teaching from the water to the crowds gathered on the shore line. When Jesus sends us out into the deep water, where danger waits for us, he’s already in the boat with us.

Notice that the fear in this story is confronted, not by courage or resolve on the part of the disciples, but by Jesus’ presence alone. In the course of this storm, the disciples never seem to pull themselves together. They never grab the tiller and guide the boat to safety.

Only the presence of Jesus can calm the raging storm.

Only Jesus can calm our fears and settle the storms we face on a daily basis.

There may be plenty to fear, but God is with us. Christ stands with us in the storm. And he calls us to stand with him, and with all our brothers and sisters who face storms of injustice, violence, and hatred, wherever they are in the world.

We stood with one another when we faced a storm 10 months ago. And we are called every day to stand with each other in all the other storms we face in our lives. But that’s the easy part.

We’re also called to stand with those that aren’t in this room right now. Jesus and his disciples were going to the other side of the lake when all this happened. They were going to the people that weren’t part of their tribe. They were going to the people on the margins.

We actually won’t hear the next part of the story next week, because the lectionary skips it for now. But Jesus and the disciples get to the other side of the lake, and they are met by a man who was chained up and left for dead, because he was different. Because other folks were scared of him.

But Jesus wasn’t. Jesus went to the other side the lake to heal this man. To stand with this man. Jesus called his disciples to go across the lake, to go to the other side, to stand with this outcast.

Because he was a child of God.

I pray that we are willing to stand with those on the other side of the lake. I pray that we are willing to stand with those outside of our tribes. I pray that we are willing to stand with those on the margins, on the borders, and on the outside. I pray that we are willing to stand with all of God’s children.

So this is my last chance to preach here, at least as your priest. So I want to leave you with a charge. At many ordinations, the preachers will give a specific charge to the person being ordained. So I’m going to turn that around to you.

Please, stand up as you’re able.

I’ve got three questions to ask you. We answer these questions every time we baptize someone, but I don’t think we can ever ask and answer these questions enough. So if you’re willing to stand with those around you, if you’re willing to stand with those on the other side of the lake, if you’re willing to stand with all of God’s children, answer these questions saying “I will, with God’s help.”

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God’s help.

Amen.

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