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“Don’t You Care?”
Mark 4:35-41


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost—August 19, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The dramatic events of today’s Gospel Reading take place in one of the most unusual places on earth, the Sea of Galilee.  It’s so unusual because it is a spectacular, lush oasis, in the middle of the harshest, driest desert.  From the melting snow on northern mountains water cascades down to form a beautiful freshwater lake in the shape of a heart, about eight miles wide and 12 miles long.

The Sea of Galilee is also unusual because it is nestled down in a deep valley, surrounded by high mountains.  All along the narrow shore are little villages hugging the water.  Today the main industry in the area is tourism, and it reminds me of Lake Okoboji.  But, there is still a thriving fishing industry on the Sea of Galilee, and its waters are dotted not only with tourists and their pleasure craft but also small fishing boats letting out their nets just like back in Bible times.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth only about 15 miles from the Sea of Galilee, and it was on the shores of this lovely lake that he spent so much of his ministry.  Here he called his first disciples away from their boats to become fishers of men.  He here miraculously fed the 5,000.  Here he healed those who thronged around him.  Here he walked on the water.  Here he gave his Sermon on the Mount.

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus has just finished an entire day of teaching by the lake.  So many thousands had come to hear him that he turned a boat into his pulpit, as Mark reports, “The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.  Then he taught them many things.”

“That day when it became evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.’  They left the crowd and took him in the boat he was in . . .  A great windstorm arose, and the waves blew over into the boat, so that it was already filling with water.  But Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping on a cushion.  They woke him and said, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning?’  Getting up, he commanded the wind and said the waves, ‘Be calm, be still.’  Then the wind died down and it became very calm.  And he said to the disciples, ‘Why are you afraid?  Do you not yet have faith?’  They were overwhelmed and said to each other, ‘Who must this be, if even the wind and the waves obey him?’”

Furious, unexpected storms like this often come up suddenly without warning on the Sea of Galilee.  That’s because it is in a valley surrounded by mountains, and the fierce sirocco winds in that part of the world whip through the mountain passes and churn up the water.  It’s so unpredictable that even with modern warning systems still today the Sea of Galilee is a hazardous body of water, with both pleasure craft and fishing boats often caught in these sudden, violent storms. 

The disciples were not in a modern craft but a simple wooden sailboat.  Jesus had told them to venture eight miles across the lake to the other side.  Now they were trapped in the middle, surrounded on every side by miles of water, one of those sudden storms blowing the waves into their boat, which was already filling with water and about to capsize.  It seemed they had little hope of ever reaching the shore.

And where was Jesus through all of this?  “But Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping on a cushion.”  In 1986 a perfectly preserved sailing boat just like this from the time of Christ was discovered buried in the muck on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  From studying this boat archaeologists have determined that navigation was aided by a large sack filled with grain called a “ballast bag.”  That’s certainly what the “cushion” actually was that Jesus was sleeping on, a huge gunny sack filled with grain.  “But Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning?’”

In our own lives, the wind is still blowing, and the waves are still crashing.  Sometimes it feels like our lives are being torn apart like that little boat by the wind and the waves churning around us.  Sometimes it seems we are in the midst of a violent storm, about ready to capsize, with little hope of reaching the shore.  That’s when we cry out in fear like the disciples, “Lord, don’t you care?”

“Getting up, he commanded the wind and said to the waves, ‘Be calm, be still.’”  Lord, you do care!

“This is how God demonstrated his love for us: He sent his only-begotten Son into he world that we would have life through him.”  “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting men’s sin against them.”  “He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  Lord, you do care!

“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  Lord, you do care!

“Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. . . this . . . is . . . my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  Lord, you do care!

“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. . .  In my Father’s house are many rooms . . .  I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  Lord, you do care!

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you.”  “Cast your burdens upon the Lord and he will sustain you.”  “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened unto you.”  Lord, you do care!

“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.”  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”  Lord, you do care!

What are the storms raging in your life?  When it feels like our lives are being torn apart by the wind and the waves churning around us, we cry out in fear like the disciples, “Lord, don’t you care?”  Then to the fury of the winds and waves Jesus says, “Be calm, be still.” And today to the fury of your troubled heart and life he says, “Be calm, be still.”

“‘Fear not,’ says the Lord, ‘for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold you up with my mighty hand.” “Be strong and of good courage.  Do not be terrified; neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Lord, you do care!

“Then the wind died down and it became very calm.”  “Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; unknown waves before me roll . . . Fear not, I will pilot thee.” 

Amen.

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