Monthly Archives: June 2014

Loving our Neighbors

Jesus told his followers to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.”    What did he mean?   How do you go about loving your neighbor?    Who is your neighbor anyway?

How many of us, as parents,  have watched our child get hurt on the playground?     We see it happen, and we feel in our own bodies the hurt that our child is experiencing, don’t we?   If one we love is hurting, we feel their hurt in our body and we rush to help them.  I think that is what Jesus was talking about when he said:   “Love your neighbor as yourself.”    I’d like to share with you several keys that enable us to truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves:

  • The first, and most important key is to experience God’s love ourselves.    If we have not experienced God’s love for us and come to  trust in God’s love and care for us it is difficult for us to love anyone else—including ourselves and your neighbor.  We are like children who have never experienced love who find it difficult or impossible to love anyone else, including themselves.
  • The second key is to be able to see God in the face of our neighbor.  All of us are God’s children and are created in God’s image.   Our neighbor is a child of God.    That neighbor may look much different than  us.   They may be mean and nasty.   They may  be immoral.   They may be dirty and unkempt.   They may  be frightening in their looks.   But they are a child of God nonetheless.    Jesus told a parable about neighbors in answer to someone’s question—“Who is my neighbor?”    It is the parable of the Good Samaritan.   In the story,  the one who turns out to be the good neighbor is a Samaritan who was despised by the Jews.   Likewise Samaritans were  known to despise Jews.   Yet the Samaritan is the one who saw a dying man on the side of the road and stopped to help him when the members of the Jewish religious community passed by on the other side.   The Samaritan  did not see a despised Jewish man on the side of the road, but saw a child of God.   He saw the face of God in that Jewish man who was near death and came to his aid.
  • The third key is action.   It is not enough to see your neighbor’s face and to see them as a child of God—you must act, if you are to show love to your neighbor.     Love is not just a feeling—-it is much more.  Love is expressed in action.    Love is binding up the wounds of the bleeding man.  For us,  love of neighbor  is putting your arms around the homeless man who is dirty and despairing and giving them a hug.   Love is feeding the hungry.  Love is clothing those who are needy.   Love is getting medical care for the one who is sick.  Love is treating fellow children of God as we would like to be treated if we were in their situation. Love is an action word!

Are we following this Great Commandment of Jesus and loving our neighbor as ourselves?    Are we?

Walking the Walk

 

I’m a “people-watcher”.    I like to spend time while sitting in a car or in the Mall waiting for my wife to finish shopping  just watching people!     One thing that I watch is how they walk.   Have you ever done that?   Think about the way YOU walk and the way OTHER PEOPLE walk.   Can you tell who someone is from a distance by seeing how they walk?    Most people can.   Some stride.  Others Swagger.  Or Swing, or strut, or shuffle, or waddle, or ramble or amble, or scuff the soles of their shoes.   YOUR WAY OF WALKING IS ONE OF THE UNIQUE THINGS ABOUT YOU AND TELLS THE OBSERVER A LOT ABOUT YOU.

The Department of Homeland Security has noticed this also.   There are now two federally-funded, gait-recognition technology projects under development at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.   “Gait recognition” aims to detect, select, classify, and identify any individual based on the way she or he walks.   This is seen as a possible way to detect known terrorists at up to 500 yards away.   It is still a “work in progress”, but is showing a lot of promise.

But this isn’t a new thing.    Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul pointed out that people look at whether we “walk the walk” more than how we “talk the talk.”   In other words, THEY BOTH STRESS THAT WHAT WE DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT WE SAY!

In the 21st chapter of Matthew, Jesus told the chief priests and elders in the temple a parable when they asked “by what authority do you do these things?”

Jesus told about a man who had two sons.   He went to the first son and told him to go to work in the vineyard.   The son answered  “I will not go!”    But later, the first son thought about it and changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard for his father.  The father also told the second son, “Go to work in my vineyard today”   The second son said:   “Yes, father, I will go.”    But he never did go to work in the vineyard that day.

Jesus asked those questioning him, “Which of the two sons did the will of his father?”  They answered:   “The first son.”   Jesus told them—-truly tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.   IN OTHER WORDS—-THE SONS ARE JUDGED BY WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DID AND NOT WHAT THEY SAID!   And you will be judged in the same way, he told the priests and elders!!

In II Thessalonians 1:1-4; 11-112, Paul says something very similar.   He says that he and Silas and Timothy give thanks to God for these brothers and sisters because:   “your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.   Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions you are enduring.!

Why is Paul proud of his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica?   Because of their ACTIONS.   The love they show and demonstrate for each other that is seen by all.   The steadfastness they have exhibited as they endure persecutions and afflictions.   PAUL IS PROUD OF THEM NOT FOR WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, BUT FOR WHAT THEY ARE DOING!!

DO PEOPLE RECOGNIZE US BY HOW WE “WALK THE WALK” OF FAITH?

They’ll know we are Christians by our love” goes the song.   People who watch us determine what faith in Jesus Christ is all about, NOT by what we say to them but by WHAT WE DO TO EACH OTHER!   They will know we are Christians by the way we live, by the way we talk, by the way we “walk the talk.”   If our faith is real, observers will sense it—-they’ll see it!   If its real, they might even ask how they, also, might “walk the walk” of faith.

An ancient term used to describe Christianity was “THE WAY”.    We can’t “talk the WAY”—-we must “walk” the WAY.    It is the way of Jesus as we carry out his great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF!”

Those who study communications tell us that if there is a problem in communication between verbal and non-verbal—-the non-verbal communication wins almost all the time.   90% of communication is non-verbal—-and therein lies the problem that we as followers of Jesus Christ need to examine today.   WE MAY SAY WE ARE CHRISTIANS, BUT ARE WE ACTING LIKE CHRISTIANS?     Are we walking the Christian life, or just talking about it?    Observers will believe what they see over what we might say.   Can those who observe us see any difference in the way we live that identifies us as folllowers of Jesus on the WAY?

This question is especially being asked by two of the present generations who are watching the church very critically—-the Busters and the Millenials.

The Buster generation grew to young adulthood in the shadow of their “Boomer” parents—-Boomers refers to the huge wave of children born after WWII.    The Busters, the children of the Boomers,  are the first generation to face the possibility that they may not achieve as much as did their parents.    The defining moment of their generation is often chosen by them as the tragic explosion of the space shuttle “Challenger.”    That was the moment when they watched the fragile illusion of “In Science we Trust” and “in Technology we trust” blow up in their faces.

The Millenials are those who became adults around the turn of the century—-who are 18-30 years old today—-the children of the Busters.   They therefore share many of the characteristics of their parents, as the “leaves don’t usually fall too far from the tree”.

  • They are very open to “honest” or “real” spirituality.   According to polls—86% of Millenials believe in God.   They don’t want to listen to talk about God—–they want to experience God in their lives. They believe that God is in the world and not just in church buildings—that God can be experienced in a variety of settings!
  • They distrust institutions, including the church, and will not get involved in an institution unless the institution is  actively involved in trying to meet the crucial needs of today’s society. They say they are “spiritual” but not “religious.”
  • They think “talk” is cheap—-the airways have been full of it ever since they were born. They want their talk translated into action.   They have excellent “Fake Detectors”.   They value honesty and can deal with contradictory ideas.
  • They are techno-savvy and are heavily into electronic technology as a key part of their daily lives.
  • They are inclusive and non-judgmental of all people—this applies to homosexuality, abortion, global poverty, environmental issues, immigration, other faiths, etc.
  • They exhibit an authentic spiritual longing for a better sort of Christianity that practices the teachings of Jesus.  They feel that Christianity is supposed to be a religion of love, forgiveness and practicing what Jesus preached and modeled.
  • Relational community, intentional practice, and experiential belief are important to them.
  • Even though they are connected electronically they yearn for connectedness in a community.
  • They have opted out of the “rat race” but not out of the “human race”.
  • They deal with paradox and with contradictory ideas well—they recognize there is no absolute truth and that things are not black or white but shades of grey.

JESUS MAY HAVE BEEN THE FIRST BUSTER/MILLENIAL.   Consider some of the evidence:

  •  He never did join the rat race of his day.
  • He wasn’t into the religious institutions of his day.   Rather he resisted much of what passed for “religion” in his day.
  • He was itinerant—-much of his preaching and teaching was done in the countryside and villages of Galilee.    He didn’t try to build large churches.   He didn’t care about “members” or numbers of members—-he chose only 12 disciples to be his close friends and shared his life with them.
  • He assumed his public ministry late in life He was probably about thirty years old, but in a culture whose life span was about 40 years of age.   .
  • He was inclusive and reached out in compassion to those who were on the margins of society—the social outcasts, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, the widow, the orphans—-and defended them against the “uppity” and “in crowd” of the rich and powerful.
  • He was critical of the domination system that rewarded the few at the expense of the many. So his biggest problem was with the Roman authorities and the religious institutions and authorities of his day.
  • As someone has put it—-Jesus majored in forgiveness and minored in dogma.

IT IS THIS JESUS THAT CONFRONTED THE MEALY-MOUTHED QUESTIONS OF THE PRIEST AND ELDERS AND CHARGED THEM WITH AS “ALL-TALK, NO-WALK” TYPE OF SPIRITUALITY.

There are many people hurting in the world today.   Hurting because of drug abuse, broken relationships, too little income, homelessness!     There are those who have given up hope and struggle from day to day to fight down the urge to end their lives.   There are those filled with anger who want to strike out at the world that abuses them and uses them.   These wanderers in today’s wilderness are young and old,  rich and poor, male and female, all skin colors; but they all feel vulnerable in a world that seems to have gone crazy.   How is the church of Jesus Christ speaking to their needs?   Are they even on our radar?We need to ask ourselves: ARE WE SO BUSY TRYING TO SOUND GOOD, LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD AND MAKE GOOD THAT WE DON’T ACTUALLY EVER DO GOOD?,

 

SO—-HOW IS OUR FAITH WALK WITH OUR LORD?

The current younger generation is calling the church to become what it says it is.   They may have problems with organized religion, but they recognize Jesus as one of them.   Are we offering this Jesus to them through our churches and our lives?  If we do, and we show them Jesus in our actions, they will join with us in our work for the Kingdom of God. This generation is open to spiritual growth.   The key to reaching them is the key to reaching every generation—-IT IS TO LIFT UP JESUS IN THE FULLNESS OF HIS LOVE FOR HUMANITY AND TO DEMONSTRATE JESUS IN THE FULLNESS OF OUR LOVE FOR HUMANITY.

And we look today at too many people who call themselves Christians, that are focused only on themselves, who are caught in traffic on the fast track, who are cut off from community because they are too busy or too indifferent to get involved.   THE BUSTERS & MILLENIALS LOOK AT THOSE CHRISTIANS AND SAY—“WE DON’T SEE YOU DOING MUCH!   We’re hearing a lot of talk, but where is the action?   What you are saying about loving Jesus and following him and the Great Commandment to “love God with all your heart, soul and strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself?—-we don’t see that in your ACTIONS from day to day.”   Guess which these observers will believe—they will believe our actions not our words.

LOOK AT WHAT PEOPLE DO, NOT AT WHAT THEY SAY, Jesus taught.

Jesus offered a Way to experience God as a Father who loves and cares for his children—-directly with no priests and sacrifices or rabbi’s involved.

He saw the religious authorities as “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.”   Jesus skewered the traditional religious authorities as being “all-show” but “no-go”. He uses the culturally unclean and  reprehensible “tax collectors and prostitutes” as examples of obedience to God in this week’s text, because they listened to him and changed and transformed their lives, while he saw the religious authorities, the traditional symbols of piety and obedience as morally wrong and spiritually empty.   Those religious authorities therefore sought to kill him and eventually did so.

Are people observing us “walk the walk” and not just “talking the talk”—-or are we causing confusion by the gap between what we SAY and what we DO?

Is our faith walk recognizable?   Both up close and at a distance, or even when our backs are turned away?   Can it be seen and known over time?   Is it consistent?

Can people catch sight of our faith walk and begin to understand it over time—-how we behave, how we act, what we do, speak volumes about who we are and whose we are to those around us.   It identifies the quality, reality and the depth of our faith in God.

ARE WE KIND, MERCIFUL, GENEROUS, PATIENT, CHARITABLE, COMPASSIONATE, UPLIFTING, SHOWING LOVE CONSTANTLY EVEN TO THE UNLOVABLE? .

God’s hope for the church is like Paul’s hope for the church in Thessalonica.   Paul observed their faith, love, patience, endurance and resolutions that were visible for all to see.   Their walk with Christ was clearly identifiable.   So must the church today clearly walk with Christ in the eyes of those who see us day by day.

If our faith is truly about love, then we are called to live that faith, and to walk the walk of love every day to the best of our ability.   People in the community around us will see our compassion, our charity, our strides in feeding the hungry and reaching out to the outcast.   They will see our endurance.   They will see us reaching out to the unloving and the unlovely in Jesus name.   They will witness our love for one another as we seek to support each other in troubled times, or when we visit an elderly shut-in, or someone in the hospital or take the time to help someone in need.

You see the words of this poem are really true.   It is one that the present generations demands and echoes and responds to:

“I’d rather SEE a sermon than hear one any day,

I’d rather one would walk with me, than merely tell the way.

For the eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;

Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear….

And the best of all the preachers are the one who live their creeds,

For to see faith put in action is what everybody needs….Amen!

 

 

 

 

You Can’t go home again….

Ah!   Take me back to the good old days!   Many of the problems of our political  economic and social  systems, as well as  those of our churches are related to this fervent wish to return to an earlier time—a time we feel was better, friendlier, more comfortable and not as anxiety-ridden and threatening as the current time.   Americans, unknowingly for the most part, are in mourning for what they see as being lost in those past days, but are in denial that the loss is actually happening.

Much of the problem for Americans is that the virus of “exceptionalism” has infected our country since early times of the Pilgrims and continues to do so.   We have always seen ourselves as having a God-given destiny as a country to be the greatest power in the world.   The strongest militarily—having the strongest economy—-being the most intelligent scholastically—-the keepers of morality for the world because “God is on our side.”    We have come to see these things as a God-given right, and become very upset when it begins to appear that U.S. “exceptionalism”  is becoming less and less exceptional!

We can’t believe that our hegemony militarily, economically, scholastically, spiritually and morally is deteriorating.   We can’t believe it is happening to us!   We refuse to believe it is happening—-so we deny that it is happening and work feverishly to try and restore the “good old days.!”

In politics, that’s what the Tea Party and the ultra conservative movements are trying to do—-go back to the “good old days!”    They advocate going back to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution as originally written.    They proclaim they want to “take their country back.”    What they want is to take the country to the past that they see as more comfortable for them, less threatening before all of the changes that have happened since the Vietnam War.    They are strident and extreme and uncompromising because they see those changes undermining life as it was when the U.S. was  exclusive in its place of military and economic power.  Those who refuse to compromise have hamstrung our representative form of government and caused Congress to be unable to do anything meaningful.  There is a failure here to recognize that the world has changed.

It has changed since 9/11 when our military invincibility was shattered by the attack of Al Queda on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.   Since then we have engaged in two disastrous and long-term wars that have drained us militarily and economically as a nation—-Iraq and Afghanistan.    The outcome of both showed the U.S. inability to be “policemen and peacemakers for the world” with God on our side.    Our military might did not prove useful in either as far as long-term results being achieved.   We watch as both countries are on the verge of descending into partisan strife and chaos after all of our advice and expenditure of money and lives over many years.

The same is true of our economic invincibility.   We are faced with the competing economic juggernaut of China.   At G-8 meetings we no longer get the agreements from other world powers we used to automatically expect.    Our U.S. economy slipped into a severe recession in 2007 and in spite of everything we have tried to do to fix it, there has not been a return to the previous prosperity, although 7 years have elapsed.   There is a good chance there never will be.   Those days of prosperity may have vanished.

We have spent so much on wars that our infrastructure is crumbling in the United States.   So also is our health care—especially for the poor.   Our health care system is one of the most expensive and least effective dollar for dollar of any health care system in developed nations.    We are trying to balance the budget that is out of control due to the huge war expenditures  on the backs of the poor, of children, the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society.

And all the while, power has been consolidating in the hands of the oligarchic few who are growing richer and richer as the middle class shrinks.    The middle class shrinks because wages have not risen with corporate profits and the laws and court rulings are favoring the oligarchic few.    Unemployment and underemployment is still high as jobs have been sent overseas to take advantage of cheap labor there so that profits can be even higher for the oligarchic few.    The system we have is broken.  Unemployed people can’t keep our economy going because they have little money to buy with.    We are not taking care of the most vulnerable in our society and more and more people are becoming vulnerable.   This will have huge consequences for us.

It’s not a pretty picture.   Many will deny its truth.   They do so at their peril for it is an honest picture that needs to be faced.    We need to mourn what has been lost—-it was great while it lasted—-and go forward toward something different for the future.    We cannot do this until we admit that the “good old days” are never going to return.

Thomas Wolfe saw this in the early 20th century, looking back on “the good old days” of the Gilded Age which much resembled our current times,   he wrote:

“You can’t go home again….You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood,….back home to the old systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—-back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”     (Thomas Wolfe:   Look Homeward Angel)

 

Congregational Myopia….

Myopia is a vision problem where close objects are seen clearly, but objects further away are blurred.   It is commonly called “near-sightedness.”   Some congregations show the same symptoms when they are unable to see    no further than themselves.     When this happens, in my opinion,   the congregation stops being church and the congregation begins to die as they turn inward and away from the community in which they are located and to which they are sent to be God’s witnesses.   These congregations  have lost something very important—-their vision.   What do I mean by “vision”?   The church’s vision is what we see as the purpose of  being a church–that is the reason for which we exist.  It is our answer to the question ” Why are we here?”    What is true for congregations  is also true for each  individual Christian.   Why are we Christians ?  What is our purpose?   When we name Jesus as Lord and are baptized to show the world our commitment—-how are we changed and transformed?   What vision do we have to fulfill as a Christian?   Is there a difference between us and other non-Christians ?.     If we have no vision as individual Christians it will result in a collection of Christians (a congregation) also not having a vision!

I have been working with a church to help them evaluate where they are on the congregational life-cycle (See Bullard, Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation).   During a recent meeting with 12 to 15  of the “spiritual leaders” of the congregation we noted the place their church was on in the life-cycle.   They decided the  congregation has started on the downward slope (Maturity on the life cycle) where the first thing lost is Vision as the driving force for the congregation.   Sure enough, when I asked if they knew what the vision statement of their congregation  was, not one of these “spiritual leaders” knew  the answer!    They did find a vision statement in the part of the constitution that described what their responsibilities were—-but decided it was hopelessly out of date—-forgotten, and so lengthy no one could quite understand it completely.   They realized they needed to “re-vision” based on their current time and place.

As I pondered the problem of a congregation that does not have a vibrant vision that guides them, I wondered how they could still be a church and not just a nice social organization.    As I searched for why they had lost a vision for their church  my mind led me  to wonder  if I had asked them for a personal vision for themselves as Christians, what their answer might be.   The formula to explain lack of vision may be:    Lack of individual Christian vision = lack of congregational vision.   We have found the problem and it is us!! (to borrow from Pogo)

I believe that the church is should exist  to transform lives.   Congregations should exist to change individual lives, to deepen discipleship to Jesus the Christ, and to thus set about changing the current world to be more like God’s passion, described by Jesus in the Gospels as the Kingdom of God .   Any vision that is does not include the above is myopic.   We are here as individual Christians and as a church to make a difference in people’s lives and in our world.   We are here as a church to carry out Jesus’ ministry and mission that he described in the synagogue in Nazareth:   “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   (Lk. 4:18-19)  

fWe are sent to do the same.    To bring “good news” to the poor.    To speak in their behalf.   To end the unfairness that our present laws put upon them.  We are to challenge the causes of poverty, not just feed the poor.   We are to speak out for health care for them—not just sit back and let the extension of medicaid in Kansas die because the governor doesn’t like President Obama’s Health Care Act which is the law of the land.   We are sent by God through the example of Jesus to make concrete differences in the lives and well-being of our fellow human beings.    To make sure all are treated fairly as God’s children.   TO DO THIS WE HAVE TO  ACT, NOT JUST SIT QUIETLY IN OUR CHURCH PEWS ON SUNDAY MORNING ONCE A WEEK AND ALLOW INJUSTICE TO REIGN IN OUR COUNTRY UNCHALLENGED.  

It was said of early followers of Jesus, specifically of Paul and Silas, by the citizens of Thessalonica :   “….these people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…”(See Acts 17: 5-8)

What have the churches done lately to “turn the world upside down.”   What have we done to  carry out Jesus’ Great Commandment?  What have we done to continue the ministry he described?   We as congregations cannot “turn the world upside down” if we stay within our walls and never open the door and go into the world outside and challenge the powers that be to create a world that is fair and good for everyone, not just the chosen few in the name of Jesus the Christ.   To turn the world upside down will mean to take risks.    It will mean that we will dream God’s dream and work for it to become effective in our place and time.

It is a matter of clearly seeing what God wants the world to be like by reading Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of God in the gospels and then setting out to bring  that about.    As stated in the book of Proverbs:    “Without vision the people perish.”     Congregations with myopia who can’t see anything but themselves and their comfort also perish!    They really have no reason to continue existence.   Amen.

 

Remember Who is in Your Boat!

How many of you have experienced some really bad turbulence when you were flying?   I will never forget a flight I was on a few summers ago.   I was flying from San Antonio back to Kansas City after spending a week at Trinity University in San Antonio reading Advanced Placement American History essays for the College Board and Educational Testing Service.   Slightly after we had passed over Fort Worth we unexpectedly hit some of the worst turbulence I have every experienced.   Even the pilot was caught off-guard, as he had just given the O.K. to serve a meal.   Suddenly the plane went every which way, dropping so suddenly that dishes flew everywhere and one of the flight attendants was thrown upward, hitting her head on the ceiling of the plane and sustaining a serious injury.   It was a totally frightening experience!

If we have experienced such an episode in our lives, it may help us identify with the 12 disciples of Jesus in a boat on the sea of Galilee when a violent storm, common to that sea, erupted around them.

We read the story in Mark 4:35-41:

When evening had come, Jesus said to them, “let us go to the other side.”   And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was….

  • Note:   To be a disciple of Jesus was to be always on a journey, it seemed.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was being swamped.   But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cusions…

  • Note:   Jesus is in the boat with the disciples.   He journeys with them.   They don’t have to “go it alone.”    Although we must also note that Jesus’ presence doesn’t always guarantee smooth sailing—–as it does not guarantee smooth sailing for us today at all times.      There is a terrible storm and the disciples fear for their lives.   Jesus, however, is unperturbed by the storm and sleeps through it until he is awakened by his fearful disciples.
  • And note that the journey can become perilous when we are with Jesus.   Being a disciple of Jesus is not always a calm and peaceful affair—-for his original twelve or for his disciples today.   Some of our greatest adventures with Jesus may be in storms, in the dead of the night, when it is dark, and we’re feeling lost….

And they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

  • This is the central question of this text:   “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?   And , of course, the answer is Jesus does care!

Jesus shows his care by his actions….”He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!”   Then the wind ceased and there was a dead calm.   He said to them, “Why are you afraid?   Have you still no faith?”

  • Jesus does not just SAY he cares—he ACTS to show that he cares.   He calms the storm, rebukes the wind and waves, and saves those who without his care might be lost.
  • Jesus also wonders why the disciples are afraid and did not have faith, after all this time with him.    “What’s with your phobia?” is a more literal Greek translation.  Yet despite lack of faith, Jesus does not desert those who dare to travel with him.   He is not choosy about his travel companions!
  • Note also that it is only when the disciples seem to think that all is lost do they think to turn to Jesus.   Isn’t that true for all of us?   Only when we are up against the proverbial brick wall do we discover the saving grace of Jesus was there for us all the time?   Jesus cares and is always there for you—-that is the message of this text.

We have many and various storms in our lives today, don’t we?    The storm may be the discovery of a serious illness that suddenly slams us down.   The storm may be the death of a loved one that comes unexpectedly.   The storm may be the alienation and rejection by a friend or mate whom we love and respect and felt the feeling was mutual.   The storm may be the failure of a business or a church that we put our heart and soul and material goods into.   The list could go on and on.

So how do we try and meet the storms in our lives that assail us?

  • Most of us react like the disciples—we try to take care of it ourselves.   Our natural inclination is to want to control events and fix the things that go wrong in our lives.
  • At some point, though, our own humanity stares us in the face and fear marches through our body and soul.   This is the fear that leads to despair and hopelessness. THAT IS THE POINT WHERE JESUS MEET US WITH A WORD TO THE STORM.  “Be Quiet!”   “Be Still!”  ONLY WHEN WE ARE UP AGAINST THE WALL AND IT SEEMS HOPELESS AND WE CAN’T HELP OURSELVES DO WE THINK TO TURN TO JESUS!
  • And we realize at that point that Jesus has been there with us all the time, if we had but recognized his presence in our lives!

JESUS IS IN THE BOAT WITH US AS WE GO THROUGH LIFE’S STORMS—-HE CARES!    Amen.