Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Boat in a Storm

The lectionary for today was that wonderful passage in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus and the disciples in a boat are on their way across the lake when a storm comes up. In the early church, the main symbol of the church was this: a boat in a storm.

It's no news that life has many storms. In the African-American tradition, they say that we are either leaving a storm, in the midst of a storm, or going into a storm. Whether it's a child that isn't doing what we want him/her to do, or an illness, or an aging parent, or a million other things going on in our lives, the image of the storm is real for us.

Two things to remember in the storm:
1. Stop complaining about the weather. As youth say: "Get with it, get over it or get help." The weather is the weather; it is what it is. Stop complaining about the situation you find yourself in.
2. Don't fight with the other passengers. We do that. We look at the situation and say somebody has to be responsible for this. Who's to blame?

Then, what do we do? How can we live in the midst of the storm. In my sermon I offered five ways that we get through the storms.

1. Lift anchor and launch out. Launch out into the deep. When a storm is coming, boats and ships are moved out to the deep. The harbor is not safe in a storm, as one member said to me. Of course. But, we think of the harbor as a place of safety. Launch out. Take a risk. Leave the safety of the harbor. Those who need us most are in deep water. "Rescue the Perishing..." Jesus says: "The one who seeks to save their life will lose it."

2. Steer Into the Storm. You can't run from the storm. It will find you. A lion's pride when it wants food will form a circle of the young lions. And, in the middle of the circle is the oldest lion. He has no teeth, but can he roar. He roars and animals run from the roar into the paws of the younger lions. Jesus says: "Run to the storm. Run to the roar. Run to the fear."

3. Get rid of excess cargo. A storm makes us pare down and ask: "What is really important in life?" What do I really need? We have so much stuff in this country that we can't keep in our house so we rent facilities in which we store our stuff. In a boat in a storm, passengers start unloading the things that are too heavy. Throw the things that hold you back overboard. Let go of whatever it is that is keeping you from being the person you want to be.

4. Lash the Captain to the mast. Tradition is that the captain is lashed to the mast. So, when the boat goes down, the captain goes down with it. Lash yourselves to the mast, the cross. Stay close to the cross, close to the place where God's love was poured out for us.

5. Enjoy the ride. The disciples wake Jesus up and he stills the storm. Then, he rebukes the disciples. He says: "O ye of little faith. You settled for the cheap thrill. You missed the greatest adventure of your lives. Did you not know that I was in the boat with you? I will no always still your storms, but I will always still you in the midst of the storm."

Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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