Sermons

This is one of the few sermons I have in writing.

It is my senior seminary sermon  preached in the spring of 1998 at Virginia Theological Seminary. It still amazes me that I wasn’t nervous preaching in front of all those other preachers, but I was so committed to this idea, and it has become the foundation of my ministry. Here it is…

For the last three years, I have sat up there in the balcony of this chapel.  Any number of times I have looked up and thought to myself, this could have been the inside of Noah’s Ark.  Maybe this is the perspective that Jonah had from the inside of the belly of the whale.  Or could this be the beam of a small wooden fishing boat?

That is where our New Testament text takes us this morning; Jesus summons the disciples because the crowd is starting to press in on them. Bring the boat it is time to go to the other side he says to them. So, they set out on their journey, for the other side.

As they set sail the wind begins to blow and the waves begin to crest.  The disciple in the bow of the boat, thought to himself, seen these demons before and his stomach began to churn.  The disciples in the middle of the boat hung onto the oars with both hands for dear life, trying to stay the course.  Their knuckles were white as they fight the waves and the howling wind.  The waves began to break over the sides of the boat.  Their anxiety rises.  In the stern of the boat lying on a cushion on the hard wood of the deck of the boat there lies Jesus asleep, almost as if he were in a manger. How tired he must have been.  He has been teaching and preaching.  How utterly humanly exhausted he must have be, for he is in a deep, deep, sleep.  The disciples in the stern of the ship turn to him with great anxiety as the water starts to wash over the sides of the boat.  In a very passive aggressive way they say, teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? In postmodern language Hey man, we are dying here! Then Jesus awakes.  He says to them, be still – be calm.

And the winds cease and waters desist.  And some say, the water was so calm they could have walked on it.  But is Jesus just talking to the demons that are in the wind and the water.  Could it be that Jesus is talking to the demons in the disciples?  Be still – be calm. The disciples knew that they were traveling with Jesus, but do they believe it?  Haven’t we all been in this boat before when the sea is raging and the boat is rocking and the crowds are pushing in on us?  A New Testament Midterm or dealing with General Ordination Exams or another faculty meeting, and the waves are rocking and the wind is howling and the boat is going back and forth, our stomachs are churning and were holding on for dear life, trying to stay in the course? All of us here are traveling with Jesus.  But do we believe that God is in control of our world?  Jesus says to the disciples, be still – be calm. How do we know when God is in control of our world?  Jesus asks the disciples?  Why are you afraid?   What scares us in our world?  Is death really the ultimate enemy?  Could it be that we are afraid of being out of control?  Is it possible that during this season of Lent we can say to the demons in our world be still – be calm?  Can we believe that God is truly in control of our world? What would happen if we were to take this chapel and turn it upside down, so that the steeple with the cross on it, our lightning rod would be the rudder of our ship?  What would it be like if we turned this chapel upside down so that the cross were the one that charted our course?  Can we sail with Jesus during this season of Lent, knowing that God is in control of our world?    Can we be still – can we be calm? For it is then and only then that we can all, go together and, get to the other side.