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LSB Proper 7B Sermon – Mark 4:35-41

June 21, 2015

June 21, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

You may recall parts of the narrative of Job, the man whom the LORD permits to suffer great calamity and misfortune. At the height of the narrative is Job’s daring to speak in judgment against the LORD, elevating himself to a status of peerage with Him. Such prideful elevation and claims to be without any fault and being of equal righteousness with the LORD brought Job a rebuke from one of his companions, Elihu: “Do you think this is to be just? Do you say, ‘It is my right before God,’ that you ask, ‘What advantage have I? How am I better off than if I had sinned?’… If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give to Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?”

Even greater rebuke comes from the LORD’s direct confrontation with Job, a part of which made up the Old Testament Reading for today: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to Me.” As the LORD confronts Job with His questions, He reveals aspects of His identity: “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” The LORD’s questions are meant to elicit the answer from Job’s lips: “You are the One who laid the foundation of the earth. You are the One who has shut in the sea.”

Being the Master of All Creation is part of the LORD’s identity. In His confrontation with Job, the LORD makes it very clear that He is the One who has caused the creation to exist and who governs all things that He has made. This revelation shows Job that he is not one of the LORD’s peers. Job is not the LORD’s equal. His ability and character are of no equal compared to the LORD’s ability and character. This exposes Job’s error in speaking in judgment against the LORD.

This revelation is spoken for you to receive. When the LORD’s Law is declared, it carries with it the understanding of the LORD’s identity—of who issues that Law. The LORD speaks the ordinances by which He wills His creation to be governed and guided. That includes the laws of nature which the LORD has established for the planets and celestial beings to follow. It also includes the moral law that the LORD decrees for His human creatures to obey.

So it is that the LORD speaks about how you are to interact with Him and with one another. The Ten Commandments provide specific instructions about these matters. They are also summarized with the two great commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Part of recognizing the LORD’s superiority is not to place yourself as a judge of His will and actions. Rather, it is to receive these as binding upon you, since the LORD is your Creator.

That doesn’t always sit well with us. Humanity would rather be in charge and control of matters. We desire to have our will fulfilled and implemented, what we decree to be good and right instead of what the LORD judges to be so. Perhaps that is even more pernicious among us Americans, since we have so many civil rights and have the understanding of ourselves to be free, full of liberty and self-determination. But the questioning of the LORD and making ourselves to be His peers and judges is a sinful act for which we are rightly rebuked.

Some of this plays into the incident related in today’s Gospel Reading. Recall how Jesus’ disciples are on the Sea of Galilee: “Leaving the crowd, they took [Jesus] with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him.” But this sailing voyage is waylaid by a tempest: “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” So what action do the disciples take? They wake Jesus and question Him: “And they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’”

But the disciples’ question runs over that edge of placing themselves as judge of Jesus’ character and will. It accuses Jesus of not being concerned with their fate. It attempts to compel Jesus into action as an acknowledgment and corrective of error. The ideas run behind the question: Jesus should not have been sleeping; Jesus should have been aware of everything happening; Jesus should have been quicker on the draw. Where that is the case, the sin of making oneself the LORD’s equal or superior is found. That leads to Jesus’ statement to them at the end of the Gospel Reading: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

And yet, what does Jesus do for His disciples who think this way? You heard the record of His acts: “And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” In that act, Jesus shows Himself to be the LORD who has shut in the sea. For when He gives the command, “the winds and sea obey Him.” Jesus reveals Himself as the Master of All Creation. But Jesus also shows that He is present as Master of All Creation in the world to act on behalf of His people.

This is what the disciples are to learn from this episode in Jesus’ life. His rebuke of their sin and lack of faith is not the only interaction that He has. Yes, that rebuke is given, and rightly so! But it is also accompanied with an act of deliverance that He performs for their benefit meant to restore their faith and status. Jesus does not want them to question His will or character. The LORD desires that His people see Him as the source of all good things and to turn to Him in times of trouble. His acts are meant to turn the disciples’ question into a statement—not “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” but “Teacher, You do care that we are perishing. Hear our pleas for help and aid. Use Your power and ability according to Your gracious and merciful character.”

Such statement comes from your mouths. It happens as you make your petitions to the LORD for what you need for this body and life. That is the concept behind the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer or other prayers that you offer. This calling on the LORD also happens when you ask Jesus for other benefits that only He can provide. That is shown when you call upon Jesus’ aid when having someone baptized or when asking for absolution or when coming to receive the Eucharist. These are actions done in the belief that Jesus is present to grant forgiveness, life, and salvation to you. They are acts done in knowledge that He does care whether you perish for eternity or not.

Paul’s statement about the LORD is rooted in this knowledge and faith: “Working together with Him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” This is a testimony to the gracious and merciful will and character that the LORD has and exhibits to His people. Without this, there would be no good end for humanity. But the LORD has acted with compassion and pity. He has brought about salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. That is meant for people to receive as they turn to Him for aid.

Today’s psalm captures well this theme. Remember how it began: “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side….” The psalmist notes that if the LORD did not act for His people then all would be lost. But after speaking about what would have been, he states how the LORD has acted for them: “Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!” That description of the salvation provided by the LORD is reason for jubilation and for placing full faith in trust in Him. And so the psalmist makes the declaration that becomes a creedal statement for the Church: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

That creedal statement is meant to come from your mouth. The LORD has made heaven and earth. He has laid the earth’s foundation and bottled up the seas. He has command over winds and waves. Even more so, He has power and authority over death and life. He does care whether you perish or not; that is why He has acted by taking on the Evil One and ripping from him the weapon of death. Salvation and deliverance is what He wishes to give to you who are neither His peers nor judges. Instead, He grants you the great privilege to call upon Him in every trouble, even the matters of sin and temptation, of disease and death. Let that be what you speak in place of any questioning His will and character.

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

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