Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
June 24, 2018
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Mike Zehnder, our director of music, had the music time with the youngest children during our vacation Bible School this past week. When I walked past the room I noticed he was trying to have them use up some of their excess energy. They sang LOUD, they had motions for many songs and they stood, or marched for some of them.
One song that they sang was “My God is so great.” “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. The mountains are his, the rivers are his, the stars are his handiwork, too. My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do, for you!”
That song isn’t just for 3-year old’s to sing. That song is for all to believe. Today my sermon asks if anyone is in control. Is anyone in charge? In control of matters of life, in control of our life, in control of you, is anyone in charge?
That was certainly the question with the disciples in Mark 4. The disciples and Jesus were in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. It had started to get dark and then a storm came up and they were unprepared for it. The wind was pushing them around and their boat began to take on a bunch of water. And Jesus, during the storm, in the boat, was asleep. No one was in charge. No one was in control. And the disciples were not too happy about no one doing anything about this problem, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38)
The Old Testament reading for today is from the book of Job. Job suffered so much difficulty in life. Good health had left him, all his money, property and possessions were lost, his children all died and his wife and friends weren’t the greatest support to him. He looked at life and he complained that there was obviously no one in control. It left him pretty hopeless.
So who is in control? Sometimes folks decide that they have to take the reins. A week, or so, ago in the advice column for The Denver Post, a 17 year-old wrote for Amy Dickinson’s advice. Dear Amy, My boyfriend and I just finished our junior year of high school. We’ve been a couple for almost six months and are sexually active. He recently asked me to let him take some nude photos of me.” Amy told her very clearly that that was a really bad idea. There is a thing called the Internet and Twitter and Instagram – so not a good idea. But in her last paragraph Amy tells the teenager, “You own your own body and access to your body. You own your sexuality.” What about God having something to do with all of that? Doesn’t His will and His place enter this matter? In control? God wants to be in control.
When the disciples are overwhelmed with their fear Jesus speaks. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still.’ The the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:39) In control. Jesus was in control. It is like Ephesians says of Him, “[He is] far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet…” (Ephesians 1:21-22a)
After Jesus calmed the storm the disciples asked a good question, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” (Mark 4:41) Who is this? This is the one who has all things under His feet. He holds everything in His hand. He is the one who is in control. He is the one that we had better know.
In Job 38, after page after page of questioning whether God really is mighty, and wondering if he is good or bad, God let Job know that even when everything looked dark, He was still in control. “Brace yourself like a man: I will question you, and you shall answer me. ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it” On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone…Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb…when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt?’” (Portions of Job 38:3-11)
God was in control with Job and during the storm. The Gospel of Mark is the account of the might of Jesus. Miracles. Miracles. Miracles. That kids song, “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty” is a description of what we see in Jesus in Mark’s gospel. But there was a problem though. To this point in Mark’s gospel the miracles were always for someone else. The disciples got to see them but Jesus hadn’t done a miracle for them. Let’s see – He drives out an evil spirit, heals a guy with leprosy and Jesus makes well the paralyzed man who was let down through the roof by four of his friends. But this is the first time He does something for them.
God’s control, His rescue, must be personal. God didn’t come to bring his favor and love and strong hand just to others. He came to do it for you. God shows that you are important to Him. He cares for your troubles. Your problems are important to Him. He covered your sins. Remember, “My God is so strong…” After taking care of all those others He took care of His own – those in the boat with Him.
Psalm 124 recounts the personal care of God for His people, “If the Lord had not been on our side – let Israel say, – if the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.” (Psalm 124:1-5) In control? God has been and God is – even for us.
Even with brevity God shows that He is in control. He doesn’t use a lot of words to make everything peaceful and quiet. “Quiet!! Be Still!! Three words. Even in our day it is brevity that is best.
At the District Convention that I attended 10 days ago one of the hardest jobs that anyone has is to preach to preachers. Preachers can be critical of other preachers. We analyze and give them a grade. One guy who preached was just a little too long winded for me. It took him way too long to say what he needed to say. Now I say that of him – I wonder how many have said that of me? (Don’t tell me – you’re supposed to be nice to me for the next few weeks.) I remember hearing about a preacher’s wife who was quite critical of her husband’s preaching. He was known for getting off subject and going on and on. Of his preaching I heard that she said, “He missed a few good opportunities today to say ‘Amen’ and get out of the pulpit.”
Brevity. We can remember that. Quiet! Be Still! “Take and eat, this is my body.” “Take and drink, this is my blood.” Not a lot of words, but words that tell us He in control of everything, including our souls, our forgiveness, our eternity.
In Bible School whatever the challenge of the day would be: loneliness, worry, hard situations, sin or when we feel powerless, the kids had a response, “Jesus Rescues.” Only two words. Sort of short. But it tells us that God is in control.
When Jesus was dying on the cross He only spoke a few words – 7 phrases that we know – and one of them was the final word of triumph – “It is finished”. Payment for sins made, forgiveness given, devil and sin and hell defeated. It is finished, paid, accomplished. He waited to show the victory on Easter morning. In control.
How about for you? Is He in control of your life and your faith? Do you hear Him speaking to you that it is all right to be quiet and still and you can live confidently in faith? Do you know His promises? Do you trust His place in your life? Do you follow His lead?
We got a great compliment at Bible School. The mother of one of the students said her child mentioned to her, “There is joy here!” What a good word – from a kid. There is joy here. But I’m not surprised by that word. You see, wherever Jesus is present there is joy. After all, He is in control. Amen!!