Mark 4: 35 – 41 Time to Wake Up Jesus Sunday June 21, 2020

Here is this week’s sermon:

And the words:

Time to Wake Up Jesus

Mark 4: 35 – 41


(preached June 21, 2020)


The author David Ropeik has spent a lot of time studying scary stuff.  With his colleague George Gray, Ropeik has written a book about our reaction to risk.  He tries to explain how much of our fear of risk is warranted.  He says our reaction to risk is primarily emotional.  These emotions are much more powerful than our intellectual understanding of the facts.  We don’t calculate risk on the basis of factual information.  We don’t consider the facts.  Instead, we calculate risk more on a set of emotional factors.  These emotional factors influence our fear much more than anything based on studies and statistics.


Ropeik says, “we’re biologically hardwired … to fear first and think second.  When information comes to us about a risk, it hits the part of the brain that sends out fear signals before it hits the part of the brain that thinks it over.  Before we’ve done our cool, calm, and collected risk analysis, we’re already afraid” (Ropeik, Boston Globe, October 22, 2002, p. B1).


In our gospel passage for today, from Mark, the disciples don’t take much time to analyze the risks when that storm comes up on the Sea of Galilee.  As the waves surge and the boat pitches and the thunder crashes overhead, their brains are sending out fear signals loud and clear.  It must have been a really powerful storm.  Don’t forget – at least four of these men are seasoned fishermen.  They’re used to the ups and downs of life at sea.  And even they are terrified.

It’s dark and there’s no land in sight.  The waves come fast and furious.  Water is pouring in.  The boat is being swamped.  The wind is roaring through the rigging.


But here’s Jesus, sleeping soundly in the stern.  He’s in the spot that was usual for distinguished guests.  The cushion he’s reclining on is the one usually provided for an honored passenger.  He looks comfortable; that’s for sure.  He doesn’t even seem to hear the fury of the storm.  The disciples are beside themselves with fear, but they have to wake him up.


“Teacher!”  they cry.  “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”  Don’t you care?  How can you sleep at a time like this!


Storms at sea can be terrifying.  For many of us, though, even on dry land, fear is a constant companion.  And fear’s quieter cousin, anxiety, eats away at our inner sense of calm.  Especially in the last few months, we’ve been anxious.  We’ve been afraid of an invisible virus that we don’t yet have a treatment for.  We’ve been afraid of losing our jobs and losing our savings in a tanking economy.  Speaking for myself, I’m anxious about the future of our country.  Will we ever rise above the racist violence that has plagued us since the beginning?  Will we ever become a land of equal justice for all?


It seems to me that we’re living in a climate of fear.  And some of our leaders are encouraging our fears.  We’re encouraged to be fearful of a troubled economy.  We’re encouraged to be suspicious of people who are different from us, people who don’t look like us or talk the way we do.  We’re encouraged to close ourselves off instead of extending a helping hand.  We are anxious people.  In our hearts and minds, the seas are never calm.  The waves of worry throw us off-balance.  Howling winds drive away any sense of peace within.


Hearing about that night on the sea of Galilee, we might wonder how Jesus could have slept through the fury of that violent storm.  Maybe he was just very tired.  He had been teaching for a number of days, speaking in parables, proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  It was arduous work.  He was often confronted by teachers of the religious law, challenging what he had to say.  There were squabbles with his family, too.  Earlier in Mark’s gospel, they try to bring him back home.  They’re afraid the stress of his work is affecting his mental health (Mark 3: 31).


So Jesus may be sleeping the sleep of the very fatigued that night.  It’s also possible though that he’s sleeping: not because he’s very tired, but because, in the midst of all the clamor, he is able to relax.  He can rest because he knows God will take care of him.  Because of that assurance, he can rest in God’s hands.  That’s something the disciples aren’t able to do.  They’re convinced that they are perishing.  Fortunately, they have the good sense to wake him up and ask for help.


But often you and I don’t do that, when we are hit by the storms of life.  When anxiety takes hold of us, we get tossed and turned and nearly capsize.  All the time, we don’t think about Jesus and what he can do.  The early church leader, St. Augustine, describes it this way:


“The winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering… Why is this?  Because Christ is asleep in you.  What do I mean?  I mean you have forgotten his presence.  [Now is the time to] rouse him, remember him, let him keep watch within you…This is the moment to awaken Christ” (Augustine, quoted in Pulpit Resource, vol. 34, no. 2, p. 60).


When anxiety threatens to swamp our boat, we can remember that Jesus is in the boat with us: as Augustine puts it, ready when we turn to him, “Help; Lord, I need your help.”  When the wind is howling and the waves are crashing, remember this is the Lord who said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).  This is the Lord who offered his own body to nourish us.  This is the Lord who looked with love on rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old.


The world around us might say, “Be afraid.”  But you and I don’t have to be afraid because we know Jesus dwells within us.  Jesus is waiting in the midst of the storm, ready to free us from fear.  All we have to do is wake him up, to say, “Lord, I need your help.”





Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Pentecost 3



Here is the piano music:

“Standing in the Need of Prayer”  – Arranged by Anthony Giamanco 

And here is the organ music. Enjoy!

“Be Thou My Vision” – Composer, Eleanor Whitsett