Creative Worship

Sermon from Worship July 22 – Storms

We don’t have audio recordings of sermons at Open Space, but I thought for this time I’d publish the sermon from our last month’s (July 22) worship.

We do all sorts of art, but we are definitely a worshiping community, a church where we gather, sing songs, pray, hear the Word, and even have communion. Everyone’s welcome, and we have people from all sorts of walks of life and places in their faith. We’re all in this boat together learning, growing, experiencing, praying, and coming closer to God.

The topic of this sermon is “Storms” and I’m including above the picture from Rembrandt that I reference, his famous “Jesus Calms the Storm”

I write out sermons with lots of bullet points because it makes it easier for me to read it just by glancing down quick.

Enjoy,

Pastor Lars Hammar

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Welcome everyone,

One of the things you notice about worship here at Open Space is that we let kids run around.

  • Partly, we don’t have a nursery, but we also like to value coming to worship as you are.
  • And so we have people hanging out, kids running around the back, and lots of lingering after.

This is how church should be – a loud, fun place. At least that’s what I’ve worked hard to try to make it.

  • A place that didn’t have kids running around and making noise would be a pretty boring place, if you asked me.

Some people would tell you that all the chaos is a distraction from their spirituality, and an obstacle to experiencing.

  • Now, if this was a night-time service, something in Lent, say, I would agree with that. Silence is the point there.
  • But on Sundays, then it’s for the whole community, and what healthy community doesn’t have a lot of kids running around?
  • To me, it’s the sound of joy – not the sound of distractions that need to be shooshed.

But that’s just me. I guess.

I just think that too often we confuse spirituality with this sort of sheltered, protected silence where you have long periods of time to meditate undisturbed.

  • But, unless you’re a monk, or a hermit who lives out in the desert, that’s just about impossible, especially if you have a family.
  • You’re not going to find God if you can only find God when it’s quiet.
  • And you’re not going to find God if you can only hear his voice when there’s nothing else going on.

That certainly wasn’t the case for Jesus’ disciples.

  • They got dragged all over the place. They went north, and south, and around the lake (several times), and they were chased by crowds, and pushed around by crowds, and sometimes they would get heckeled and sometimes cheered, but they rarely had it quiet.

Sometimes it would get too much for Jesus, so he’d try to get away for a little bit, and recharge. I’m sure it’s kind of like when you have your kids home on summer break, and they’re around you ALL THE TIME, and you don’t get those few hours when everyone’s at school.

  • And it’s just kids, kids, kids all day every day.

You love them, but eventually you need to get out.

So you get out for a night, and by the end of the night you’re wondering how they’re doing.

Because you’re not getting away because you don’t want to be around them, but because you’re too drained to be a good parent anymore.

And your goal isn’t to get rid of your kids, it’s just to recharge.

  • Because you love them, and the chaos and noise are part of what make life what it is, and make it fun, and make it interesting.
  • But you have to try to be the calm presence in the midst of it, and not let it suck you in.

It’s why I feel for the parents who have so much responsibility that they can never seem to recharge, and their whole lives are so filled with stuff coming at them that they can’t deal with it.

  • This kid’s in trouble, that father’s not paying child support, this job doubled hours and lowered wages, this benefit got canceled, this other kid got in trouble, the car broke and I can’t afford to fix it – and life becomes to much chaos and stress that it’s like living in the middle of a human hurricane, and you start to loose it and become perpetually angry or depressed.

But it isn’t the family chaos that’s making the stress, it’s the inability to rise above it.

Because some people, if you notice, deal with incredible amounts of chaos, noise, complicated stuff swirling around them, and they seem to not get sucked into it? Ever notice that?

I’ve seen many good teachers who can do that. They can stay calm and clear-headed when kids are flailing and throwing tantrums.

  • And you wonder how they do it (and don’t say “wine”)
  • I think there’s something they do to stay at peace inside, to keep their sanity inside, and not let the chaos suck them in.
  • It’s like they’re there, and the room isn’t always under control, but they are.
  • And the kids may swirls around, but by the end of the year things start to calm down.
  • Not because they teacher went all heavy-handed on discipline, throwing people out left and right, but because that calm presence started to rub off.

Staying calm in the midst of chaos is a real gift to those around you who are in the midst of it.

Being at peace when everyone else is stressed out and worried and scared of everything – that’s something.

This was a familiar scenario for Jesus.

He was under constant stress.

  • He had people try to kill him, several times. He had death threats and assassination plots against him.
  • He would draw crowds of people who would sometimes love him (like when he gave them free food, or cured their illnesses), and then turn on him and hate him when he would challenge their beliefs (like telling them they needed to repent of things).
  • So it wasn’t like Jesus had peace in his life because his life was at peace.
  • His peace didn’t come from the world around him being peaceful, but from the faith he had inside.

 

It’s like in this story of him on the boat in the storm.

He’s on the boat with the disciples because the crowds were too much, so he’s trying to get away, and taking the boat and cutting across the lake.

And it says that “a great windstorm arouse, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped”

Wow, sounds pretty bad.

But Jesus fell asleep through all this.

That’s right. While the disciples were freaking out about the waves, Jesus was asleep. Clearly he wasn’t worried.

And you’d think Jesus was being reckless, until you think about the whole situation for a minute.

You know what job these guys used to have (at least a lot of them)? They were fishermen. On that lake. They were experts at boats and at that lake. They should have known how much they could take.

 

Then, you have to think about the lake itself for a moment.

It’s 42 acres. That’s it.

It’s not the ocean. It’s a shallow lake.

 

OK, it storms some times, maybe even big storms, but these guys should have been able to handle it.

  • So why were they so afraid?
  • Why were they so worried they were all going to die? Taking on water? These boats aren’t very deep, they do that a lot. I’ve been on boats that take on water. A little water is normal.

But, either way, let’s assume the waves were huge and the storm was loud, and the water was deep in the boat, clearly Jesus wasn’t worried.

  • Why didn’t they just take the cue from him, and say “well, if he’s not worried, I’m not?”

It’s like they didn’t trust him.

 

Like when your wife says she has everything under control, and she knows where the keys are, and you still look.

  • You should have more faith, but you still worry?
  • Why? It’s not like she loses the keys all the time.
  • It’s because at some level you think you believe her, but when your mind starts worrying about it, it takes over and you still feel like you need to see the keys.

 

This is Jesus’ disciples on the waves. They say they trust him, they say they believe him, they say they’ll follow him, but when things get chaotic, and look scary, they start to want to see it first, they get scared. They get caught up in the chaos.

The fear around them gets into them.

  • The chaos wins.

And when they wake Jesus he gives them the “what, you didn’t trust me, did you?” lecture.

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

“You didn’t trust me did you?”

Jesus is amazing, he keeps his calm in the midst of all the craziness.

He’s got death threats against him, people heckling him, priests and scribes plotting to kill him, sick people mobbing him everywhere, critics ridiculing him, and he somehow manages to stay calm.

  • But the disciples get a rocking boat and they freak out.

Jesus was able to keep a piece of mind, even when there’s nothing in his life that’s calm.

  • He is at peace, even when his whole life is filled with threats.

How does he do it?

He does it because he has that faith that God will bring him through. Not that God will protect him from suffering, we know that doesn’t happen, but that God has a bigger purpose here, and that purpose is above and beyond all the little things here on earth – even deadly little things.

Jesus had that peace of the good teacher who doesn’t react to the chaos of the world because she’s so confident that it’s not the whole story, and it’s not all the kids are, and it’s not her whole self.

 

Being at peace is not about having the world at peace, but about having God in the midst of the world.

So you can quit beating yourself up over not being able to get more silent meditation time (which is a good thing, if you can get it), but it’s not the essence of the Christian life.

Jesus had some silent time, but not a lot.

  • He had some quiet, but mostly people everywhere.
  • And because his heart and his mind were with God the Father, it was almost as if he was looking at the world from the outside on, and not letting it get to him.

God is in control here, even if we can’t always see it in the moment.

  • And God is in the chaos of our lives, even if it gets obscured by things.
  • And there are storms all around us, and we can rise above them, not by running away from them, but by not letting them suck us into the drama and the stress.
  • And without that we lose the fear, and we lose the worry, and we can get free from living that way, and can rise above it for peace that comes even in the most chaotic times.

 

Amen.