Sunday, October 1st's great message “No Ordinary Man” by Rev. Toni Carmer continuing week 24 of a 31 week study of “The Story – The Bible as One Continuous Story of God and His People.”
No Ordinary Man
First United Methodist Church, October 1, 2017
Pastor Toni L. Carmer
Mark 4:38-40, Matthew 14:27-29, Matthew 14:13
We're continuing our journey through the greatest story ever told. The greatness of the Story (of scripture) isn't simply because it's been around so long, but it's because it is the living Word of God.
When I say scripture is the living Word of God, here's what I mean: Most books I read one time. I've read a few novels more than once, with some years in between, because I enjoyed them so much the first time, I thought I'd like to read them again. Kind of like watching a classic movie more than once. There are some nonfiction books I've studied and have continued to make reference to: they might help me be a better gardener or a better leader or maybe a better person. But scripture engages us at a different level. As I read scripture, I learn something more about God, and I learn something more about me. As I read, I receive an invitation to consider this, to walk this way, to look at others in this way. The living Word of God challenges me and invites me in and invites me to something more and different than what I might have considered before, about myself, about others, about the world. And the thing is, sometimes I'll read a story in scripture that's familiar to me, that I thought I knew through and through—and because of whatever circumstance is happening in my life or in the world right now, I see the story in a new way, in a different way than I had before. Scripture continues to change me, and lives on, as you and I together read it and respond in the places where we live and work and relate to others.
Scripture isn't a story that is read once and done/check it off your list. The living Word of God is always ready to offer us something new.
Our reading this week is from chapter 24 of Randy Frazee's book, The Story, entitled "No Ordinary Man." Again, the scripture from this chapter takes us through stories in each of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here, Jesus is in his second of three years of ministry before the cross. The first year, was a year of inauguration. This second year is a year of popularity. The final year will be a year of opposition.
Crowds are gathering—by the thousands—to get a glimpse of Jesus, to hear him teach, to watch him perform miracles, and to be healed. They can't seem to get enough of him.
He teaches them, and he teaches us in different ways. He tells stories that capture our attention, that make us think, and make us think again. He uses common everyday examples so that people then and people now can understand. And we learn from him as well, through his actions and his interactions. We're going to talk about four of those this morning, and what they might have to do with us.
The first one comes from the incident on page 343 of the Story and from the Gospel of Mark chapter 4, beginning with verse 35 in our Bibles. Jesus has been teaching, people are all around him all the time, and at the end of the day, he says to his disciples, "Let's go to the other side of the lake. So they all climb in, and Jesus settles into the back of the boat on a cushion, and falls asleep. But then a storm breaks loose. The boat is rocking ferociously, waves are coming over the side, and the disciples can see that they won’t survive if this gets any worse. And up in the stern of the boat, Jesus is sleeping. Not a care in the world…like this is a typical day in the life, or a walk through the park.
The disciples are desperate—they urgently tell Jesus, “Wake up!! We need your help! Find something and help us bail out this boat, or we’re all going to die!! Don't you care???”
Jesus awakens to all the chaos around him, but instead of picking up a bucket, he stands up, stretches, and commands the winds to be silent. The water becomes completely calm. He turns to his disciples and asks: "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
The disciples have been with him, they've watched him, they believe in him…and then, in a desperate moment they forget: when Jesus is in your boat, you don't need to be afraid of storms.
We've been around long enough to know that there are all kinds of storms in life.
There are the literal storms—like the hurricanes—that have caused such devastation in the Caribbean, in Texas and Florida and along the coast.
But there are other kinds of storms…perhaps you're living in the midst of a storm here and now.
I have a friend named Lea who sent me a text a couple of months ago, asking me to pray for her. I didn't know what was going on, didn't need to know any details—God knew what was up, and I said I'd be praying, and I did. A few weeks later, Lea let me know that she had breast cancer, and she didn't have a date yet, but they were planning surgery, please keep praying. I did.
About 2 weeks ago, Lea learned was that the cancer is in her lymph nodes. They cancelled the plans for surgery for now, and this week she began chemotherapy. She has 7 more rounds, and then they'll decide what the next steps are.
Lea and I communicate by text messages. At the end of each of her texts, she says, "God is good, all the time." This is a big storm, but she knows that Jesus is in the boat with her, and so ultimately, it's okay. She knows she's in God's hands.
On page 348 of The Story and in Matthew 14 beginning with verse 22 there's another boat story. This time, the disciples are in a boat without Jesus. Once again, the wind picks up and waves start battering the boat. It's still dark and they're working hard to keep the boat on course. And then, they see something out in the distance that they can't explain. And it seems to be coming closer.
Their first guess is that it's a ghost! But then they hear the voice of Jesus. He tells them not to be afraid because it's him. That seems to be a common theme that we hear in Jesus' ministry, isn't it? People must experience a fair amount of fear… Peter responds, "Lord, if it's you…tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus says, "Come on out."
Peter steps out and he starts walking on water. As long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus and not the waves, he's good.
That works for us, too. It's not just a great title to a good book: "If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat."
Sometimes, you've just got to play it safe. We put on sunscreen, we wear seatbelts and try to eat nutritiously, we follow the speed limit and drive on the right side of the road, we do these things and a whole lot more because we want to be healthy and we shouldn't take risks that endanger us or our loved ones. But there are some other things that we do or don't do, because it just seems safer at the moment to keep clinging to the boat. Taking a faith risk just seems—too risky!
- Maybe it's time to start downsizing to decrease your home and expenses to relieve your stress and have more time to focus on some better things…(but it's so hard to do!)
- Maybe it's leaving a job that you just don't like—at all—but starting over sounds so hard!
- Maybe it's getting help for your marriage, or stepping back from a relationship that you know isn't healthy
- Maybe it's learning to accept who you are and how God made you and living out the gifts that God gave you…
Maybe it's time to take a risk. To try a new way. A better way to live your life.
Here's another word for us as consider as Jesus teaches us through the way he lives:
This story comes from page 346 of the Story and Matthew 14:1-12. John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, who proclaimed the coming of Jesus and baptized him, has just been beheaded by Herod. Matthew 14:13 tells us: When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
But the crowds just follow him and keep pulling at him to teach some more and to heal some more. The story tells us he has compassion on them even in his time of need and conducts a healing service for them. In the evening, the disciples come to Jesus and tell him to send the people back into town so they can get something to eat.
But Jesus tells them, "You give them something to eat."
The disciples look out at the crowd and know they can't do it. Scripture tells us there are 5000 men there, not including women and children. Feed 15,000 people?
"Lord, we only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, that won't go near far enough."
Jesus has the people sit down and then he asks that the bread and fish be brought to him. He takes what he is given, holds them up to heaven, he gives thanks and breaks the loaves. He gives them back to the disciples who begin distributing it to the people. Everyone eats and is satisfied, and there are 12 baskets left over.
Five loaves, 2 fish, and 12 baskets left over.
When we give Jesus what we have, he'll multiply it.
The disciples can't feed all those people on their own…but when they give what they have to Jesus, something amazing happens.
We can't do a whole lot of things on our own…but when we give what we have to Jesus, he can do something amazing with it.
There's one last story I want you to hear this morning. It comes after Jesus and his disciples feed the 5000 plus. By then, Jesus can't help but be tired, plus, he still needs time to process the death of John. So, he sends the disciples on ahead of him in a boat to their next location. Here's what it says on page 348 of the Story and in Matthew 14:23: After he had dismissed them, he went on a mountainside by himself to pray (pg. 348, The Story, Matthew 14:23)
Jesus is modeling a very important principle for us: We all need times of Sabbath rest.
Some of us need to hear that. Jesus doesn't only do it here, but Sabbath rest is a pattern in his life. Right before a big decision or right after a major event in his life, he goes and spends time with God. If Jesus felt the need to do this, then how much more do we need that, too?
Some of you are burning the candle at both ends. Some of you are faced with a major decision. Some of you have gone through some major events in your life. As a Christian, you need to get alone with God and get yourself centered; get yourself anchored; get yourself refreshed.
Early that morning, just as the sun was rising, a refreshed Jesus got up and that's the day he walked on water to catch up with the guys in the boat who had gone on ahead of him.
Jesus came—not only to die for our sins—but to show us how to live. Those who have ears, let us hear. Amen.