In his final sermon here at Fairport UMC, Pastor John spoke of crossing boundaries. Toward the conclusion of his message, John made an observation: “It’s interesting to me,” he said, “that the Gospels are filled with incidents of crossing boundaries. It almost seems that one of Jesus’ primary aims was to cross as many boundaries as he could...” Indeed, today’s Gospel reading, like so many others, is a story about Jesus crossing boundaries and calling his disciples to follow him.
The story picks up at the end of a day of teaching on the seashore in Galilee. As night starts to fall, Jesus says to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side,” or as some translations say, “Let’s cross over.” So Jesus and his followers, already in the boats, cast off and begin their journey across the sea.
In a quick reading, it seems as though the only boundary Jesus is calling his disciples to cross with him is a physical one. They are to travel from one side of the sea to the other. Jesus’ call, though, was much more significant than that. Until this point, Jesus and his followers had been doing all their teaching and ministry in a Jewish environment. Being Jewish themselves, this would have come relatively easily to them; they had a home-turf advantage, so to speak. The people who lived on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, though, were Gentiles. The disciples were about to leave familiarity, even to leave home, to enter into ministry in a strange new environment.
Nevertheless, the disciples did as Jesus asked. They got in their boats and began to cross over. As is often the case with the path God leads us on, it was not smooth sailing. While they were together on their journey, they were interrupted by a ferocious storm. The winds picked up, tossing the boats around. Waves were so high that they were crashing into the boats, putting them in danger of sinking. The disciples were terrified; they feared for their lives. And all the while, Jesus slept!?
This interruption, this storm, made the Jesus-followers fearful and angry. They were being faced with what seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle. If they were to have any hope of keeping the boats from going under, they needed all hands on deck. Yet Jesus, their leader, the one who had called them to cross the sea to begin with, was sound asleep.
It’s no wonder the disciples lit into Jesus a bit. Author Mark says, “they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” I can only imagine their next line. “We know this isn’t typically your job, but if you don’t pick up a bucket and start bailing water, we’re all going under!” The disciples weren’t asking for a miracle. We know this because they were surprised when Jesus performed one. They were simply asking for their leader to care.
What happened next far exceeded anything they had hoped for or imagined.
Jesus woke up, probably yawned, probably stretched a little, stood up tall, looked at the storm, and said, “Peace! Be still!”
And it was.
Violent waves dropped down to a gentle ripple. Roaring winds subsided to a whispering breeze. And Jesus’ followers stared in awe.
These events which transpired while the disciples journeyed catalyzed a second crossing-over. Seeing firsthand the power of Jesus caused the disciples to cross over from fear to courage, from terror to awe, from groundlessness to faith.
This crossing over, like the crossing of the sea, was a process; it didn’t all happen at once. Really, it all began when the storm hit.
If Jesus had the power to stop the storm in its path, why did he not just prevent it in the first place? Perhaps the storm was just what the disciples needed. The storm gave Jesus the opportunity to demonstrate his power. It gave the disciples a chance to rely on Jesus and to grow in faith. Sometimes the greatest good can come out of the greatest tribulations.
The storm resulted in fear, which caused the disciples to call upon Jesus. There’s great power in calling out to Jesus. Jesus responds, and his response has a tendency to far exceed our expectations.
The result of this all? Courage for the work to come. Renewed hope. Faith which surpassed any they had had before.
The crossing-over was a process, but each step along the way was invaluable, even necessary.
We, like Jesus’ earliest disciples, are together on a journey and following his lead. Today, many (if not all) of us find ourselves in the midst of a storm.
How will we respond to our circumstances? Will we cry out in fear, wondering if God even cares? Will we run to Jesus with feelings of helplessness? Will we stand in courage, knowing that in God’s perfect timing, this storm will be calmed?
Today we are each being uniquely summoned to cross over from ministry as we know it to something less familiar. We are also being called upon to cross over from fear to courage, from helplessness to faith. This is a tremendous calling! Do we have what it takes?
We can cross over to courage and faith because, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” God repurposes things. Chaos became the ordered world, and lumps of mud became the start of humankind. Out of the despair of devastating persecution came much of the beautiful poetry in Psalms. A most terrifying storm became an opportunity for the disciples to witness a new miracle. Even the great atrocity of Jesus’ death was undone by the profoundly powerful love of God. Crucifixion gave way to resurrection. And end gave way to a beginning.
We can cross over to because we know that no matter what changes in our lives, certain things hold true. We are not alone. God works in us and in others. Jesus is our Judge and our Hope. God is with us. We are not alone.
Jesus has called us to cross from the familiar into the unfamiliar, from fear into faith.
So let’s do it. Let’s cross over. It may not happen in a moment; in fact, it may take a bit of a sustained effort, but we can make the journey. We can live in the fullness of faith, in the center of the kin-dom of God.
By the amazing grace of Jesus, the infinite love of God, and the intimate presence of the Holy Spirit, we can weather this storm.
So let’s do it.
Let’s cross over.