4 Pentecost Proper B7
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 4:35-41 Sermon
June 21, 2015

(In memory of those who perished at Imanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC)

Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal, With One Voice & Lutheran Service Book):
Note:  This is "Hymn Sing Sunday" where we use hymns chosen by members of the congregation, following a modified form of Luther's Chorale Service.

TLH 657 "Beautiful Saviour"
LSB 501 "How Great Thou Art"
TLH 394 "My Faith Looks Up To Thee"
TLH 15 "From All That Dwell Below The Skies"
LSB 588 "Jesus Loves Me"
TLH 400 "Take My Life & Let It Be"
TLH 376 "Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me"
WOV 699 "Blessed Assurance"
WOV 690 "Shall We Gather At The River" 


TEXT (vs. 39-41):  “And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace!  Be still!’  And the wind ceased, and thee was a great calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?’  And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’”

            I enjoy traveling to various places and seeing new things.  Before I go, I like to read up or do some investigation about what I'm going to encounter. 

            I'm going to read a couple comments about a very beautiful and interesting place to see.  Travel and Leisure magazine calls this place, "America's Most Friendly City," and several other publications share this assessment.  Southern Living magazine calls it, "The most polite and hospitable city in America." 

            From these descriptions, it sounds like this would be a great place to visit, and even a better place to live, don't you think?  Here's a picturesque place that sits right on the ocean; and considering the rave reviews, it's almost like a slice of Eden right here in America.

            Well, now it's time for the "other shoe to drop," so-to-speak.  The place I was just describing is Charleston, South Carolina.  And from what we've been hearing on the news these last few days, we haven't been thinking about how nice this place is.  Our thoughts are immediately turned to the horrific shooting tragedy that happened there this past Wednesday, June 17th.

            I don't think that there are too many people living in our country, and even in other parts of the world that don't know what happened there.  Speaking for myself, something like this leaves me numb with shock.  And various other people I've talked to about this have shared a similar feeling.  What would ever possess somebody to do something like this?

            As the story unfolds, 21 year-old Dylan Roof came into the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal church the evening of June 17th somewhere around 8:00 pm.  He was invited into a Bible Study group meeting in the church, where he actually participated for an hour or so, disagreeing with a lot of what the Bible had to say. 

            And then around 9 pm, the horrible events started to unfold.  He pulled out a Glock 45-caliber pistol from his fanny pack.  He first aimed it at 87 year-old Susie Jackson.  Her nephew, Tywanza Sanders, tried to talk him down, and asked him why he was attacking the church members.

            Dylan responded, "I have to do it.  You rape our women and you're taking over our country.  And you have to go."  He then said that he was going to shoot everyone there.

            After hearing this, Mr. Sanders dove in front of his 87 year-old aunt, and he was rewarded by being the first one shot.  And then, amid his shouts of all types of racial slurs, he shot all of the other victims in cold blood.

            Dylan yelled, "Y'all want something to pray about?  I'll give you something to pray about!"  Before he was done, he reloaded his weapon five times.  Sanders' mother and his 5 year-old niece survived the attack by pretending to be dead.  He intentionally did not shoot one woman so she could, according to him, tell other people what happened.  He then said he was going to kill himself.

            Before he left the church, he faced the bodies and shouted, "I came here to kill as many (the "N" word) as I could, and that's exactly what I did."

            I could continue on here, but you get the picture.  There's virtually tons of material out there that goes into a lot of the detail and background, and you can read it on your own as you have the opportunity.

            I can't even begin to imagine the fear these people experienced.  So as I studied our readings for today, especially our Gospel lesson, we have another group of people who feared for their lives.  What was it like for those disciples on that boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee?  Were they as afraid as those people were in Charleston?

            As the story related in Mark’s Gospel unfolds, I would have to say they were very afraid indeed, but in a different way.  So let’s look at what our text has to say.

            To start off, Jesus and his disciples had a very strenuous day.  Jesus had been teaching the multitudes who had gathered on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  There were so many people, that he had to get into a boat and go out on the water so he could address them.

            And so when evening came, Jesus was ready for a break.  He wanted to be alone with his disciples and away from the crowd of people.  He was definitely tired, but he also knew that there was someone on the other side of the Sea of Galilee who needed his help.  Jesus himself was the one who told them that they needed to go to the other side.  And with all of this, there would be another lesson to teach the disciples.

            Jesus was tired after all of the day’s activities, and so he curls up with a pillow in the stern of the boat to catch a few winks of sleep.  And while he was asleep, a sudden squall comes upon them.

            Now the disciples who were with Jesus were seasoned and experienced fisherman.  TheSea of Galilee, which in reality is nothing more than a huge lake, had been noted for experiencing these sudden storms.  The lake was surrounded by high hills; and because of this, storms of this nature would happen with some degree of regularity.

            Since the disciples knew the lake and these storms, they would have known how to handle their vessel under adverse circumstances.

            However, in this case, the storm was so furious that the rain and the wind and the waves put them in a very perilous situation.  They were losing control of their boat.  These seasoned and experienced men, who had spent much of their life on the lake, were frightened.  They were very frightened.  We might even borrow the terminology from the shepherds in the Christmas story, and say that these disciples were “sore afraid.”

            But there was Jesus, curled up on his pillow, and fast asleep.  Jesus was sleeping right through a perilous and frightening situation, seemingly oblivious to what was happening.

            The situation was getting worse, and the disciples were almost at the panic stage.  So they decide to wake up Jesus and have a little talk with him.

            Their talk would be two-pronged.  They had faith and knew that Jesus could help them; otherwise they could have just let him sleep.  So in waking him up, they were showing their faith.  However, it seemed to them that Jesus just didn’t care, so they proceed to scold him.  Their conversation had the elements of both faith and rebuke.

            They should have known better.  They had witnessed Jesus demonstrate his power previously.  Plus they knew the heart of the Saviour in how he dealt with people.  So they should never have doubted for a minute either Jesus power or his compassion.  But they did.

            Proverbs chapter 25, verse 11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  Jesus certainly demonstrated this.  He had the ability to be able to say exactly the right words at the right time, and this situation was no exception.

            Verse 39 of our text says, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace!  Be still!’  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  With just three simple one-syllable words, Jesus has the whole situation under control.

            But then he has some more words that were fitly spoken.  He rebukes, or scolds the disciples in verse 40:  “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?’”

            The disciples were forced to face their own spiritual weakness.  They should have known that regardless of whether Jesus was awake or asleep, he was in control of things.  Even though they called him “Rabbi” (which means “teacher”), yet they still hadn’t really taken his teachings to heart.  This was an experience from which they would learn a valuable lesson.  Jesus showed his Godly power over the forces of nature, something nobody else could ever do.  In verse 40 we are told:  “And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?’”

            People will look at the situation in Charlestonand ask, "Okay, where was God in all of this?  If God is such a loving and caring God, why would he allow a mad man to open fire on a Bible Study group?  God wasn't there, was he?  Or if he was, it doesn't seem like he had the power to stop this.  Maybe God is nothing more than a cruel tyrant who allows his people to be afflicted."         

            What happened in Charleston is a glaring reminder of the effects sin has in this world.  Charleston is a beautiful city, about a third the size of Lincoln.  There are so many nice things to attract people, and now this has to happen.

            We can go back almost to the beginning of creation to see what sin did to paradise.  Adam and Eve brought sin into the world through their disobedience.  Sin ruined God's perfect creation, and we have been suffering the effects of it ever since.  The world has become a very cruel place indeed, and we see examples of this every day.

            Our text for today teaches us a valuable lesson indeed.  If you noticed, the theme of my sermon today is, "God provides the calm after the storm."  Human tendency is to focus upon the storm and blame God for that, instead of seeing the calm that follows the storm, and thanking God for that. 

            Jesus came into a very inhospitable world, and he did so with a message of forgiveness and peace.  Since the fall into sin, the world has seen wickedness and violence ever since.  Man's inhumanity to man has become the norm.

            We see the turmoil in our own lives as well.  Things happen in our lives that threaten our faith.  Storms arise and life’s waters get choppy.  Finances get tight, debts seem to mount without any hope of relief, health issues threaten us, relationships hit the rocks, and the list goes on.  In every way, Satan tries to convince us that we must be afraid, we must worry, and he wants to get us to the point where we are in a state of utter despair.  Satan tries to get us to look away from God and to concentrate on our weaknesses rather than his strength. He wants us to focus upon the storm instead of the calm that follows.

            Through faith in Jesus our Saviour, he has come into our lives and rescued us.  He has defeated sin, death, and the devil completely and absolutely.  Amid the storms we experience, we can hear the words:  “Peace!  Be Still!” that our Saviour speaks to us.  Jesus came to rescue us, to save us, and to reconcile us to God in heaven.  We can be assured that we will arrive safely through the storm on the shores of heaven, where we will be met with the waiting arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            The tragedy in Charleston has cut very deep into the community, and especially the members of Immanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  This is a tragedy they will always remember.  Families were torn apart, and lives were cut short.  A storm hit these people, and hit them hard.

            If this had happened to ISIS or Al Queda or some of the other Islam extremists, an all-out war would have ensued.  People would be out for revenge, and the streets would be filled with angry people.

            But this is where the Christians really show their faith in action.  People who lost their loved ones, their children, their parents, their grandparents, and so forth went to court.  They looked Dylan Roof right in the eye and they forgave him.  They did something that I would find very difficult to do, as many of you would.  They openly forgave this brutal, blood thirsty killer.  He tried to do everything to shake their faith; and in the midst of the massacre came the words of forgiveness.  They were able to put the love of Jesus they had in their hearts into action.  They didn't blame God for the storm in their lives; rather, they thanked God for the calm that followed.

            Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. said: "A hateful person came to this community with some crazy idea he'd be able to divide, but all he did was unite us and make us love each other even more."   They were even able to share that love to the person that hated them so much.  And as ironic as it sounds, the killer Dylan Roof even said to police, that he "almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him."

            That same forgiving love Jesus has shown to each and every one of us is what we see in action by the members of this congregation in Charleston.  It's the same faith that we put into action in our own lives as well.

            We certainly share the hurt and sorrow with these faithful Christian people.  But we also rejoice with them that through faith in Christ alone, the salvation of their loved ones is guaranteed, and that they are now enjoying their heavenly reward.  So let's remember the families and friends of the people from Immanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this past Wednesday evening: 

            *Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) Bible study member and manager for the Charleston County Public Library system. *Susie Jackson (87) a Bible study and church choir member. *Ethel Lee Lance (70) the church sexton and a former employee at the Gaillard Auditorium. *Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49) a Bible study teacher employed as a school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University.  *Clementa C. Pinckney (41) the church pastor and a South Carolina state senator.  *Tywanza Sanders (26) a Bible study member and 2014 graduate of Allen University.  *Daniel Simmons (74) a reverend at the church who also served at Greater Zion A.M.E. Church in Awendaw. *Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45) a reverend at the church who was also a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School.  *Myra Thompson (59) a Bible study teacher and retired high school counselor.

            Blessed be their memory.