Don’t You Care?

Sermon by Reverend Dr. John Mann | June 20, 2021

Mark 4:35-41

People will say, “How can you believe in a God who allows suffering?”

The idea being that if God is love, then why allow bad things to happen.

But what would God do if God were to do something? Would it be the thing we want God to do?

History is filled with unintended consequences. Good intentions don’t always turn out so good and good deeds can often go bad. What is good for one can be devastating for another – both of whom believe in the same God.

Getting involved in a problem, even with good intentions, doesn’t always turn out as we might hope.

One time my parents tried to help me out. It was an intervention of sorts. I was a sophomore in high school and my history report on Alaska was due. I put it off until the day before the deadline and then slapped it together, knowing it was fairly dismal. But it was done.

Then my mom wanted to read it. She read it and was appalled at how bad it was. She knew it was sure to fail. My dad read it and came to the same conclusion.

“Is that the best you can do?!” Of course not, but what could I say?

“You can’t hand this in! You’ll have to rewrite it!”

It was a Sunday afternoon. I had better things to do. My parents had nothing better to do. They spent the next few hours researching and rewriting my history paper. My dad even typed it out.

“Now you have something you can hand in!”

To say that this was uncharacteristic on their part would be an understatement. I knew it was definitely a one-time deal.  

I handed in the paper. When the history teacher read and graded the papers, mine came back with a big “C” marked on it. There was a comment along the lines of, “Not your best effort.” I told my parents they got a “C.” I so wanted to say, but didn’t, “Is that the best you can do?”

The lesson I learned was simple: no one can do for you better than what you should do for yourself. Notice I say, “Should do.” Certain things others can do better and should do instead. If you need brain surgery, you want a brain surgeon.

So, if we cry out to the heavens for God to get involved – in our world or in our lives and it seems like the answer is nothing but silence, maybe if we listen carefully, we can hear God whispering, “Why don’t you do something? What can you do? What should you do?”

We read these stories in the bible where it seems like God had a fairly active hand in human affairs. People had these direct conversations with God. God or some angels would show up and do stuff. Actions brought results. Why doesn’t that happen today? What happened to God?

More than the story of God trying to fix things, the bible is the story of what it means to be human and to struggle with realities of life and the misfortunes of life.  Early on in the saga, in the first family, so to speak, sibling rivalry turns into murder. After Cain killed his brother God asked him, “Where is your brother?” Cain responded with a question, “Am I brother’s keeper?” In essence he was asking, “What do you care?”

But that question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” hangs over the whole story. When God said to Cain that his brother’s blood which was spilled in anger and violence was crying out from the ground, it was a way of saying that the misfortune of our brothers and sisters, the injustice suffered by them, cries out. Not for God to do something about it, but for us to do something about it.

If we cry out to God saying, “Don’t you care?!” God simple echoes back to us, “Don’t you care?”

It had been a long day. Jesus had been around crowds all day. People were demanding. He and his friends were on the lake shore and the crowds became so large that Jesus got into a boat and talked to people from there. At the end of the day he was worn out. They decided to sail over to the other side of the lake. There were other villages over there, and they could start out fresh.

Jesus fell asleep in the boat. A storm arose. The boat was tossed and turned. While Jesus slept his friends grew fearful of the storm. Finally, they woke him up. They cried out, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” He woke up, shouted at the storm, and it went away. He asked them, “Why are you afraid? Where’s your faith?”

We hear stories like this and say, “It didn’t really happen that way, but it shows that God is with us in the storms of life and if we just have enough faith, the God will make the storms go away.”

Weather storms have a life span based on meteorological circumstances. Praying doesn’t make them go away or in a different direction. So too the storms of life. God doesn’t make them go away, or take us out of the maelstrom. Which draws us back to the question, does God even care?

“Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” is a loaded question if there ever was one. A loaded question is one that assumes agreement with a basic premise, in that instance, “We are perishing.” But they weren’t perishing. Those guys had been out on that lake hundreds of times. They had seen every kind of weather. They were experienced sailors.

Perhaps their question stemmed not so much from fear, but from anger. Here they were, frantically making their way through the storm, bailing water, trying to steer a course, and Jesus was fast asleep. He seemed indifferent to their plight. But not everything is at it merely seems.

Stories are told of how Jesus would perform miracles. He healed people. He restored people. He set them aright. Many times in these miracle stories people would thank Jesus. What he often tells them is, “It’s your faith that has done this for you.”

His question to his friends who were frantic in the storm, “Have you no faith,” was like asking them, “Will your anchor hold through the storms of life? Did you forget that you had faith?”

If his mission was to save us from our sins, then a large part of that was to save us from ourselves. To save us from not seeing ourselves as God’s beloved children; to save us from not receiving what God has on offer. Not through some miraculous stilling of the storm, but through enabling us to see that we have the faith within us; through reminding us that within us is all the faith we will ever need.

A poem by Phillip Brooks

Do not pray for easy lives,

Pray to be stronger men and women.

Do not pray for tasks equal to your power,

Pray for power equal to your tasks.

Then the doing of your work shall be

No miracle; you shall be a miracle.

Every day you shall wonder at yourself,

At the fullness of life

Which has come to you

Through the grace of God.

God cares, but we must embrace God’s care and take it to heart in order to experience it. Then we find it within ourselves to be the people God wants us to be.

I think that when the frightened disciples asked Jesus, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?!” and he answered, “Have you no faith?” it was a way of asking, “Don’t you care that you are perishing?! Start rowing!”

In other words, do something. Do what you can. Do what you should. And then we can begin to see our lives and our world through the lens of, “Your faith has done this for you.” Amen.

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