Sermon by Rev. Sarah Goettsch on June 23, 2018
My kids LOVE the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. I’m fairly certain that even just mentioning it in this sermon will send you home either
humming it or else you’ll find it on YouTube before the evening’s over. Although all seven verses are chillingly haunting, it is the first line of the fifth verse that gives me goosebumps every single time I hear it, and that line is this:
“Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the
waves turn the minutes to hours?”
I’m sure the disciples were feeling this when they were trapped on a boat, caught in a storm and fearing for their lives, as the Gospel story for today goes.
After traveling the countryside with Jesus, witnessing acts of
healing, hearing countless sermons and arguing with
religious authorities, a boat ride sounded like just the thing
they all needed. A break. They’d hit a wall.
Jesus, too. Since his baptism just four short chapters
earlier, Jesus has been busy. Crowds of people
everywhere he goes, with the groping hands and the
begging voices and the disease limbs and the stench of
decaying flesh pressing in on all sides…waves of human
need washing over him, endless supplication, shrill
demands, sobbing pleas…all day, in the heat and the
exhaustion and I am hungry and my feet are throbbing and
I need to use the bathroom and can I please just wash my
face…suffocating, heart racing, eyes darting everywhere
for a familiar face…help me….take me away from all this…I
can’t do it anymore…..I just can’t…I’m hitting a wall.
And in a rare moment of bold action, the disciples
whisk Jesus away and head for the shore, where a boat
awaits and with it, some much needed rest for them all.
And they shove off, and night falls.
We pause at this point to really examine what’s
happening here. At this point in this story, there has been
a subtle yet profound reversal of roles. Something caught
my eye in reading this Gospel story, something that I have
never really noticed over the years, and the thing I noticed
was just four short words, seemingly insignificant…and
those words are these “just as he was.” What does that
mean–just as he was? How exactly was Jesus when the
disciples whisked him away to the boat? Well, in a word,
exhausted. He’d hit a wall. Everyone does.
But then things take a rather downward spiral when
Jesus finally tries to get some sleep and in fact manages
to fall asleep, only to have the disciples wake him up in a
panic because of the storm and what mother hasn’t felt
that frustration and exhaustion and he finally asks the
question, “What does a person have to do to get some
sleep around here?”
Did you really think I’d let anything harm you? Do you
not yet grasp I will take care of you, even as you sleep?
At some point, we all hit a wall. Things seem to be
overwhelming, whether it be work, family, a relationship,
mental health issues, finances, whether it be the news and
issues like immigration that seem to mount into an
overwhelming and insurmountable storm, when you feel
like all hope is lost and you surely will drown, we all at
some point hit a wall and say, “I just can’t do this
Heck, even in our first reading for today, when little
David takes on the giant Goliath, King Saul says to the
young boy, “Son, you can’t win this fight. He’s too big.
There’s no hope.” Saul thought David had hit his wall–his
wall was named Goliath.But we know how that story
ends–David prevails. Against all odds, he wins.
Jesus shows us today, that in the face of enormous
obstacles, there is hope. In the face of overwhelming
need, God’s grace abounds.
It’s also interesting to note in the Gospel reading that
there are other little boats out there, too, when this storm
hits. Jesus’ disciples are not the only ones in danger on
the sea, there are others out there. Jesus isn’t physically
present with them on their boats, but they nonetheless
receive goodness and safety when Jesus silences the
storm. There are others in our lives who float along with us
in life and who might not know about the saving love of
Jesus; it is our work to share this with them, so they might
know the goodness of Jesus’ love.
I’m still haunted by the suicide of Anthony Bourdain.
May we be vigilant in seeking out those boats that float
beside us in life, who are weathering storms, who feel as if
all hope is lost, who need to hear a word of love and grace
Jesus models for us how we should care for
ourselves when the storms of life threaten to overtake
us–he sleeps. He doesn’t panic. He rests; again, it is
evening, and in Jewish tradition, a new day is beginning,
as new days begin at sunset. His new day begins with rest
and sleep and peace, entrusting his care and safety to
God as the storm rages around him.
There is goodness and grace in this story. There is
goodness in knowing that, even in your exhaustion in life,
even when you hit a wall and feel like you can’t take
another step, Jesus loves you as you are. There is
goodness in knowing that, no matter how bad storms
might rage around you, you can find rest in him. There is
goodness in knowing that, no matter what howling voices
fill your head, Jesus is with you, in your boat, till the very
end, There is something peculiar about this Jesus,
something altogether different, this man-God, who steps
into the boat of humanity with us, into the boat of fear and
despair and panic, and who says, “We’re in this boat
together, and I’m not leaving you, whether we sink or
This is a Jesus who joins us in our storms, walks with
us in our darkest fears, stands beside us when we tremble
in the face of overwhelming odds, fights alongside us to
quiet the noise inside our heads, experiences exhaustion,
fatigue and weariness in a world where terrifying storms
seem to be the prevailing force, and proclaims peace.
Peace to the hands groping for a crumb of bread and
a healing touch. Peace to the children crying themselves
to sleep for want of a mother’s hug or a father’s kiss.
Peace to fears of war and nuclear annihilation. Peace to
mental anguish and emotional torment. Peace to
relationships that seek to harm and objectify. Peace to the
ones who float alongside, wondering about or maybe even
rejecting the notion that there is a God that could possibly
Peace to it all, to all the storms, internal or external,
small or large, literal or figurative, an exhausted and
sleep-deprived Jesus, covered with the blood and sweat of
those whom he came to save, says “Peace.”
Where does the love of God go when the waves turn
the minutes to hours? The love of God is right beside you,
in your boat, whispering peace as the waves crash all