SERMON from 1-20-13: “Dealing With Disappointment”

This is the 3rd installment of a 4-part series. Check my archives for the previous sermons.

Mark 4.35-41 (CEB)

35Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let's cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along. 37Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don't you care that we're drowning?” 39He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. 40Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don't you have faith yet?” 41Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

 

A Fresh Start: Dealing With Disappointment

 

Weekend afternoons and holidays can be relatively lazy times. You sit at the kitchen table to read the paper, licking your thumb to aid in your turning every page. You curl up in your favorite chair and delve head-first into your latest read – every once in a while, taking a sip of coffee that fogs up your glasses. Or, you collapse into your couch and flip on your favorite channel or sporting event – fixating on the screen as your body slowly gives-in to your eye’s urge to close ever so gently.

 

As parents of younger kids, Emily and I tend toward the latter. We love to read, but when your kids finish asking their 400th question, you kinda just want to zone out. We have a few favorite shows we like to zone out to.

 

Lately, we’ve taken up watching Storage Wars on A&E. It features a recurring cast of bidders who follow a particular auctioneer around to sales of abandoned storage units. One guy is an obscenely rich collector, who is only there to find one-of-a-kind items to sell or call his own. There’s one guy who travels with his son, and tries to look for amazing deals. There’s a couple who use the storage units to fill the shelves of their second-hand store – and are always fighting over how much money to spend on the storage units. And finally, there’s another second-hand store owner who’s claim to fame is that he bids by screaming out one word – “Yuuuup!” It rather annoying – and he just so happens to be the pariah of that particular “reality” show.

 

A&E has caught on to what many cable channels do on those lazy days – run their most popular shows back-to-back. They call them “marathons.” Of course, that term is used loosely.

 

The Discovery Channel also features these “marathons.” If they aren’t running back-to-back episodes of Dirty Jobs or Mythbusters, they will probably be showing The Deadliest Catch. If you haven’t seen this show, it’s about a bunch of boats and their crews – fishing the dangerous waters of the Bering Sea. That’s way north – like Santa’s backyard.

 

Weather becomes a factor for the captains and their crews. For starters, it’s flippin’ cold. Next, you can get tremendous blizzards that cover the ship with ice and snow, and beat the ship about with fierce winds. Finally, you’ve got the crews on these ships trying to pull up pods filled with crab – all while mother nature is beating the living daylights out of them.

 

Dangers abound in the Alaskan crab industry. First off, these “pods” are large metal crates that often fly past crew members at a fast pace. The pods are connected to ropes that manipulate the pods to where they need to go. One false move, and you could be trounced by a pod or get caught up in these thick ropes – and pushed out to sea. Large hooks. Slippery conditions on deck. Angry co-workers.

 

The show has been on for quite a while, so they end up making it – and going back out for more. Through many dangers, toils and snares – so to speak. The only time they tend to be truly disappointed is when they pull a pod out of the water and find no crab. Other than that, they go back and back again.

 

While this may be the most ham-handed segue into the scripture I’ve ever uttered, this morning’s scripture is about more disappointed men on a boat.

 

However, when I think about this passage, I don’t always go to the fact that these are men on a fishing vessel. Jesus is seeking solace from the throngs of people who have gathered to hear this amazing prophet – the son of God. I liken it to Elvis or the Beatles attempting to flee a crowd of admiring fans by grabbing their managers firmly by the shoulder and saying, “Get me out of here!”

 

So, they try to get to the other side of the lake, followed by a string of other vessels. Like paparazzi attempting to follow a star away from some Hollywood parking lot, other boats are following them, but I would say they got away fairly Scott-free. But that’s not what the story is about.

 

Jesus is sacked from the crowds of people he has spoken to, so he takes a nap – only to be awoken in the panic of the ship being overrun by the sea. They’re not disappointed that they haven’t caught any crab, they are frightened by the storm – and wondering why God’s son isn’t lending a hand to save them.

 

I can’t make any solid statements as to Jesus' demeanor while he was dealing with the doubtful disciples, but I can guess that there a twinge of annoyance in his voice as he said, “Don’t you have faith, yet?”

 

We can assume Jesus was a tad disappointed with his disciples – and their apparent lack of faith. That’s not, however, the kind of disappointment we’re going to talk about this morning.

 

The disciples – while they were understandably shaken by the force of nature about to sink them in the sea – must have also been disappointed when they realized that Jesus wasn’t raising a hand to help them out. They were most obviously in danger, so why wasn’t Jesus willing to rise and quell the danger in an instant? They were also probably sleeping and were awoken by the storm, so why was Jesus still getting to sleep? They were experiencing some disappointment.

 

I’ve been working at that place for 10 years, so why did that other person get my promotion? I’m not lazy and I take care of myself, so why are other people healthy and I’ve been diagnosed with cancer? I’ve been attending church my whole life and have given my tithe faithfully, so why are my prayers never answered?

 

There are all kinds of disappointment. We can be let down in so many ways. I don’t have a bigger house. I don’t have a nicer car. I am not a popular person. These things have always happened. Are always happening. Will always happen.

 

There are three ways we deal with it. First, we can always let each disappointment tear us down to our core. Every time the bottom drops out, we decided to hit bottom and wallow in the wreckage. Faith struggles most in this situation. You are always looking up at your problems from a deep despair, and your faith is less and less likely to survive as a result – and you have no need of the divine for anything – since you are already too far gone.

 

Second, you can always look at a disappointment as an opportunity at overcoming the world. Bad things happen. Bad things will always happen and I need to conquer it – take it head on. You are less likely to find yourself in the doldrums when you do this. The problem? There will always be a problem out there that is bigger than your ability to overcome it. No matter how strong you believe yourself to be, there is always something out there that is more powerful. If you can’t handle it, why would you need God?

 

Thirdly, you handle these things like most every one else. Some things get you down. Some things motivate you to overcome. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you cry. When you face the big things, however, you know exactly where to go.

 

A fresh start – especially when it may be your hundredth fresh start – requires some manual rewiring of our minds and hearts.

 

Whereas you may have attempted to take on life’s disappointments on your own, you have to reprogram yourself to understand that while you may not be able to see your helper – because he is sleeping in the back of the boat, or whatever – your helper is always there to lean on.

 

Whereas you may have attempted to take things on with God’s help – and it feels like your help is nowhere to be found – you may just be facing a difficult situation. Even in that case, your help is just within earshot. You may just have to come to the realization that even with God’s help, life can sure disappoint you – or wear you down to the bone.

 

That's where the idea of hope comes in.

 

But maybe this scripture isn’t so much about how we react, but how Jesus reacted. Maybe it’s about God being present with us in our time of need. We may be losing it. We may be on the verge of leaving. We may be ready to say, “I give up.”

 

In the midst of the confusion that took place in that storm on that boat, Jesus was there. He never left. He never bunkered down and shoved his fingers in his ears. He never threw everyone off the boat. These are all things he was capable of doing. On the contrary, Jesus was there. In the midst of the chaos, he was there. He remained there. He taught his disciples that they probably should have had a little more faith in the midst of the storm, but he was there.

 

What does that tell us about God? What does that tell us about ourselves? What does that tell us about God and ourselves?

 

And thanks be to him for the answers to those questions.

 

AMEN

 

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