Sermon: Proper 7 RCL B – “Sleep”

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

Happiness is waking up, looking at the clock and finding that you still have two hours left to sleep. — Charles M. Schulz

We used to sleep five to a bed and three of them used to wet the bed. I learnt to swim before I could walk. — Bernard Manning

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong. — George Carlin

Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. — Dave Barry

I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. — David Benioff

Our Gospel reading from Mark began, “When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’” When it was dark, the disciples went out onto the waters. Mark gives us time and place, a time and place that are reminiscent of another time and place: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” (Genesis 1:1-2) The deep is what rose up in the time of Noah and destroyed every living soul except for those on the Ark. The deep is what swept down and destroyed the armies of Pharaoh. The deep is the place Jonah was cast into and devoured by the whale. The deep is the home of the Leviathan. The deep is the chaos of the world. The deep is death. And the disciples go off into the darkness and onto the face of the deep, and it is then that the wind blows and this deep, this chaos and death begins to churn, thrashing the boat and making the disciples fear for their lives. They call out to Jesus who is sleeping in the bow of the boat, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you not care that we are descending into the chaos and the death? Of course he cares, so he rebukes the wind and the rain, “‘Peace! Be still!’ and a dead calm returns to the face of the deep.” The disciples then ask, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Who then is this that even the chaos and death obey? The disciples have not yet grasped the truth of who Jesus is, for there is only one who can calm the chaos and put an end to death. From our Psalm today:

“[The Lord] stilled the storm to a whisper
and quieted the waves of the sea.” (Psalm 107:29)

It is the Lord our God who commands the chaos and it is the Son of God that rebukes and conquers death. So why is it that Jesus sleeps?

A story tells of a young man who applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications, he responded, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” This puzzled the farmer, but he liked the young man and hired him. A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm.

They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. The farmer and his wife then inspected their property. They found that the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the garage. The barn was properly locked. Even the animals were calm. All was well. And they found the farmhand sound asleep. The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, so he had faith that whenever a storm would blow in, all would be well. He was not afraid and so he slept in peace.

Jesus slept when the wind blew, because he knew that all had been cared for by his Father. He knew that God’s purposes were being fulfilled and that his Father was with him. As the Psalmist says:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

Jesus slept, even when the chaos was blowing and the smell of death was in the air because he had faith in… because he knew of the Father’s presence and the loving hold that that the Father had on his life. And here’s the Good News: Jesus slept because he knew of the Father’s presence and Jesus slept so that we could also know of the Father’s presence… so that we could see that we have no need to be afraid of the chaos or even death itself. Jesus slept so that we would know that we could sleep.

There will always be storms, chaos, and death, but these things do not have the final word. Jesus is the final word and he declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13) And his end is life eternal.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:1-2, 9-11)

Yes, Jesus calms the storm, but you have been set free so that you may sleep while it is blowing.

Let us pray: O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and the storms rage, and when we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.

3 Replies to “Sermon: Proper 7 RCL B – “Sleep””

  1. I love Dave Barry’s writing. I have used some of his humorous newspaper columns poking fun at the IRS in the radio ads I do for my accounting business. Thanks for the humor at the beginning, and the the Truth!

      1. I was told that you have 3 to 5 seconds to get someone’s attention when they scroll through posts, so I always try to grab them in, and then put the message about the love of Jesus to them.

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