Mark 4:35-40 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
Do you find yourself longing for how things used to be?
Do you long for the days where you could park your car, turn it off, get out, walk into a building without returning back to your car (again) for a mask you forgot to bring (again), studying the door to see if there are any “mask required signs,” looking around to see if the majority of people are wearing masks, or none at all are….
Do you long for the days where you could walk into your favorite restaurant, sit at your favorite table, joke with your favorite waitress… do you long for the days before your table was shut down… the days when the staff knew you so well, that they new your favorite meal, how you took your coffee, the people that knew the names of your kids and grandkids and what was up in their lives.
Do you find yourself longing for how things used to be? People that used to be an assumed part of your life. Routines that were so easy, so normal. The world, a little crazy, a lot divided, but predictable, and safe? Do you find yourself longing for the mornings when you could wake up knowing what the day would bring, without feeling the weight of the last 18 months?
Sermon series / grieving/sanctuary – left home a lot
At Heartstrings, I am in the middle of a sermon series, Welcome Home because 18 months ago, we left “home.” We left the safety and comfort, the sense of predictability and normalcy that “home” brings. Whatever home means to you, in one way or another, you have lost that. We all have.
If you step back and look at our world today or if you even step back to see your interactions with others, what you will see is grief. Grief shows itself in pain and tears, yes. But grief also shows itself in anger and frustration, and denial, depression, and a deep, uncontainable longing for what used to be.
This church has left “home” a lot in its 150 years of gathering. Sometimes, quite literally. I know this is obvious, but some things are worth saying, this building is not 150 years old. This community of faith has moved out of multiple buildings. We met as a Sunday School in a home at Bijou and Cascade, then left home for a new church building the next year. A decade later moved into our third location, 20 years later our forth, 50 years later we moved into our current sanctuary. Looking back at the history, it’s easy to just hear the dates. To hear about the moves. But for the people actually there… the people that were actually leaving home, it is much deeper, it included so much emotion, and memories. For the people there, they were leaving home. They were leaving the pew that they had sat in for years. Leaving behind the wall they remember painting. Memories of concerts and services, and laughter and tears, new beginnings and long goodbyes. Yes, it includes joys and hope, leaving home behind. But it also includes grief and sadness.
And that’s when leaving home is planned and leaving is for bigger things. Leaving home is not always planned, it is not always to chase dreams. This church has left the comforts of home behind so many times in the last 150 years. It has suffered the loss of a longtime much beloved pastor. It has gone to its knees in prayer and grief during world wars, planes flying into buildings, school shootings, movements, and protests… and pandemics that shook us to the very fabric of our being.
It is not often that an entire community comes together on a Sunday morning with similar thoughts, and fears, and prayers. But that has been so true for us for the last 18 months. As a culture, a world, we come together with grief buried deep in who we are. We grief the loss of “normal,” of predictability, of safety. We grieve the loss of handshakes and hugs that felt normal and not tinged with fear. We grieve the loss of children smiling and laughing and playing, without fear of invisible dangers that might be lurking on every hand. We grieve easy light holiday dinners, and weddings, and funerals, and worship services, and gatherings, that happened without fear of getting sick or getting others sick. We are grieving. We are mourning the loss of home.
I went to a restaurant just last week. I’ve been there quite a bit of times since it reopened. I always, every time, order the same thing. Spicy corn nuggets with extra ranch. Oh, SO GOOD! I would recommend you go try some, as soon as possible (wait until after worship of course…) but last week, I ordered my order, and they don’t carry it anymore. They can’t the supplier is short on staff, the trucks that get it to the restaurant is short on staff, the restaurant still isn’t as busy as it used to be so some menu items just aren’t there right now… It is such a little thing. No big deal, I would still get fed. Still eat a good meal. But I am so tired of assuming things will be like they were, and they just aren’t. There are so many big things that have changed, I know those are the things that should shake me… but it’s the thousand little things every day that, added up, can feel like too much to bear. It feels like the ground under us is shaky. Storms are raging. I am longing for the comforts of home, of what we used to have. I am grieving the loss of home.
Do you feel like the storms are raging? Is the world tossing you like a ship on the sea? Like wind and water and all sorts of things out of your control have taken ahold of your life, and you just don’t have the say over your day and outcomes of your efforts like you used to? Do some days just make you feel powerless and alone? Do you find yourself longing for the way it used to be? Do you find yourself longing for the comfortable familiarity of home?
Disciples were called away from home. They encountered storms.
The disciples are no stranger to being away from home. They saw so many things on their journey with the Messiah. Yes, they saw miracles, but it was not always so easy… not always so amazing, they knew the fear of the storms…
Listen now to these words from the Gospel of Mark:
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
The word of God, for the people of God [may God bless…]
Did you know, the disciples in Mark never really knew the Messiah is in their midst. They walked year after year with Jesus, laughed, heard stories, saw wonders, faced storms, and never really understood. Their inability to see the full power of the truth in their lives… gives us so much permission to miss Jesus walking with us through our storms. If they disciples missed Jesus, right there, right by their side… of course, we will miss him too, especially in the storms…
But in the midst of the storm, there he is, with a reminder that no matter the storm, God is bigger. No matter the struggle and uncertainty, God is a calm presence. No matter the size of your grief, God is right there.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been a big deal to you, it wasn’t even that big deal to me… I’m sure it will soon be a forgotten moment in long strings of moments that is life… but I was planning a fairly big family event… maybe it wasn’t that BIG but to me, it felt big! For the life of me, I could NOT get all the details right! Things that I used to just know would happen… “No we don’t have the corn nuggets you HAVE to have,” “no we can’t promise that any flight will take off or land on time, we can’t even promise they will take off at this point,” “and mail? Oh no, you cannot put your invites in the mail and expect them to arrive on time,” and “masks? No masks? In-person? Zoom???… You can just forget trying to plan around that!” I was trying so hard, I was frustrated, and just done… I longing for days when I knew what to expect and how to pull an event off…it was just about that moment that my sister pointed out how poor of a job I was doing….I let her know, in no uncertain terms my exact frustration level, and what I thought of her opinion.
It was right about that moment when she looked at me, I looked at her looking at me, and the storms came to a abrupt halt. I named my frustrations, she named hers, and we had this beautiful moment to name all the pain and grief we both carry through our days…
I can almost see Jesus standing with us in that moment, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Please stand as we sing our final hymn together…