Yes, this is last Sunday's homily. Enjoy it anyway! :-)
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The car drives along the vacation route, and dad is wanting to make up for lost time. It is now two hours past the scheduled time to stop and have lunch. Voices rise from the back seat. “Dad, we’re starving!” “I’m hungry!” “We’re gonna die from not eating!” And with that is the implied: “Dad! Don’t you care that we are starving to death?!”
This morning’s Gospel presents a more serious moment than grumbling children in the back of the mini-van. A violent storm had arisen on the Sea of Galilee, and it quite easily could have sent the Twelve to a watery grave.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus, don’t you care that we are dying? Harsh words from the disciples. Here are the Twelve, accusing Jesus of apathy and a lack of love and compassion. The disciples are frantic, absolutely positive that this is it – they are in their final moments and will certainly drown. So sure that they will die that they don’t even say, “Do you not care that we are going to perish?” No. They say: “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Don’t you care, Jesus? Why are you letting us die?
How dare they? Such harsh and crass unbelief! We are reminded of Adam, who when confronted by God, not only blames Eve, but also the Lord GOD for even giving him his wife. GOD is the one at fault! He gave the woman to Adam!
What nerve! Adam was pretty bold, and wrong, for blaming God, we say. Yet you and I do the same. We push blame away from ourselves, and pass the buck to others around us, and even to God.
God, don’t You care that I have cancer? God, don’t You care my company is downsizing and I might lose my job? God, don’t You care that this woman lost her baby? God, don’t You care that my car was totaled in the accident? Far more often than we realize, we lay the blame at the feet of the Lord. Just because something isn’t going our way, even if it is something harmful or hurtful, we slip into saying, “It must have been God’s will.” Like rebellious and disrespectful children, we are blaming the Lord for whatever it is.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” we might say, as we worry and stress about the shrinking number of people in the Divine Service. (Never mind the growing number who now worship from the other side of the altar, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven—a growing number that we can rejoice in, having ushered those saints home.) We sit back in our same comfortable pew with our same comfortable people that we speak to, not realizing how many others may perceive us an unfriendly and uncaring. And while several people do go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming, the majority of us remain securely in our cliques, and assume that the problem lies with God and the teachers and pastors He has sent here.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you see the irony in that question? It is precisely because we are perishing that Jesus Christ took on human flesh and came for us! It is because Adam and Eve ate of that fruit and plunged us into a dying existence that the Lord became incarnate and bore our sin to be our Savior. Jesus is fully aware of our depravity and completely ferries us from death to life.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Stop and ponder for a moment: the disciples are crying out to Jesus, thinking all is lost. They are praying to the Lord, yet not believing He can fix it. They are trapped in unbelief! These baptized and believing disciples are now falling into unbelief!
You and I can too. The Bible teaches quite clearly that we can lapse into unbelief, and that we will…daily! So what do we do?
We cannot do a thing! But our Lord Christ has awakened from the sleep of death, risen from the stern of His tomb, and now declares His Word. He speaks, and creation responds. The Word of God goes forth and does what it says, bringing life to the perishing!
Did you catch that? The disciples are praying, but not really thinking that Jesus can or will save them. But He does anyway. He does not let them die. He does not leave them to waste away in unbelief and sink to the bottom of the sea. He has compassion and rescues them!
In much the same way, He answers our prayers. Even prayers spoken in unbelief. Yes, He turns a deaf ear to those who have rejected Christ. But this is different! Jesus knows we are constantly under assault from the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. To those who are in Christ, yet having a time of doubt or fear, a time of worry or depression, our dear Lord opens His ears and heart. And He saves them! And He saves you and me.
Prayers are not more worthy of Jesus if spoken in supposedly stronger faith. God did not hear Abraham or Moses or Saint Paul more clearly or more favorably simply because they were more faithful. He hears each of us, and acts on those prayers.
“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus asked His disciples after He rescued them. Notice that He answered the prayer spoken in unbelief, and then chides them. Like a disappointed father, it hurt that they did not have a better grasp of who He is and what He can do; but He saved them anyway, because they were His children.
Are you assaulted by the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh? Of course you are. Do you have doubts, fears, and anxieties? Yes, you do. So will Jesus hear your prayers if they are tempered with these flaws? Yes, He will! Our precious Savior receives your prayers and makes them His own, perfectly presenting your every need to the Heavenly Father. In spite of any unbelieving moments or selfish thoughts or despairing doubts, our loving Lord hears you and gives you every good gift you need, that you may be His and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.