6/22/03, P2B

“Let us move across to the other side…”
Mark 4: 35-41

he text for my last Sunday at Atlanta First has Jesus telling the Apostles:

"Let us go across to the other side. And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat…
A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat… He woke up and rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still… and there was dead calm."
(Mark 4: 35-39, NRSV)
Calmness amid the storms of life is what we need. Rudyard Kipling may have been reflecting on Jesus' calming the storm when he wrote his applicable poem, If:

"If you can keep your head when all about you…
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
you'll be a Man, my son!"

We could agree that it was a normal reaction for the Apostles to be afraid in the midst of a deadly storm. Sometimes we can get real upset in the midst of a disaster, and that might be the expected reaction. Yet, would it not be better to learn to keep our heads? In Jesus' case he was going across the Sea of Galilee to reach new people with the Good News. He had his soul turned toward a new field of service and was not too concerned with the temporary storm. However, he did still the storm for his friends, and he will do the same for us. Whenever we confront our storms we can begin to take charge.

I feel good about passing the baton to my friend of many years, Wayne Johnson. He was a defensive tackle for Mississippi State, won the Silver Star for Valor in Vietnam. After a short career in banking, having earned a M.B.A. in finance, he felt led into the ordained ministry. He has received three earned graduate degrees in divinity. He has served several significant pastoral appointments and founded the Johns Creek Church. I feel that Wayne is God's choice for this time at this pulpit. As did I, he will preach his first sermon here on the day that he officially assumes office, Thursday, June 26 at noon. His first Sunday will be June 29. I know that most of you will greet him warmly. If you will support him he will do a great job. He is a good man and feels that the Spirit is leading him here. I feel confident that it is so.

Thanks to those who have been loyal supporters of mine. It has not been easy at times, but at other times we have approached resurgence. We have maintained a membership gain for these last six years, for the first time in many years: Now its time to move on across to the other side, with the Spirit by our side. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, which means that He is present already over on the other side of the state in West Georgia, Carrollton, and can remain active in your hearts here.

You are merely exchanging pastors, you are not changing religions. Thousands of Methodist preachers are moving to new conference appointments during these late weeks of Spring. We each move with the memories of being excited about these new places just a few years ago, and now we can't wait to vamoose. Wesley's daily journal records these same feelings about there being a time to shake the dust of your feet off from the old place and so you saddle up and ride a new circuit.

Jesus must have also felt the need, or nudging, to leave the big crowd behind in Galilee to move His ministry across the lake to a people who needed to hear the Gospel.

Note that soon after beginning his move a violent windstorm arose and Jesus was faced with His first problem at the new place even before He got there. Several years ago one of our moving pastor's families lost about all they owned when the moving van wrecked on the way to the new parsonage. Others are greeted by "welcoming" committees who are more interesting in checking you out than helping you out.

But there is always a familiar freshness in a new place, as most folks give the new preacher a chance. Somehow you feel that it just might work out this time, and sometimes it does. Every preacher will try hard to make it work. We have been to school and to continuing education seminars on how to blend into a new culture and have learned steps toward making a success. Our calling and our stature in the conference is dependent on making it work, yet the whole process is up to whether the folks will cooperate with the Holy Will. Most will, but some are possessed by a stronger will.

Indeed, as we read in chapter 5, as Jesus was setting His foot on dry land he was met by a man so full of evil that he was called, Legion. Perhaps he was trying to find the respect from others by showing that his demons had recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Scott Peck says that all intentionally evil persons, whom he has psychoanalyzed, go to church and try to worm their way into power; and thus, acceptability. However, Jesus recognized that this demon possessed man's intentions were evil so he sped right into the matter of forgiving his sins and casting out his demons. If preachers had this power our sheep would always be safe from the wolves. Perhaps, sometimes we are given a power of discernment by the Holy Spirit to lead beyond our capabilities. We need to rely on God's leading more, as we seek God's will in all things.

Jesus performed two great miracles on this trip by stilling the storm at sea and then casting out the demons out of this desperate wild acting man, Legion. Which miracle was greater? Was it the physical miracle of stopping the storm, or the spiritual miracle of giving a troubled fellow another chance? To those of us who have needed another chance, the greatest miracle is that of new life: of a second chance. We will miss the mark again if we do not allow Jesus to come and take over. My new opportunity of beginning anew will take place in Carrollton, yours will happen as you share in what may be your last chance of making it work here in the center city. As for me, I am expecting the Holy Spirit to meet me at the shoreline this week. You can decide not to be a Legion this time as you give your new preacher another chance. It is up to us to seek and follow the Spirit's guidance. If we do let the Spirit lead, we will never fail! But, if we don't…

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

6/22/03, P2B