Thursday, April 10, 2008

Matthew 8:18-27 - "Who's Asleep?"

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward
April 13, 2008

Read Matthew 8:18-27.

The first thing for us to notice here is that Jesus called his disciples to follow him “to the other side of the lake.” This meant that they were leaving the Jewish territory and going into the Gentile territory. This is the first time in Matthew that Jesus has taken this radical step.

When the first guy says, “I’ll follow you wherever you go,” he probably means – even into Gentile territory. “Jesus, anywhere you go, I’ll go, even into the dark and dirty places of our world.”

Jesus responds to this guy and to the next guy with two difficult sayings. We could talk all day about what these mean, but the basic point is very simple: discipleship is not easy. Following Jesus is not easy. It involves sacrifice, and it challenges our basic perspectives on life. Jesus says, “If you want to follow me, follow me now. Don’t wait. Even if the road is difficult, even if it turns your life upside down, follow me.”

Not long after they started their journey across the lake or sea of Galilee, a storm came up. When Matthew says there was a “storm,” he says it was a seismos megas. This is the same word for “earthquake.” This was a mega-earthshaking-storm! The front of the boat is literally covered up by the waves. Now, remember, at least some of the disciples are professional fishermen. They have been through storms before, but this storm was freaking them out.

But there’s Jesus in the back of the boat, catching up on some sleep after a hard day of work. There’s an earthquake-like storm going on, the disciples are scared to death, and Jesus is snoozing on a pillow.

The disciples cry out: “Lord save us! We’re going to drown!” (Mt. 8:25). In Mark’s version of the same story, they say, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38).

When I started thinking about this, I remembered that other people in the Bible felt like God was asleep when they needed him most.

n When the people of Israel had been taken into exile, they cried out: “Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! … Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression? … Get up! Help us!” (Psalm 44:23-36).

n When David was being attacked by an enemy, he cried out, “Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Wake up, my God” (Psalm 7:6).

n Isaiah called out to God, “Wake up, wake up, O LORD! Clothe yourself with strength! Flex your mighty right arm! Rouse yourself as in the days of old” (Isaiah 51:9).

That made me wonder … when do we feel like God is asleep in our world? When do we feel like God has checked out of Hotel Earth?

n In the movie Tears of the Sun, based during a crisis in Africa, a priest gives a blessing, “Go with God,” and Bruce Willis’s character shoots back, “God already left Africa a long time ago.”

n When I was in university, I met a Jewish scientist on a train. Yacov described himself as a secular Jew. When he saw a documentary on the Holocaust in elementary school, he became an atheist. He said to himself, “There is no such thing as God or the chosen people, or else this would not have happened.”

n In the movie, Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey’s character, raises his fist and shouts up to heaven, “The only one not doing his job around here is you!”

Don’t you feel like that sometimes? Where is God? Look at this mess our world is in. Where is God when children are dying of hunger? Where is God when people are killing each other because of religion? Where is God when we are destroying our air and water and plants for the sake of “progress”? Where is God when people are trapped in hopeless cycles of poverty? Where is God? Has God abandoned us? Is God asleep?

If video doesn't play, click here to watch it in its original context.

Maybe we need to ask a different question. Who is asleep in our world? God is not asleep. We are. According to Jesus, God is there with the suffering people, suffering with them. We are the ones who are sleeping. It’s like we are sleepwalking through life. We are living life, but we aren’t really awake to what’s happening around us.

I did a little research on sleepwalking this week. It seems that 18% of the world's population is prone to sleepwalking.[1] Sleepwalkers seem to be awake when they are up walking around, but they are actually still sleeping. Sleepwalkers do a wide range of things while they are sleeping: have a conversation, get dressed, go to the bathroom, clean the house, move furniture, cook, eat, drive a car, and even have sex.[2]

I know some of you are thinking, “How can I get my wife to sleep walk more? She’ll clean the house, cook breakfast, and have sex. This is great! It’s the perfect scenario for working moms, right?”

When I was in college, one of my roommates was a sleepwalker. One night I found him having a long conversation with a poster on the wall.

Sarah used to sleep walk when she was a girl. Once she dreamed that she was putting clothes in a laundry bin, and she woke up to find that she had thrown all of her sheets and blankets out her bedroom window. Another time, when Sarah was five or six years old, Sarah walked into her parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night. She walked up next to her parents’ bed, turned around, pulled her pants down, and sat down like she was using a toilet. Then, she got up and went back to bed. (No – in case you are wondering – she didn’t actually pee on the bed.)

Sleepwalkers do some crazy stuff. They are sort of half-functioning. Their minds are only half working. They are moving through life, but they don’t remember it, and they aren’t actually engaging with the real world. They are half-waking and half-sleeping.

Many of us go through life like this. We are only half-awake. We are sleepwalking through life. We go through the motions. We do OK at our jobs and with our families, but we are basically out of touch with the world around us. We are living, but only half-living.

We have faith, but we aren’t living it out. We’ve got this faith in Jesus, but it’s not shaping the way we live. We are sleepwalking through our world – having conversations with posters, saying things without meaning, and doing things that don’t make any sense. Our world is dying in the streets, and we are only concerned about what is happening in our living room. 24,000 people die of hunger every day, and our churches are singing praise choruses and having debates about whether we should use paper plates or plastic plates for the fellowship dinner.

We need to wake up! We need to see the real world and start living in the real world.

Mad as Hell video:

(We will show a slightly edited version in church.)

Wake up church! It is time for some righteous anger – anything that will break us out of our status quo sleepwalking. I am so tired of church as usual. Imagine how our world could change if all of us around the world would wake up and start addressing the problems and opportunities of our generation.

It’s time for us to get angry: angry about wasting our time while the world is dying. It’s time for us to get hopeful: hopeful that we can actually do something about the world’s crises. It’s time for us to wake up!

Let’s wake up, church! Let’s be a church that wakes up! Let’s be a church where Jesus comes alive and starts changing the world!

That is why I’m still here. Over the past six months or so, I’ve been asking myself what is next for me. How long will I pastor this church? How long will we stay here? With so many poor nations in the world, why are we still here in the 11th richest nation in the world? So then, I started asking a different question. What is the best thing I can do for the world? If following Jesus means, actively working for the good of all people, like I said a few weeks ago, then how do I do that? For right now, I think the best thing I can do is to help this church wake up and engage our world, to help us open up to the life of Jesus in us, and to work with Jesus to address the crises of our world.

Discipleship is getting into that boat and facing the storms of human problems. We get into the boat, knowing that there will be storms, but also knowing that Jesus is with us and with them - and he is not asleep. My passion, for the next few years, is to help us live this out. Let’s be a church that wakes up!

What will it mean for our church to wake up? At the very least, it will mean that we will start to do things differently. We will try out new stuff. We will do stuff that most churches don’t do. We will get engaged in our world, and we let God change our world – one life, one community at a time.

What does it mean for you to wake up? First of all, we all need to ask ourselves a basic question: “Am I doing the right thing with my life? Am I working the kind of job God wants me to work?” Does God really want you to be teaching English or working in the business world, or does God want you to engage more directly in the pain and struggle of our world?

After that question, we need to ask a different question: “If this is the job that God wants me to have, how can I wake up while I do this job?”

If God wants you in business, how can you use your business influence to help people in developing nations pull out of poverty? How can you reduce environmental pollution and waste in your business?

If God wants you in science, how can you use those scientific skills to engage the problems that affect the poorest people in our world? Get a government grant and start helping people!

If God wants you to be a teacher or a student, how can you help your class and your school wake up to the world around you? Maybe you’ll ask them to become pen-pals or e-pals with students from a developing nation. Maybe you’ll teach lessons or write papers on the crises of our world and how we can help. Maybe your school will collect supplies for a school in a developing nation.

When Jesus calmed that storm, the disciples were amazed. They looked at Jesus and said, “Who is this man? Even the winds and the waves obey him?”

If we wake up and enter the storms of our world with the power of Jesus, (feeding the hungry, healing the sick, eliminating poverty, setting addicts free, educating the hopeless), people will look at us in awe, and they say, “Who are these people? Poverty and hunger and hatred disappear wherever they go.”

Here’s the deal: God is inviting us on a wild ride. If we get into this boat with Jesus, there will be a seismos megas for us – a big earth-shaking storm. Our world is going to get shaken up. Following Jesus into the storms of our world will change everything for us.

We are like the two guys standing on the side of the beach. We sing our praise: “Jesus’ I’ll follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus says, “This isn’t an easy trip. It will rock your world, but that’s a good thing. Your world needs a good shaking, so come on! Follow me!”

The Bible never tells us what happened to those two guys standing on the shore. We don’t know if they got into the boat or stayed on the shore.

What about you?

Are you going to stay on the shore where it’s safe and sleepy?

Or will you get in the boat with Jesus where life is wild but real?

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