Fear as an Invitation – Br. Curtis Almquist

Mark 4:35-41

The Sea of Galilee is actually a large fresh-water lake in northern Israel/Palestine. The lake is 33 miles long and 8 miles wide. It is fed by the Jordan River which flows from north to south, and also by underground springs. The Sea of Galilee is as dangerous as it is distinctive: distinctive for being the lowest freshwater lake on earth – its surface almost 700 feet below sea level, with a beautiful shoreline, pristine drinking water, and a plentiful stock of fish. And yet the Sea of Galilee is dangerous because of its surprising and violent storms. From the Golan Heights in the east, fierce, cool winds meet up with the warm temperatures of the lake basin sometimes creating the perfect storm. Storms literally come out of the blue, even when the waters have been tranquil and the sky, perfectly clear. This must be the very thing that happened here with the disciples and Jesus. They had gotten into a boat. All was calm, all was bright… and then comes the storm. With the wind and waves coming at them, the disciples are swamped by well-informed fear. Most of them fish on this lake for a living. They know this water and these storms.

And you? You probably know how it is to be sailing through life on the sunniest of days, and then a storm hits. There is so much to be afraid of in life when we are accosted by threats, whether they be familiar or foreign. These fears can seem so great and we feel so small. Fear is no respecter of age, or gender, or privilege. Fear may be the most common experience we share with all of humankind: the consuming, crippling, sometimes-irrational visitation of fear. We can experience fear when we face impending danger, or pain, or evil, or confusion, or vulnerability, or embarrassment. Whether the threat is real or imagined, it does not matter. What does matter is our sense of powerlessness. We don’t feel we can stop or divert or control what threatens to swamp our lives. Whatever the source of our fear, our fear is real. Read More

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee – Br. James Koester

Mark 4: 35 – 41

Some of you will know that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the theft of a number of art treasures from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. It was the night of 19 March 1990 that two thieves, dressed at Boston policemen, broke into the museum, stole 13 paintings, and literally vanished into thin air. It’s the biggest art theft in American history, and no trace has ever been found of either paintings, or the men. Still to this day, because of the terms of Mrs. Gardner’s will, which stipulates nothing can be moved or changed, you can go to the museum and see the empty frames where the paintings once hung.

One of those stolen paintings was Rembrandt’s 1633 oil on canvas painting of The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

If you have ever been caught in a storm on a body of water, you’ll know exactly how terrifying they can be. The world seems to be moving every which way, all at the same time, and there is nothing between you and certain death by drowning except what seems to be a flimsy bit of wood or metal, even if the vessel you are on is a great ocean going liner.

The terror on the faces of the disciples in Rembrandt’s painting is clear, as they strain at the oars, or try to control the sails. Yet in the midst of this is a calm Jesus, roused from his sleep with the urgent query, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’[1] Matthew’s version of this same story has an even greater sense of urgency, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’[2]

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Sermons for the Beach: The Soul of Sound and Silence

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, silence, solitude, and recreation. 

Br. Jim WoodrumBr. Jim’s sermon, “The Soul of Sound and Silence,” was originally preached as part of the series, “Finding God in Harvard Square.” Learn more here.

1 Kings 19:9-13 a; Psalm 62; Mark 4:35-41

Last week there was an interesting factoid released on Boston.com rating the ten busiest Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority stations in Boston.You’ll be very proud to know that our very own Harvard Square Station ranked third just under South Station (#1) and Downtown Crossing (#2) with an average of 23,199 travelers entering the station on weekdays.[i]  So it comes as no surprise that at any time of day you can find a diverse and frenetic populace bustling through the Square and its surroundings on an infinite variety of missions be it school, work, or play.  And with all this activity comes a cacophony of sound that you’d expect to accompany the bronze medalist of busyness.  At any moment you could witness a motorcade transporting high ranking government officials or foreign dignitaries speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School, or an acrobat thrilling an audience with an impromptu performance of stunts, or hear any and all kinds of music being played live while waiting for the T to arrive.  Sometimes the sounds are not so pleasant.  The other day when I was taking a run along the Charles River, I experienced someone laying on their car horn to signal their displeasure at someone trying to make a illegal left turn onto JFK Street from Memorial Drive.  The sound was immensely disconcerting. Read More

The Soul of Sound and Silence – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Finding God in Harvard Square:

1 Kings 19:9-13a;
Psalm 62;
Mark 4:35-41

Last week there was an interesting factoid released on Boston.com rating the ten busiest Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority stations in Boston.You’ll be very proud to know that our very own Harvard Square Station ranked third just under South Station (#1) and Downtown Crossing (#2) with an average of 23,199 travelers entering the station on weekdays.[i]  So it comes as no surprise that at any time of day you can find a diverse and frenetic populace bustling through the Square and its surroundings on an infinite variety of missions be it school, work, or play.  And with all this activity comes a cacophony of sound that you’d expect to accompany the bronze medalist of busyness.  At any moment you could witness a motorcade transporting high ranking government officials or foreign dignitaries speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School, or an acrobat thrilling an audience with an impromptu performance of stunts, or hear any and all kinds of music being played live while waiting for the T to arrive.  Sometimes the sounds are not so pleasant.  The other day when I was taking a run along the Charles River, I experienced someone laying on their car horn to signal their displeasure at someone trying to make a illegal left turn onto JFK Street from Memorial Drive.  The sound was immensely disconcerting. Read More

On the Cross – Br. Luke Ditewig

Mark 4:35-41

I am impressed by many who cry out to Jesus for help. People in the Bible including blind Bartimaeus who shouts louder and louder when he hears Jesus is nearby; the woman who works her way through the crowd and reaches out to touch Jesus’ clothes; the small group who climb up on a roof to lower their friend in front of Jesus, and the centurion who says: “If you just say the word, my servant will be healed.” Jesus healed them and commended them for their faith. 1

In contrast, Jesus’ own disciples are embarrassing and uncomfortably familiar. They spend lots of time with Jesus, see the miracles, witness healing. Yet when a storm rises up, when life gets rough and tough, the disciples freeze in fear. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Read More

You Need Not Be Afraid – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistPreached at Emery House

Mark 4:35-41

The Sea of Galilee is at the vortex of a wind tunnel coming from the north, and the sea is notorious for storms. A storm will literally come out of the blue. We could ask, why was this Gospel story remembered? Why has this story been passed down over the generations, eventually figuring into the Canon of Holy Scripture? It isn’t a “heads up” about bringing rain gear if you ever plan to travel in Galilee, though that may be prudent. Rather, the story has been remembered because it’s archetypal. This is a life story. There you are; all is calm, all is bright… and a storm hits. And so does fear. Read More

God Confidence – Br. John Braught

Br. John BraughtHebrews 11:1-2, 8-19
Mark 4:35-41

Those who have faith have confidence. Confidence literally means ‘with faith’.  From the Latin ‘con fides’, meaning ‘with fidelity’. Confidence literally means ‘with faith’.

Faith is belief that is not based on visible proof or evidence. “[F]aith is the assurance of things hoped for,” we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is belief that is not based on visible proof or evidence, and those who have faith have confidence. They know who God is, and they know what God can do. They trust in God’s promise, they trust in God’s power, and they trust in God’s provision. Those who have faith have confidence. Read More

Cry Out – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigMark 4:35-41

I am impressed by many people who cry out to Jesus for help. Bartimaeus who shouts louder and louder when he hears Jesus is nearby. A woman who works her way through the crowd and reaches out to touch Jesus’ clothes. The small group who climb up on a roof to lower their friend in front of Jesus. The centurion who says: “If you just say the word, my servant will be healed.” I am impressed. Jesus heals them, and he commends them for their faith. Read More

Primary Miracles – Br. Mark Brown

Mark 4:35-41

Peace, be still.  Peace, be still.  And the wind and the waves obey him.  And fearful men are filled with awe.  Jesus was the great wonder worker of his day: loaves and fishes, water into wine, great healings and raisings from the dead.  What we are to make of this today, how we are to understand these miracles today would be an interesting discussion.

But what is important to remember is that for there to be a calming of the sea, there must first be a sea.  For there to be a calming of the wind, there must first be wind.  For natural laws to be bent to divine will, there must first be nature.  And that is the primary miracle, the original miracle: that there is a world, a natural order.  That there is indeed something and not nothing and that it is a wonder to behold.

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