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4 Pentecost - Mark 4:35-41

I was wrong, I never should have said it, and I'm sorry.

I said something no Christian, much less a pastor, should ever say.

I used a phrase for which there is no excuse, and I apologize in advance for repeating it now, so that you don't make the same mistake.

Please don't ever say "going to church."

That wretched phrase deforms the sanctuary into a destination rather than a vessel, as if God wants us all to pile in the car and leave it parked.

"Buckle up, kids, we're here!"

After more than a year, it's good to spend a moment looking around in appreciation.

But we Christians have a nasty habit of acting like the building is the destination.

We sink so many hours and dollars into property, from churches that look like ocean liners to others that are just a little dinghy.

The reason the setup for that terrible joke works is that we have expanded the definition of church to include a physical structure, as if the anchored boat is where we intend to go.

But Jesus says, let us go to the other side.

The sanctuary is supposed to take us somewhere.

We gather here to be moved to a new place, not harbored in some old normal, which answers his question: Why are you afraid?

Both the passage and the destination scare us.

In this boat, we set sail into the dark, swirling, terrifying mystery that is God.

Worship sends us into a storm that can kill us.

Jesus sleeps through this part, confident that God loves us too fiercely to lose us, ever, even in death, so while Moses and Isaiah and others who get a real whiff of God's presence freak out, Jesus dozes off.

Sleep signals trust, or use the translator's word, faith.

But since we don't control the storm, it scares us when we cannot placate it with praise or ride it out with better techniques generated in longer committee meetings.

Now Christ's church is in choppy, uncharted waters heading into an uncertain future we fear with a captain who insists, Let us go to the other side.

And if we survive the voyage, what will we find there?

Mark gives us a vivid picture of what awaits us:

When he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him.

He lived among the tombs; and no one could restain him any more, even with a chain ... night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.

The demon's name was Legion, meaning a military battalion of issues.

He's a snapshot of our world.

He is where Jesus leads us.

The good news we announce is that Legion, the interior storm, obeys Jesus just like the external one.

But the dead calm in the man's eyes terrified the town just like it did the disciples on still water.

The chamber of commerce asks Jesus to leave; Jesus directs the healed man to stay.

He needs a mouthpiece in a town still possessed by fear, a voice with experience who can say to the scared neighbors who once scapegoated him, let us go to the other side.

Let us go to forgiveness, a fresh start, a new day in a foreign world Jesus calls the kingdom of God.

Our mad, shrieking world that traffics in death needs his deep, drowsy trust in the God of life.

Don't stay here.

Go in peace, join the friendless, banish the bullies, heal the hurting, love the unlovable, serve the Lord.

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