In life there are storms. Those uncertain times and events which can shake us to our core. The lesson from Mark’s gospel concerns itself with a storm the disciples faced while Jesus slept at the back of the boat. What can we today take from this story and where might we find our calm, our peace?
Text: Mark 4: 35-41
Storms a Comin
Storms a comin.
This is a theme that has been on my mind, not only for the past few weeks, but if I think and reflect perhaps for the past few years. It seems that more and more the society that we are a part of has become rather binary. There are only two options when we get together to debate and discuss. We’ve lost the ability to compromise, work together. We don’t even listen to the other side to try to understand a different perspective.
It seems that the storms a comin.
I look around, I read the paper, I turn on the news and I see storms everywhere. Some have been raging for years, others are newer and there are others we haven’t seen yet.
Our neighbours south of the border are separating children from their parents when they cross the border from Mexico illegally. Immigration is a hot topic south of the border, but separating families of people fleeing violence and hoping for something better. Well, it just seems wrong.
A year ago, people were fleeing the United States and they were coming to Canada. I don’t recall us separating families when that was happening. A storm is raging.
Two years ago, our congregation got involved in refugee sponsorship. Members of our congregation worked with a family from Syria. Our efforts in this initiative are ongoing as another family arrived a few weeks ago and two more are scheduled to arrive in the next month. There is still a civil war going on in Syria. Chemical weapons were used against civilians, all involved point fingers at the other. But when was the last time you heard about the war in Syria? A storm is raging.
Our community of Cobourg and Port Hope is experiencing a crisis of homelessness and affordable housing. I know you’ve heard me say that before. Our vacancy rate is low at .03%. The only shelter in Northumberland County that accepts men, women and families closed in December. Six months later and there is no indication it is reopening. An apartment fire in Port Hope has rendered countless additional people homeless, because there are no other apartments to rent.
The system which supports these social services was already overloaded and now it nears bursting. Those affected by homelessness are suffering and those that are trying to care for them are close to burning out. A storm is raging.
There are two ways that our gospel lesson this morning can speak to us on these and other issues. We can see Jesus asleep in the boat and cry out that God doesn’t even care. We hear that from people outside of the faith community. That God doesn’t care, because if God did care surely God would do something about it.
That’s one way we could consider our gospel lesson. I don’t think it’s a helpful way and I don’t believe it is even remotely close to the truth of the matter.
Or we can consider the words Jesus utters after the disciples wake him up.
“Be quiet” and “Be Still.”
Jesus doesn’t say these words to the disciples. He says these words to the wind and to the sea. In other words Jesus commands the storm. I wonder what these words mean to us today?
Jesus calms the storm. When I was studying at Knox College one of my good friends there was Tim Reddish. The Rev. Dr. Time Reddish. Tim and I started at the same time and so you might be wondering how he got his doctorate so quickly.
Well Tim started with a doctorate, in Physics of all things. His area of focus and research had something to do with the way light bends. He taught at the University of Windsor before leaving that position to study theology. Physicists are interested in energy and how it works. I always recall how Tim marvelled about the amount of energy it must have taken to calm those waves.
You and I know that it’s nigh impossible to stop the waves. Short of containing water in a container, it is impossible to stop it’s motion of our own doing. It was quiet a storm.
You need to realize that many of the disciples were fisherman. They are accustomed to being out on the lake, they know how to handle a boat and they have probably experienced a storm before. If they thought their lives were in peril we should believe that. This was no common storm.
I wonder as Jesus faces the storm, did he calm it or overpower it? How we might answer that question speaks to our understanding, our theology of God. The word used here for silence can also be translated as peace. And so perhaps Jesus calms the storm, just as he is a calming and grounding presence in our own lives. I wonder what storms rage in our own lives which we need to surrender to Jesus.
But back on that boat. Those disciples, they thought they were going to die. They couldn’t understand how Jesus could sleep through such a violent storm. And we should remember that crowds are following Jesus, there are other boats out on the water.
The disciples think they are going to die and Jesus leads them to outcomes that they were not expecting. Just as Jesus leads us to outcomes we are not expecting.
With fear in their hearts the disciples ask, “Who is this?” And that’s a really good question.
Friends, this passage is all about the rubber hitting the road. What the disciples and others experienced that day was nothing short of the kingdom of God at work. You’ll remember last week that the kingdom of God was explained to be like a seed which is scattered or a mustard seed which starts so small and then grows so large.
Well friends, it is one thing to talk about the kingdom of God and it is another thing altogether to experience it.
Karoline Lewis writes, “For you see, the Kingdom of God is not for the faint of heart. And the sooner the disciples, the sooner we, realize that truth, the better … And while Jesus is always in that “spiritual” ship with us, this sea tale reminds us that the storms that rage against God’s will, God’s vision, God’s love, God’s Kingdom, are ever present, most certainly real, and unnervingly unpredictable. Yes, Jesus is there, this is most certainly true. But more so? Be ready. Be vigilant. Be resilient. Because you just never know when that which rages against God’s reign will rear its ugly head.
“It’s no random parable that precedes the predicament on the sea. Every parable prepares the disciples, prepares us, for what is to come. The sea crossing is the very space and place that we need to think about, to ponder, to experience, the truths of God’s Kingdom. No wonder Jesus sleeps.” (reference).
He is waiting for us to come to grips with the storms that rage in our own lives. Storms that rage in our society. Storms which rage across the globe.
There is a cartoon I’ve seen and perhaps you’ve seen it to. Jesus and a young man are sitting on a park bench. The young man says to Jesus, “Why do you allow war, famine, disease, poverty and all these other terrible things to happen?”
To which Jesus replies, “I can’t believe you allow it either.”
We are on the boat. We are transitioning from learning about the kingdom, to putting that knowledge to work. Because there are storms that are raging against God’s will and we are needed. Amen.