Jun 20, 2015

12th Sunday - God in the boat

Job 38: 1, 8-11
2 Cor 5: 14-17
Mk 4: 35-41
The Word for Sunday: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/062115.cfm

For those of us who grew up in the midwest part of this Country “hot, humid, thundershowers,” was pretty much and remains the summertime weather.  Spring and summer find thunderstorms and tornadoes nearly a way of life in the heavy days of heat and humidity.  We became accustomed to, though at times a bit nervous about, “tornado watches” and “tornado warnings.” It was not unusual to find yourselves in the safety of a basement as you rode out the storm above, which generally was over in about 30 minutes. 

Lighting that crackled and thunder  which rolled with strong wind gusts whose sound you could hear approaching overhead and then blowing away in the distance was the norm and remains so of course.  Such release of energy in nature we often hear on the news.
In the Gospel this Sunday, we find the disciples and Jesus not in the safest place, however.  If you were out on a boat, for example fishing, the last and most dangerous place you would ever want to be was in open water, unprotected from the wind, rain, and lighting.  “Get in fast!,” would be the best advice. 

In the familiar scene near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus requests, “Let us cross to the other side.”  Although it was near evening, as the sun was setting, the weather report was apparently calm.  Or so it seemed until one of those unexpected squalls blew in with enough force to frighten the allegedly brave disciples who were experienced fishermen.  Meantime, Jesus is catching a siesta through it all!  In the midst of their obvious fear of drowning, they cry out to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus’ action is both impressive and jaw dropping.

He woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet, be still!’” Then all was calm.  He addressed the violent weather with sternness, like a parent may scold an unruly child.  Would those midwest storms could be so easily calmed.
The reaction of the frightened disciples is predictable – “They were filled with great awe . . .” Awe and wonder before such a display of divine power over natural forces is understandable to say the least. 

Who is this man?  They witnessed his miracles and his suspension of the laws of nature:  water into wine, raising the dead, multiplication of bread and fish, walking on water, and now he chastises wind and rain and they obey him!  Where did this power come from? 

Many thought Jesus obtained this power directly from God.  While others, the scribes for example, thought it was from the prince of demons.  Nonetheless, in the end Jesus admonishes his disciples, not unlike the unruly wind and rain, for their fear which blinded their ultimate trust in him – their commitment and loyalty to him.  Asleep in the boat or not, he was with them like refuge in the safety of a basement and for that reason they should have no fear.  How shortsighted we humans can be at times.  How long will it take us to truly trust that God is in control of everything?

Our first reading from the Book of Job shows a similar insight this Sunday.  Job, notoriously afflicted with misfortune, cries out to God to help him understand why?  He hasn’t done anything to deserve the disaster come upon him. 

God’s answer to Job is one that silences Job as God essentially asks him, “Who shut within doors the sea . . . when I made the clouds . . . and darkness . . . and here shall your proud waves be stilled!”  God reminds Job that he is the creator and Job needs to be quiet and trust his power and benevolence.  This is not a God who is sleeping but a God who continues to flow life and energy into his creation and who cares deeply about humankind. Job was silenced from that time on and embraced what he did not understand.  

Yet, we all know that at times God does indeed seem to be asleep.  We cry out to him in prayer and it seems nothing happens to change for the better.  The storm continues to rage and damage seems to be done.  We conclude that God is cruel, indifferent, asleep, deaf, or maybe does not exist at all.  Our modern sense of self achievement and independence leave many to conclude that God and organized religion make no difference one way or another and if he does exist, who really cares?  Sad but all too true for many live as if there is no God.

Yet, if we allow the Scriptures to speak deeply to us, we find today that they are challenging our faith, which is translated as ultimate loyalty to the person of Jesus, who is the Word of God in our midst.  Loyalty to Christ is a rock solid faith in God in whom we place our trust both in days of calm and in times of stormy weather. 

We know that our prayers are heard by God.  Of that we can be sure as the scriptures and our own experience, or that of those around us, can testify.  Yet, we do not know when or how they will be answered.  Faith does not demand immediate gratification.  Faith is rooted in loyalty that hangs on and remains such even when the boat is shifting side to side.  He is there with us. 

I’ve always wondered was Jesus really asleep in the boat or just pretending to be such in order to test the faith (loyalty) of these would be Apostles?  The disciples were so filled with fear for their own lives that their judgment of all the details around them was likely impaired.  Yet, and he was likely asleep, faith calls us not to na├»ve foolishness but to strong and faithful discipleship; to overcome fear with commitment, indifference with care, and doubt with deep trust. 

This Holy Eucharist came to us in the midst of Jesus absolute loyalty to his Father’s will, although filled with human fear. Surrounded by the disciples’ spoken but weak loyalty to him in the midst of personal threat. One betrayed him, Judas, and the other denied he even knew him, Simon the "Rock." Jesus’ example, even to death on a cross, is the model for us all.  His Body and Blood are strength for us. 

May we keep our eyes fixed on him who has saved us. 

Grant, O Lord,
that we may always revere and love your holy name,
for you never deprive of your guidance
those you set firm on the foundation of your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever

(Collect for Sunday)