4 Pentecost B—6/21/15
By Melody Kroeger
Have you ever been in a boat, a raft, a fishing vessel or even a ferry, set upon by heavy swells? Imagine the disciples, trapped between the savage forces of wind, waves, and water. Their small fishing boat rolls from side to side and pitches up and down like a see-saw. At any moment, the accumulation of waves breaking over the boat’s bow will become too much for the small boat to carry and it will be dragged under the water by its sheer weight.
Saturated with symbolism, this is no mere storm at sea in which Jesus shows his power over the natural world. It is not nearly so tidy a meaning. Nor is the miracle only about God being with us in times of turmoil. It is that – but much more. The calming of the sea shows us the power of the Creator God to harness the very forces of evil that would ravage the earth. Mark gives us this dramatic miracle so that we might understand the unleashed and unstoppable power of the kingdom of God. Out of chaos and the storms that rage against us, God will bring forth something new.
Throughout Holy Scripture we witness the creative power of God. In the beginning God’s Spirit swept over the void, gathering the waters into a basin and separating land from sky. Seeing the wickedness that gripped the earth, the Creator God drowned the world and all that was in it, but created a new covenant with Noah. God parted the sea for Moses so that God’s children could escape the bonds of slavery and create new life and a new kingdom.
Likewise, when Jesus awakens, rebukes the wind and calls the waves to lie down, he faces the forces of chaos that stand in the way of a new creation. This miracle reveals that the kingdom of God commands a power great enough to conquer the chaos that storms through human history so that the kingdom of God can breathe upon us new possibilities and new life.
All of the critical turning points in human history contain, at their core, a struggle with chaos. Simple acts can set the world reeling on its axis – as in a storm – pitching and rolling, shaking the very foundations of the universe. Chaos threatens when worlds of meaning collide – and seemingly small gestures can unleash the storms of chaos, unending lives and changing the world.
Mark is a wartime gospel, written during the utter chaos surrounding the destruction of the holy temple and city of Jerusalem. It seems a small gesture – a passing note – but the waters upon which boat carrying Jesus and the twelve across the Sea of Galilee separates the Jewish Galilee from the gentile territory. The kingdom of God is about to spread into new lands – that of the Gentiles – whom the Jews had not expected to be admitted into the Kingdom of God. The calming of the storm challenges the readers with a Jesus that will, shockingly, carry the good news to the unclean and unreligious – healing and teaching and bringing the kingdom of God near. Out of the storms of madness and turmoil, something new is being created!
What storms face the Church today? Recent polls shows that in North America, the Christian Church is declining, with Mainline Protestant and Catholic Churches leading the downward trend. We are told that we don’t have enough members to sustain the Church or enough money to carry out the mission. Our twenty-first century society tells us that the Church is irrelevant, out-of-touch, without meaning or purpose. This is the storm of chaos threatening us today. And like the disciples, we are afraid of this storm. We fear drowning. We fear change. We don’t want to get in the boat.
Is there truth in eye of this storm? Is the Church irreverent? Are we out-of-touch? Consider the news of the past week. Churches are not targeted for violence because they are irrelevant! People across the world are not responding to Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change because Christians are out of touch!
Something new is coming on the wind and we must decide. Do we get into the boat and row into the storm? Or, do we stay on shore and allow the waves to wash over us? The one who is calling us to decide has mastery over the wind and waves – the Holy One of God.
Climbing into the boat isn’t for the comfortable, the certain, and the religiously content. But if you are sitting here on a beautiful Sunday morning, I’ll wager that you have not allowed fear to keep you from getting into the boat. And that is the good news! Together we are on a journey, rowing through the storm, across to the other shore, to a new future we cannot fully see now – a future of faith, hope and love. Something new is being created – because once the sleeping Christ in us awakens – our lives and our world are about to change.
Beautifully said, Mel. Thank you for sharing this piece about courage.