Posted on Sun, Jun 21, 2015
June 20, 2015
Fourth Sunday in Pentecost
Gospel Text: Mark 4:35-41 "Hate will not Win!"
Jesus Stills a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
This week has been a heavy, emotional and difficult week for many of us. When a member of our community passes away, all of us are affected, and all of us hurt. That is what happens in a Body of Christ. Then there was the horrific shooting in Charleston; and on the same day there were ten people gunned down in Mexico, but that didn’t make much of the news. Then of course the stories of barrel bombs being dropped on women and children civilians in Syria. On Friday a woman was struck twice and killed in the cross walk just up the street from the church. Then there was the arson fire at one of my favorite holy sites in Israel, the monastery of the Loves and Fishes: (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/18/middleeast/israel-galilee-christian-church-fire/index.html). This holy site is within site of where today’s Gospel text played out and was the work of people wanting to strike fear in the Christians. I was genuinely sad and feeling heavy all week. I found some respite in seeking quiet and meditation, but the heaviness I felt in my heart continued… it sapped my energy, and I found myself asking God for the right words and to help me be a source of hope. I communicated with some of my clergy friends via Facebook, and some felt the same as I did, but their feelings also ranged from more questions of why, to vitriolic anger at the lack of compassion or resolution to pass common sense gun laws after another shooting of innocent people by a very sick individual. It doesn’t appear anyone has learned anything or acted on anything since the children were murdered in Newtown.
Then there came the onslaught of talk shows and radio interviews of people trying to explain the horror the victims may have experienced during the shooting; or those who did their best to explain what was going on in the mind of the shooter. And of course, the repeating litany of “how could this have happened?” and “why did this happen?” None of these people were able, with their attempt at explaining the tragedy brought any kind of comfort, resolution, or the beginning steps to some kind of real change in our society. The most painful for me was to hear, “why did God allow such a terrible thing to happen… especially in a church?”
We humans are so quick to look for someone, or something, to blame, no matter what the tragedy. I read about a person blaming the pastor for his own murder, “if he would have carried a gun he could have saved his flock as well as himself…” As if it was the pastor’s fault… It has gotten so bad people are saying everyone should have a gun because you need to be prepared to defend yourself from some bad guy at all times… That means that our new sense of normal is that all people from now on ‘should’ live in fear of their neighbors and especially strangers. When will humanity learn that Fear is the root of all terror and evil… Just for the record, your pastor will not be carrying a gun to church, bible study, shopping, a movie theater or the beach.
Some people even choose to blame God, the redeemer and savior of the world… I find that painfully strange because of the faithfulness and mercy has demonstrated to all of God’s people in the scriptures. Think of all the good that God has given all of us each and every day, not only our earth, but our minds, our creativity and even the promise of salvation through (strangely) the death of God’s one and only Son… The one at the top, no matter how faithful and gracious God has been to all of us, God still gets blamed by humans. This tells us a great deal of how far humankind has fallen away from the grace and mercy of God… just to justify our rebellion, self-centeredness, self-idolization, and fear.
It’s not a question of “Why would God allow,” or, “How could God ‘allow’ this or any tragedy to happen?” God has provided everything humankind needs to keep an event like this, or even something worse, to happen… The issue is why do humans, fully equipped with reason, compassion, love and mercy, continually allow senseless murder, racism, famine, pollution of our planet, and the disparate wealth divide among the rich and poor continue? Human beings only have ourselves to blame. We have the power to “not allow” any of these tragedies to occur… but we can’t seem to listen, follow or head the God of all forgiveness and Creation, even though our God is closer to us that the air we breath.
Look at our Gospel text for today. Imagine Jesus and his disciples walking, teaching, feeding, healing people all over Galilee. Wherever he goes throngs of needy people follow His little band. It is not surprising that an exhausted Jesus says, “‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.” Mark tells us that Jesus gets into the boat, “just as he was.” For Jesus, it was just his desire to get out of there for some rest and just go without any preparation, no packing, not anything. I can hear him telling the disciples who also must be tired, “Let’s just go!!! I’m tired!” They seem to shove off without even bothering to look at the skies before them like every good sailor should do before leaving the shore. AND YET, THE THRONGS STILL GIVE CHASE IN THEIR OWN BOATS! At first the journey would have been pleasant and it is easy to fall asleep on a sailboat in a fresh breeze… but then, the weather suddenly changes for the worst; so much so that the disciples are afraid of sinking. The boat is an open boat, it is probably a little overloaded, and their fear is justified. But look at the dialogue Mark chooses for us to hear from the disciples, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” It is almost as if they are now blaming Jesus for the storm and their fears of perishing because he is not apparently doing anything! What do they expect, he is a carpenter rabbi, not a sailor rabbi! Have they not learned anything from the miracles Jesus has performed? He has healed and fed Jews, Gentiles, even the servant of a Roman Centurion… Doesn’t that tell us about how much Jesus (GOD), CARES FOR ALL PEOPLE?
Many people offered prayers to God that sounded much like, “God, do you not care that we are perishing?” I know throngs of people felt that… I know thousands of people, especially across the Middle East and parts of Africa pray that everyday in the midst of terror, religious wars, famine and corruption…
Now Mark paints a picture of a groggy Jesus standing up and saying, “‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.” And with those words, it was calm and still… and the boat also stopped moving… which also means they all now get a chance to rest… Then Jesus makes his point clear when, “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’” DID THEY NOT HEAR WHAT JESUS TAUGHT? DID THEY NOT SEE WHAT JESUS HAD JUST HAD DONE RIGHT BEFORE THEIR EYES?
Now, apply the texts for today to our very own lives… in the middle of the suffering and horror, even with all the TV talking heads offering their terribly insufficient wisdom to explain what has happened this week, did God go anywhere? Did God leave us? Or, was it that we couldn’t see God because we were distracted from the horror and needed to find someone to blame? We need to keep our relationship with God in perspective, in the midst of the storm, the disciples were still standing with their Savior, their Lord, their Redeemer, the Creator of all! They were afraid, but Jesus was not. Again, DID THEY NOT HEAR WHAT JESUS TAUGHT? DID THEY NOT SEE WHAT JESUS HAD JUST HAD DONE before their eyes?
But what truly moved me and gave me hope this week were the words I heard from the families of the victims when they had the chance to face the shooter in court. Did you hear their words? There were horrific words of pain, when someone after making it clear she will never be able to hold her loved one again, she said to the shooter, “I forgive you.” They kept saying over and over, “We forgive you.” Or “may God have mercy on your soul.” And one of the best messages was, “The other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof we lived in love, Hate won’t win!” “We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive you!”
These words were spoken by people of faith in the middle of the worst kind of storm I could imagine. They were words given to them through faith, and the Good News that the love of God will always conquer every fear, hate, horror or evil that may threaten us. Not even the power of sin and death can separate us from the love of God, and these faithful members from this humble Bible Study made this very evident. We are all in an open boat on stormy seas, but Jesus is with us in that boat, and with words of unconditional mercy and forgiveness, even if we think the storms and waves will overtake us, with one Word, through faith we can find stillness and silence in the peace that only God can provide. Amen.
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