Pentecost +4

Having been rather hot for the last couple of weeks, I’d say it’s summer in Bordentown, despite it technically still being spring. Our fire departments haven’t been called for any water rescues yet this spring, but that’s only a matter of time, as lots of people have the habit of underestimating the powerful currents that are found down off of Bordentown beach.

Not unlike the swirl under the 295 bridge, “Lake Galilee can be a dangerous environment. Sudden storms come off the Mediterranean Sea, or over the Golan Heights. First-century Jews did not much like the sea. They left that to their neighbors to the north. But at least some of the disciples were fisherman, used to the changes and chances of being on the water. One might have expected Peter, James, and John to calm their friends, to assure them that the ship was lake-worthy and storms soon passed. (For His part) Jesus slept. He had spent himself teaching thousands and feeding them with a few loaves and fishes. Now he rested and all his friends panicked.”1

“…the apostles’ boat begins to take on water. They are very afraid, and they wake up Jesus, who is asleep in the back of the boat. He calms the sea. And then he asks his disciples two questions:

Why are you terrified?

Don’t you yet have faith?

“Why they are terrified? Well, because that boat is filling up with water, the wind is fierce, the waves are high, and there is an excellent chance that everybody in the boat will die by drowning. What is not to fear here?

“And why does Jesus ask them if they have faith? The First Reading is from the book of Job. Job certainly had faith—and he lost all his children and his possessions in one day, shortly before he came down with a loathsome skin disease. If having faith won’t save a person from the fate of Job, then why wouldn’t the disciples fear, even if they had faith?

“The solution lies in seeing how Jesus rescues his disciples from shipwreck. He doesn’t issue decrees about the weather. He talks directly to the sea. “Be still!” he says to the sea. And notice that in the First Reading this is exactly how God deals with the ocean. Just as Jesus says “you” to the sea, so God says “you” to the ocean: “So far shall you come and no further.” For God, for Jesus, even inanimate objects such as the ocean and the sea have an I-Thou relationship with their Lord. Even the sea and the ocean are in direct second-personal relationship with the loving God who made them.”2

And yet despite knowing the God that created all things, despite being in relationship with that same God, despite having seen Him in His Son Jesus, we too are afraid. At least I am, I don’t know about you.

The changes and chances of this life can seem arbitrary and most of them are. Like the disciples, there are actual storms that change the course of our lives: St. Mary’s Burlington is just one of the many churches that is still dealing with damage from the earthquake a few years back, and of course much of our state is still struggling to recover from Sandy. We can’t control that any more than we can control the actions of others, actions that can rock us right off our moorings. Our nation was rightly rocked by the massacre in Charleston, an act as heinous and evil as I can think of. And we sometimes can’t control our own actions, or perhaps worse still, we can’t drum up the energy or the courage to address our inaction, the inaction that tells our neighbors, the poor and the sick, the persecuted and the brokenhearted, those that just look differently than we do, that we don’t need them, don’t want them.

Perhaps in all of this, when the storms come in our lives, we cry out to the Lord but come away with the feeling that Jesus is sleeping. It can be tough to call out to the Lord and hear what we think is nothing in return. But what we learn from today’s Gospel is that the Lord is never truly silent; just as He spoke the world into existence and set its boundaries, He sustains the universe still; He offers Himself to us in Word and Sacrament, He speaks to us by the Holy Spirit, through Scripture, through His Church, and through His people, saying “Peace; be still.” So do not be terrified, have faith, be still; and may the peace of God be with you.

1The Living Church, Sunday’s Readings, June 14, 2015, pg 43.


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