Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 7 - Year B
Mark 4:35-41


The disciples cry out to Jesus, asleep in the boat in the midst of a furious storm

" you not care that we are perishing"?

These are words echoed by men and women in various degrees of necessity across the years. Sometimes they are to blame for their sufferings. They've gotten themselves into trouble because of stupidity, dishonesty or self-deception. Or they find themselves, quite innocently, at the mercy of somebody else. An enemy threatens them. Or perhaps, again, there is no ill will at all.  Nothing is askew in anybody's humanity. The wind has simply picked up and the water laps into the boat. Things fall over, the thunder booms and the lightning flashes: The wrong place at the wrong time.

Aren't we owed some safety and security? Don't we have an "in" with God? How can Jesus possibly be sleeping in the boat while the storm rages around his followers? I make no attempt to answer the age-old question in 500 words except to point you to an interesting verb in this passage from Mark: Jesus tells the storm to be silent. He does not say "Be still" or "Be calm" or "Flatten yourself". He tells the storm, literally, to shut up (perfect passive imperative tense - "be muzzled and remain so") and employs the same verb he will later use when he tells the demons to be silent - that they have no right to tell anybody's story - least of all his.

What does a disaster or the threat of a disaster tell us in words? Can the activity of impersonal forces - water, fire, rain or earthquake, dividing cells or economic downturn - be said to have a voice of some sort that might prompt the rebuke to be silent and remain so? 

It might well. We feel guilty when bad things happen to us - even when they are outwith our control. We walk away from the downsized office with our desk's contents in a cardboard box feeling like failures because our job has been moved overseas. We take our inability to protect a loved one from what could not possibly be foreseen as a personal failure. We do it all the time. We are at fault. God is at fault. It cannot simply be something which happens - it has to be a story about my failure and unworthiness or God's failure and unworthiness.

More, the disaster says to us, you are alone - all alone here in your boat.

Jesus says "shut up" as much to the disciples as to the storm. We are not alone. In his Incarnation, Jesus comes to join us and not to leave us. The words which course through the disciples' heads - words about abandonment, loneliness and the inadequacy of both man and God are a lie - worthy of being muzzled and remaining so. In this world, where we will continue to be subject to our own weakness, to the wiles of others and to the power of lake water at 2204 pounds per cubic meter of wave, faith can and must and will be found. Jesus is there with us on that shifting ground and there his Kingdom can be discovered.