Friday, June 19, 2009

B, Pentecost 3 Proper 7 - 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 "Goliath Storms"

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. Remember this taunt from the schoolyard playground? The school yard bully or the little miss, with hands on hips and face screwed up hurling insults at you to win the war of words. Or perhaps it's the defence you used against your foe, at those times when life seemed to be a bit stormy.
We all have, and will, endure bad times, rough weather, stormy days or situations where we wish we'd stayed at home tucked up under a pile of blankets. However, once confronted with the onset of a storm — be it emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual — it's too late to retreat to the safety of a warm cosy place. One must decide what to do and respond quickly for any hope of a good outcome.
At the beginning of second Corinthians chapter six we hear, "As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, "In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
When confronted by storminess of life Paul tells the Corinthians, who are in the midst of grave troubles, that now is the time. Not tomorrow or later on, but NOW!
That's quite interesting considering most of the time when we're faced with the onset of a life storm we'd rather panic and cry out to God, "Woe is me! What have I done to deserve this?" Surely at times like this we might think, God has abandoned us, departed from us, and left us to be torn to pieces with words or worse. Perhaps there's even a chance our bones will be dashed to pieces with sticks and stones! But God tells us otherwise, saying, "Now! Today, in the midst of the storm, is the day of salvation!"
As the disciples set forth across the Sea of Galilee. They were plunged into a storm. The Sea of Galilee was renowned for ferocious weather blowing up out of nothing. And because the lake was relatively shallow the waves became quite treacherous to small craft like the disciples' fishing boats.
Now if we were in the position the disciples were in, I'm quite sure we'd have wished we didn't get out of bed that morning! The boat was being flogged! Water was spilling in at an alarming rate! The boat was sitting lower and lower. The waves were getting higher and higher. Yes! We'd all have to agree they were in a spot of bother!
Yet where is Jesus to be found? We're told… 'Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"' (Mark 4:38-41)
Jesus must have been a heavy sleeper! Anyone who has ever tried to sleep while being tossed around on rough seas, knows it's near impossible. Yet, Jesus is peacefully sleeping when the disciples wake him, not to be saved, but rather to prepare him for imminent destruction.
But destruction is not forthcoming. Jesus commands the wind and waves, "Be still! Be silent!" And they listened! Picture that! The sea became a tranquil pond, in an instant!
However, the storm continued to churn inside the disciples as they fearingly asked each other, "Who is this?" They didn't realise God was with them, sleeping in the boat. Although the storm threatened, salvation and peace were imminent, at the hand of the Prince of Peace.
Notice they didn't ask Jesus to save them! Rather they thought he was going down with them. After Jesus calmed the situation, he addressed there lack of faith by asking why they were so afraid. A better translation would be; why they were so cowardly or timid.
In Mark's account of Jesus stilling the storm he makes the point that the disciples were in greater fear of Jesus than the storm, after he calmed things down. The original Greek spells this out by saying they feared with a mega-fear leading them to ask, "Who is this?"
Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. Perhaps we might say in stormy situations like that of the disciples, "Wind and waves may break my boat but the peace of God will never hurt me!"
David the young shepherd boy had occasion for mega-fear as he took his solitary position on the battle line against the mega-man Goliath.
However, unlike the disciples in the eye of the storm, he displayed childlike faith in he who could save him. In fact, David out shone the entire Israelite army and King Saul, whom all shook with fear at the prospect of facing Goliath.
But Goliath underestimated his opponent. What he saw was a boy with a sling and stones, and he cursed his nerve for thinking he could match him. Yet Goliath failed to see God and the faith of his boyish servant David, who boldly promised to not only take out Goliath but the whole Philistine army.
David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands." (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
Here David stood against the archetypal bully, Goliath. And it's as if he taunts the Philistine, "Sticks and stoned may break my bones but the name of the Lord will forever hurt you!"
So it's with this confidence and trust in God… As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. (1 Samuel 17:48-50)
Knowing God's faithfulness David surged forward proclaiming by his actions, "I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation." Right there in the here and now of the threatening Philistine storm the hand of the hidden Lord revealed itself striking down Goliath and saving the Israelites.
In this story, David faces death on behalf of Saul and the Israelite army. This picture is a forerunner to Christ surging forward to fight death on behalf of us at the cross. And in the Lake Galilee storm, we can see ourselves and the church today tossed about like the disciples in the boat.
In both stormy situations Christ is present.
Because Christ is with us, and has already won the battle over sin and death at the cross, Jesus Christ promises us that every stormy day this side of eternal paradise is the time of God's favour; now, the present moment, is the day of salvation.
In this world we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. (Psalm 44:22) It might seem as though the church is sinking and Christ no longer cares! But the Good Shepherd has already entered the storm and won the battle for us.
It's time to wake up, open our eyes and see with faith he who is hidden in his church, rather than worry about the storms of life that come and go to test us.
Storms and strife may threaten my life, but trust in the Lord will never hurt me! Amen.