Saturday, June 23, 2012

B, Pentecost 4 Proper 7 – Mark 4:38 “The ‘I’ of the Storm”

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On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:35–41 ESV)
In recent weeks the southwest of Australia has been besieged by wild storms battering the coast and communities inland. Front after front has brought frightening winds that tear at trees and timber structures, bringing down powerlines, closing roads, and ripping roofs off buildings.
Our very own church was not spared from damage. The roaring westerly winds made the trees along the street whip around like umbrellas caught in an updraft, looking as though they were flipping inside and out. So strong was the wind, ridge capping tiles along the church roof were popped off and bounced down the eastern side breaking more tiles in their descent to the ground.
With the roof cornerstones gone, as it were, the building was left vulnerable in the next storm, forecast to be much stronger, but thankfully not turning out anywhere near as strong as the weather bureau had predicted.
When one is faced with nature unleashed it's understandable we feel threatened. Our eyes are opened wide to the onslaught and we might even feel anxious and uneasy about our safety, or concerned about our loved ones or our property.
Jesus was crossing Lake Galilee in a boat with his disciples when a storm closed in on them. It might be one thing enduring a storm on solid ground, but in a boat that sways back and forth in a gentle breeze at the best of times, it's no place to be in the height of a rippy unpredictable storm. One might easily understand the concern of the disciples, and even more so since they were experienced fishermen on that very same lake!
Yet as they were tossed about like a cork in a washing machine, we find Jesus sleeping on a cushion in the stern. Imagine the fear on the faces of the disciples, imagine their dismay that Jesus is sleeping down the back. It's unbelievable he's not with them peering over the bow at each of the surging storm swells, threatening to topple the boat and throw them into the abyss.
Doesn't Jesus care? Is he happy to let us die for nothing? Now is not the time to be sleeping, taking a nap, nor is it time for a snooze. Now is the time… is the time for what? Actually, why do we have times like this? Tumultuous times of turbulence in our lives, threatening death, destruction, or despair! Where is God in all of our struggles? Does he care? Perhaps we're tempted to cry out to Jesus, "Are you really there?"
But Jesus was there in the boat with them. Essentially there was nothing wrong with them being afraid. I'm sure the storm was placed there to get their attention. And it did! However, they approached Jesus, "And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'" (Mark 4:38 ESV)
To what conclusion did their fear lead them? What did their fear glorify? Perhaps the power of the storm! Or possibly the power of death! Maybe even a justification or glorification of their fear or indignation that they put their trust in Jesus, for nothing, so it seemed. We can only imagine the mix of emotions that exposed their weakness, their helplessness, and their lack of understanding as to whom it was accompanying them, sleeping in the back of the boat.
The greater storm here was not in the sea surrounding the boat, but rather within the hearts of those in the boat. They were in the eye of the storm. But unfortunately for them, they saw themselves as the "I" in the storm. And looking into themselves they only saw death.
Whereas if we look at the true "I" of the storm, we find calmness and serenity, that to us, seems uncomfortable. It's a calm which appears to be eerie. Like standing in the eye of a cyclone… calm surrounded by twisting turbulent winds! Why can Jesus be so calm when everything is flying in the face of death? His calmness only goes to show our heightened anxiety, our helplessness, and perhaps even our lack of trust deep down in the core of our being. I know I should believe but my gut is telling me otherwise!
But Jesus was taking no idle nap. He was resting, and he calls us into that same rest, despite what may appear to be flying in our face. In the eye of the storm, he invites you into his presence, where his calmness is one of trust and faithfulness. You see for Jesus the eye of the storm was not him or the boat or their situation and strife. No! The eye of the storm was the great "I AM" his Heavenly Father. And in the storms of life we face around us today and within us, his hand of invitation and rest is there for all to step into the "I" in the storm and find peace and rest.
Jesus has given to you a greater reality which you can see through the eyes of faith. His faithfulness now resides in you despite the storms you face in this life. He invites you to turn from your gut instinct, the emotions of your heart, to know he is with you.
In fact, Jesus is not only with us each individually, but he rides with the church, just as he did in the boat with the disciples. He calls us to see he is our Saviour, not what we might do, not the boat in which we ride, nor a change in the weather, but rather the power of his word that calls you into the "I" of peace and rest.
As we cross the troubled waters of this life, Jesus calls us not to see our salvation in the destination but rather our salvation "is now" with him as we travel through life. What waters of chaos can threaten us when we believe we have been already drowned in the peaceful waters of baptism and are already being daily raised into the new life of salvation?
Hear our Lord address you as he does to the Corinthians through Saint Paul…
Working together with him [Christ Jesus], then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, "In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:1-2, 11–13 ESV) Amen.