I wonder: If we were to have a multiple choice test on this story from Mark’s gospel, what would the test questions look like?
For example, what if the test were laid out like this: Is this story about
- An invitation to take a boat ride with Jesus?
- Fear and lack of faith?
- Discovering faith in the midst of fear?
- The divinity and authority of Jesus?
- All of the above
For me, my first answer to this array of choices would be to choose option ‘e’. This is a story about all of the above.
Indeed, for me it is a story about being invited into taking a boat ride across the lake with Jesus.
But it’s also a story about fear and lack of faith, especially when things get bumpy along the way.
It’s a story about discovering faith in the midst of fear and it is a story about the divinity and authority of Jesus.
For all of these reasons and more, it feels to be an absolute gem of a story for our consideration this fifth Sunday in the season of Pentecost and this last Sunday in the month of June.
This story comes to us at a time in the life context of this church community as programs start to wind down; as we acknowledge that together we have weathered several seasons of stormy squalls these last few months.
With summertime looming on the horizon and a change of pace, we gather together this day longing for rest and restoration, sustenance and nurture, and what do we get?
We get a story from Mark’s gospel inviting us out for an evening’s boat ride that will take us a cross the sea to the other side, to a foreign place where people are different. Where people don’t look or speak like us.
Some of us would know better than to say ‘yes’ to such an invitation.
Some of us would know immediately that wherever Jesus is, stormy weather will be brewing.
Some us wouldn’t even get into such a boat.
Some of us would recognize that right away and head for the hills.
Others of us would risk saying ‘yes’, get into the boat along with those first disciples, and then freak out as they did when things went awry.
Some of us would be wailing and gnashing our teeth and still others would be at the tillar shaking Jesus awake and shouting:
Teacher, don’t you care about us? Can’t you see that we are perishing?
And some of us would be transformed at his swift response to our prayerful lament as he rebukes the wind to be still and the waves to be at peace.
Even more so, to be present to this ability to calm these elements of nature, I could imagine myself whispering to my neighbor on the shoreline or in the boat: “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey his commands?”
“Who is this” is an important question for all of us, whether foolhardy enough to get into the boat with Jesus or cynical enough to stay back on the shoreline saying: ‘Told you so. Wherever Jesus goes so also goes stormy weather.’
It’s a wonder-filled story isn’t it?
“Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey his commands?” is a question that perplexed and transformed the lives of those first disciples and it’s a question that continues to nip at the heels of our lives here now in this very moment.
And as the wind rises, the waves increase, and the stormy seasons of our personal lives and our life in church community ebbs and flows, it’s a good question to take with us.
The good news for today is that the God who lived in Jesus also lives in us.
The good news for today is that the God who was seemingly asleep in Jesus is swift to respond to our prayers of lament.
The good news for today is that that same God is available to us 24/7.
Our job? Our job is to lean into that good news.
Our job as faithful followers in the way of Jesus, our teacher, friend, model, and guide is to risk saying ‘yes’ to his invitation to get into the proverbial boat that will carry us across to the other side of the sea.
Our job is to bring faith to the tasks of everyday living and to be attentive to our default inclination to think its all about us when really it’s all about God.
Our job is to avoid the pitfalls of spiritual amnesia, forgetting all about God and getting carried away with our own resourcefulness.
Are we up for the task? More’s the pity us if we are not.
Let us continue to ponder the meaning of this story for our lives in this time and in this place. This gem of a story of how Jesus never tires of embodying his mission to bring the good news of God’s saving grace and healing love to all who are in need and who will themselves is ours for the asking.
Let us pray: “Holy One, You call us to follow you into the boat, across the sea, though the storm, and on to the other side.”
In the name of Jesus, the Christ, we pray that we might recognize your call and your claim on our lives sooner than later. Amen.
N.B. The impetus for some aspects of this sermon have taken shape from two other sermons attributed to
- the Reverend Martha Spong found at Day1.org/8221 martha_spong_all_in_the_same_boat
- Kate Bruce, Sermon 4-Luke 8: 22-39 p. 184-188 in her book IGNITING THE HEART, PREACHING AND IMAGINATION, 2015, Published by SCM Press, London, UK
Rev. Elizabeth Bowyer reserves all rights © 2018.
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