What do you depend upon in the unexpected upheavals of living? This overarching question came up for me as I read the familiar story of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee ad caught at sea in an unexpected storm. “On that day”, a day of healing, teaching and meeting the demands of the public who are in conflict over his ministry Jesus said, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, Jesus went with the disciples in the boat. Jesus is not expecting a storm. Tired, he immediately falls asleep.
His peace is in contrast to the chaos that arises as the storm comes up. Mark, writing from the from the first-century, sees Jesus addressing the early community who felt like a crew on a storm-tossed ship. Facing persecution and feeling small against opposition, the early Church is experiencing fear while trying to be faithful.1 Mark’s goal in telling this story is to strengthen the faith—the trust—of the early church that God’s goodness is at work, beneath the surface of every trial. This is the context of the first question, ”Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” This same question surfaces in us when we see the unexpected violence of racial division and hatred acted out by a disturbed, misguided young man who prays in Church and then murders nine people in cold blood, or when we see terror enacted on TV day after day.
Jesus, awakened does not speak, but teaches by demonstrating the truth that God is with us in our wave swept boat on our storm tossed sea. It is true that actions speak louder than words as Jesus teaches us how to be God in that moment for others. No wonder we might find ourselves fearful when faith is expected.
The second question for me has to be understood in the context of Jesus’ words in response to the storm, “ Peace! Be still!” The wind and waves obey his voice and the disciples are confronted with the reality that not only is God present, but in the boat with them. They come face to face with having to trust that God will be with them in the future as they face opposition and conflict from their former faith and the authorities of Jerusalem and Rome whose opposition is a test of their trust. God, give me your strength in the face of the tests that come up unexpectedly.
Question three is for me an affirmation of faith. “ Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey?” My answer, and I’ve committed my life to it, is Jesus, the one caught in the boat with me is the one on which I can depend in the chaos and storms of life.
Prayer: Keeper of our lives, you know the hardness and gentleness of human hearts. Through the storms of life that bring suffering, fear, joy and laughter teach us that you are always in the boat with us. Amen.
1. Kate Matthew (Huey). “In the Boat Together”. Weekly Seeds, June 12, 2015, pages 1-8.
June 21, 2015 Cycle B 4th Sunday of Pentecost
1st Sam. 17:34-49 Psalm 9:9-20 2nd Cor. 6:1-13 *Mark 4:35-41