June 23: The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus has been in the boat.
We miss that
as we drop in to the story today,
picking up where we left off
last week.
Jesus has been in the boat
since the beginning of chapter 3.
This floating pulpit –
a way to get space
from the mobs who want to touch
or get close like a toddler –
now becomes a vessel.
As Mark is writing,
the church is wondering
how much this acceptance of Gentiles
is really God’s plan.
Jesus today is crossing
from a Jewish area
to a gentile one.

Worn out from teaching,
needing to recharge his extrovert juices
Jesus takes a nap.
As he’s asleep a great storm,
a maelstrom, gale-force winds!
seizes the boat.
Maybe the disciples are panicked
maybe they know they can’t do anything
maybe they do actually doubt,
but they wake Jesus up.
“Help us!” they plead.
The NRSV is somewhat silly
in how it translates Jesus response.
It tells us that Jesus rebukes the wind
like he rebukes demons
elsewhere in Mark’s gospel.
But it keeps the familiar
“Peace! Be still!”
That may be a comfort to some of us,
but this rebuke is more akin
to “Silence!” or “Shut up, would you!?”
Then Jesus through Mark asks us
“Do you still not believe?”

We’re in a time of transition
here at St. Hilda St. Patrick.
I’m going on sabbatical in a week,
and I’m looking forward to the rest I’ll get.
I’m also excited to learn and see
how you keep church happening.
I don’t love the phrase
“The church isn’t a building.
It’s the people.”
It’s true,
but it’s also usually said
in a sentimental way
that doesn’t carry the weight
of being called to corporately proclaim
that Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and on those in the tombs
bestowing life.
Usually when I’ve heard
“The church isn’t a building.
It’s the people,”
it’s a sentiment limited to community
but not always one proclaiming
“The kingdom of God is at hand.”
I don’t think I’ve heard that phrase
in the last five years
and I see among us –
even with the flaming introversion –
a community of those proclamations.
We’re in a season of transition,
and I think we’re on the precipice of big changes.
I don’t know what they are!
I am not secretly laying ground work
for some hidden agenda.
I just truly believe that
something big is going to happen
in the next 12-18 months.

This passage from Mark is about the 12
who speak with one voice for the first time
in this short story.
This passage from Mark is about us, too.
Jesus wonders to them
“Don’t you trust me?”
but in waking him up
and asking him for help
it’s clear that they do.
The disciples are so human,
they’re just like us,
that again and again
they have trouble maintaining their belief.
Today’s short lection concludes,
“Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This is Mark asking us,
who do we say that Jesus is?
Even when our faith falters
in times of transition
even if not pummeled by maelstroms
do we trust Jesus?

I do.
Most of the time.
Some of the time?
As I’ve read Tim Alberta’s
The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory
I’ve found myself continuing to be converted.
One of his concluding observations
as he’s analyzed the evangelicalism of his upbringing
and wondered if there’s a place for him is,
“There is a reason the culture wars
become a quagmire for Christians.
Even if they elect the right politicians
and pass the right laws—
and the meaning of “right”
looks very different to believers
[in different cities and regions] —
they are still not winning,
because they are playing
the wrong game.”
Through the book Alberta analyzes
the fear that has permeated
white evangelicalism.
Rather than praying
do you not care that we are perishing?”
they’ve sought to take control
of government and culture
to protect themselves
from a mostly imagined persecution.

That’s not our challenge,
but this book was a constant invitation
to turn my eyes upon Jesus.
It was an invitation to
as the old hymn says
let the things of earth grow strangely dim
in the light of his glory and grace.
We’re on the precipice,
we’re poised for big changes here.
One of you prays
that the people we need
and the people who need us
will come to this community.
I love that.
Beloved, I have been praying
for revival.
Jesus says to the 12 today,
“Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?”
but they’ve shown that they do.
Not only have they shown that they do,
Jesus answers their original prayer
before asking them what’s going on.
He doesn’t wait for them
to have a sufficient amount of faith
before settling the storm.

As Jesus and the 12 crossover
from a Jewish area to a Gentile one
the church is asking its followers
“Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
We’re in the midst of transitions here,
and being invited to wonder
“Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Even after being woken up from a nap
Jesus’ love for his disciples throughout the ages
prompts him to rebuke a storm.
“Knock it off!” he says
like Topher picked up
from his daycare teacher.

I don’t know what the changes will be
over the next 12-18 months.
I’m praying for revival.
And I’m turning my eyes toward Jesus.
Maybe he has other plans.
That uncertainty can be uncomfortable.
But it’s also a bit of a relief.
The one whom even the winds and the seas obey
has a love for us so deep
that we don’t have to play
games of anxiety and control.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of his glory and grace.

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