Monday, June 18, 2012

The Perfect Storm?

This Sunday Jeanne will be preaching on Jesus calming the storm. As she and I talked about this text this morning and I as I read a little about this text, I came across four questions:

  1. Teacher, don't you care if we drown?
  2. Why are you so afraid?
  3. Do you still have no faith?
  4. Who is this?
Don't you think that those are really good questions to ask? Haven't you asked the first question on many occasions when life hasn't quite worked out the way you hoped it would, when things come crashing down around your ears and God seems to be very distant?Who of us has not felt afraid, fearful and anxious at such moments; unsure about what the next step should be and incapable of making a decision?

In such moments, I don't think we should see Jesus' question about the disciples' lack of faith as rebuke. Rather it is something like amazement: "Having seen and heard all that you have seen and heard over the last little while, are you still so lacking in faith?"

Just before this, Jesus has told them parables are about the mustard seed and the non-anxious farmer.  And just before that Jesus has told the parable about the sower who, upon scattering his seeds, finds that some had fallen on good soil, some on rocks, and others on hard soil.  In all three of these parables, Jesus shows the disciples the mighty possibilities of the Kingdom of God, yet that Kingdom is presented as so vulnerable that it can be snatched away by birds, choked out by weeds, or withered by the noonday sun. 

Following the storm on the sea, Jesus performs several miracles in Mark's gospel:  he releases the demonized, raises a little girl from the dead and heals a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years.  After this, Jesus feeds five thousand and walks on the water.
As Sarah Jackson Shelton says, " This text, then, is surrounded by a remarkable set of contrasts.  On one hand, the Kingdom of God, though powerful, looks weak to those who do not understand it.  On the other hand, Jesus performs mighty miracles that reveal His Lordship.  This simple carpenter's son is able to tame creation, root out the demonic, conquer death, rout disease, and feed the hungry.  And nestled in the very middle of these extremes is the story of our storm-fearing disciples who wake the present, yet sleeping Jesus."

 No wonder the disciples ask, "Who is this?" We, even after all these years, with all we know, are still tempted to ask the same question.

As David Ewart says, " However, the real question to ask of this story is NOT: Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? For us, the real question is: Who is this, that even raging, life-threatening circumstances do not disturb his sleep?

The real miracle of this story is NOT Jesus calming the storm. The real miracle is Jesus' calm while the storm is raging. His calm is not simply the suppression of fear. His calm arises from within his faith; from within his trust in God's caring - no matter what the actual circumstances.

Thus, the moral of this story is NOT: run to Jesus when you are in a crisis and he will make the storm go away. Rather the moral is: run to Jesus when you are in crisis and learn from him the source of his calm.
Do the wind and the sea fill us with fear and terror? Then how ought we respond to the one whom they obey? NOT with greater fear. Quite the opposite. With awe and reverence. With - perhaps, finally, now - faith, and trust-in-God's-caring-no-matter-what-the-circumstance."


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