Proper 7B (OT 12)
A very simple, short story about Jesus on a boat, but it about more than a boat.
Jesus calming the storm is a key piece of Mark’s Christology. It is a demonstration of Jesus’ power, and special relationship with God, but it is just a foretaste.
Begins a 3 week series on the Lordship of Jesus (Mark D. W. Edington, Feasting)
Proper 7b (Mark 4:35-41: Calming the Storm) - Power over creation
LECTIONARY SKIPS (Mark 5:1-20: Gerasene Demoniac) - Power in foreign lands
Proper 8b (Mark 5:21-43: Hemorrhaging Woman/Jarius’ Daughter) - Power over Life (and Law)
Proper 9b (Mark 6:1-13: sending the 12) - Power over the Spirits
A few chapters later (6:45-53) the disciples are again in a boat. This time another storm brews, and in the midst of the storm, Jesus appears walking on the water toward them. In this moment, he says, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Then he gets into the boat (no Peter walking in Mark). Here, the disciples are “so baffled they were beside themselves. That’s because they didn’t understand about the loaves.”
Here he asks, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Comes just after last week’s lectionary - when Jesus teaches about the Kingdom.
They are going to the other side of the lake, which would be considered a foreign land. Jesus and his disciples are leaving their home base, and venturing into a new field, Decapolis (The Ten Cities) where they are met with the Gerasene Demoniac. He heals him, the pigs run off the cliff, and the people “pleaded with Jesus to leave their region.” (lectionary will skip this)
It also comes before the storm of the Passion, in which all of the disciples will fall victim to their fear, even after coming to know Jesus as the Messiah.
A place of refuge from the crowd (Mark 3:9)
A pulpit to teach from (Mark 4:1)
A way to cross boundaries (Mark 4:35)
In what ways in the church our boat of refuge, witness, evangelism, fear and awe?
There are many storms that brew in the Gospel of Mark (and Jesus’ life).
Water, storms and whirlwinds are chaotic elements that only God can overcome (Creation, Noah, Exodus, Entry into the Promised Land, Jonah, Baptism, etc)
Jesus, like Jonah, is sleeping through a life threatening storm- like Jonah, Jesus will not but will still “save those around him”, but giving his life for theirs (a foreshadowing of the cross?)
Walking with Jesus does not assure smooth sailing (or vast riches, or material comfort as so many Prosperity Gospel preachers proclaim)
Εγειρω - Jesus “woke up” - same word for raised up or resurrected. Literally: He raised himself up
μεγας - Mega or Great- used three times: (v.37) a Mega Storm, (v.39) a Mega Calm, (v. 41) a Mega fear
Rebuke and be silent - same words used against the unclean spirit in Mark 1:25
“Are you still without faith?” not “Have you no faith?”
This is the first of many examples of Jesus revealing his power to build the disciples’ faith
Jesus speaks both to the cause of the fear- the storm AND to the source of the fear - us with the same message - be quiet. Trust. Be at peace.
Fear and Faith
V.41 literally says, “and they fears a great (mega) fear”
At first reading, it appears that fear is the opposite of faith. If they had faith, then they would not have had fear. Fear though, is not the opposite of faith. Fear however, can make it hard to access our faith.
What are the disciples afraid of- the storm or going to a foreign land? (Williamson, Interpretation: Mark)
Challenged to address their own uncomfortability and expand their notion of what the Kingdom of God is
Do not fear- God is with you (literally in this case)
The problem with the disciples is not that they were fearful, it was that they were paralyzed by it. It is not that they didn’t have enough faith, it was that they didn’t have any faith. “You don't have to have perfect faith for God to respond; indeed, you can even be paralyzed by fear, assume the worst about God, and still receive God's mercy and grace...and then, perhaps, an invitation to greater faith!” (David Lose, Working Preacher)
A little fear is not a bad thing, “It is not inappropriate to fear the Lord. If we have the slightest idea of his glory, it is appropriate but also, in a sense, irrelevant. What seems to matter is what we do in spite of or because of that awe.” (Meda Stamper, Working Preacher)
Instead of this action producing great faith- it has only produced great fear. The disciples continue to have the wrong reaction when faced with incarnation (no different than those who encounter the power of love over death in resurrection Mark 16:8)
Thoughts and Questions
What does it mean for our churches to “go to the other side”? What is our other side and are we afraid to go there? What storms might be face along the way?
The World Council of Churches’ logo is a ship at sea with the cross as its mast. The WCC formed during WWII and was formally established in 1948. In all times, even in history's darkest storms (Holocaust and WWII) Jesus remains Lord.
End of the story is a question, and like much of Mark, demands the reader to be the one that answers. The disciples do not end with a great confession of Jesus’ Lordship They are simply left stunned and wonder.They can’t even bring themselves to thank Jesus or ask him themselves. The question they pose is to one another, I presume in quiet whispers after they get off. So we are left with the question, who is this man?
The storm, understandably, produces fear. Jesus’ action produces awe. Awe and Fear seem to be close on the emotional wheel. When looking at the Cliffs of Moher, there is a sense of awe, but part of that awe is wrapped in the fear of plummeting to the bottom. Awe however, makes you want to inch close to the edge. Fear keeps you back (which might not really be a bad thing). However if the fear of the edge keeps you in the car, away from the wind, the sound of the sea, the blindingly blue sky, then you have lost out on something great. Fear made the disciples run to Jesus and accuse him of not caring. Awe made the disciples wonder, search for more, and maybe inch a little closer.
Fear of entering into foreign waters - Jesus is leading the disciples to the other side of the lake- the Gentile side, a place where no respectable Jew, much less the Messiah, should be. June 28 is the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (1969) which was a catalyst for LGBTQ rights in the US. Many churches avoid the issue of LGBTQ inclusion because it is wading into uncomfortable or “foreign waters”. Yet we are called to bear the storms that may come our way to bring the Good News to all people.
Tell the whole story
This is one of our great stories of faith that permeates culture and literature for a reason- PRACTICE this story ahead of time, don’t rob listeners of its drama
Malcolm Gladwell- great take, but we are going to come at this from a traditional standpoint...at least initially
the Real Story of David and Goliath- listen, watch it- let us know what you think?
A Children’s story? maybe...maybe not
God is on the side of the small and least powerful
Jacob the trickster outwits his older, stronger brother and his father
Joseph succeeds over his brothers
Moses outwits Pharaoh
still a boy - emphasized repeatedly (the youngest son, not able to be in the army, only the 3 out 8 oldest or army-worthy)
never worn armor
isn’t even worthy of fighting in the army
small in stature - great in faith
His anointing is not recognized by the community
David only agrees to fight after establishing repeatedly what his reward will be twice (v. 26 & 30)
9.5 feet tall!
Game of Thrones fans - imagine Ser Gregor Clegaine, “The Mountain”
Heavily armed and armors - commentators make much of this- the heaviness of the armor in relation to David quickness, but I don’t see that in the text.
David doesn’t wear armor or sword because he is “not used to them” - Goliath doesn’t have that problem
Adaptive Change to face the new reality (Heifetz & Linsky)
The old way- attack, kill, win no longer works - this is a fight Israel cannot win
Israel needs to adapt - Saul cannot adapt. He tries to address the problem the same old way- armor sword and shield
David adapts and changes the fight
God adapts (Gen. 9, Ex 34, Parables, Resurrection)
David’s faith does not preclude him from using his own gifts and talents. His faith is in God working through him, not necessarily in an external manner (i.e. he doesn’t sit back and wait for Goliath to be struck by lightning or swallowed up by the ground)
Other than being anointed David is acting of his own volition- God does not tell David he will be safe
David uses Goliath’s sword to cut of his head - taking his comment in v. 47 (the LORD does not save by means of the sword and the spear) there is an interesting parallel to Matthew 26:52 “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword”
David still resolves the situation through violence- how do we reconcile that? If my son brings a gun to school to shoot a bully is that justified? NO. We need to be careful with this story.
David succeeds not because he was a better fighter, but because he changed the fight - he adapted to the challenge. How can we adapt to challenges of faith? Challenges of church decline? Challenges of pastoral leadership? Perhaps not by trying the same old things
Not everyone is happy about adaptive change. David’s brothers resist his attempts to enter into the battle. How are we resistant to change because we are afraid it will highlight our failure?
Beginning of this passage really starts before chapter 6, at 5:19 “In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.” Now, what does that reconciliation look like, and how do we achieve it?
Overcoming trial becomes an important theme in all of the texts: David overcoming Goliath, Jesus calming the storm, the Psalmist enduring trouble, and here Paul enduring “problems, disasters, and stressful situations. We went through beatings, imprisonments, and riots.”
Three sections to this passage:
Now is the day of salvation (salvation looks like reconciliation, not getting a pass into heaven)
In John Wesley’s “Sermon 50: Use of Money,” he says, “Use all possible diligence in your calling. Lose no time. If you understand yourself and your relation to God and man, you know you have none to spare. If you understand your particular calling as you ought, you will have no time that hangs upon your hands.“
No reason to delay.
Reconciliation is not about Reader and God. “Remembering how divisive this congregation was (according to I Corinthians) and knowing how Paul’s opponents had tried to undercut his authority, it is likely that Paul was estranged from this church. So a textually faithful sermon should be a heartfelt plea to be reconciled to each other as preacher and congregants. If we don’t respond to the Gospel by being reconciled to each other, we have received God’s grace in vain. (Stan Mast, Calvin Seminary)
Work of reconciliation is going to have trials (not material blessings or earthly prosperity)
Although we may have a hard time as modern people identifying with the extremity of these descriptions of apostolic suffering, they do point to the fact that our participation in the service and word of reconciliation can never be divorced from the very real vicissitudes of human life; indeed, it may bring even more hardship into our lives. (Lois Malcolm, Working Preacher)
Perhaps more relatable, Rev Dr Russell Barr, Minister of Edinburgh Cramond Church states, “As well as the obvious hardships of shipwreck, imprisonment and flogging, Paul also describes the hard work, sleepless nights and hunger he has experienced and hints at the internal conflicts of doubt and sorrow, which are all part of the Christian life and experience
Living within the paradox of faith.
Ultimate paradox is that the suffering he describes produces the fruit of the Spirit: “by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God”
If you lay out the suffering and the fruit in order, you get:
Afflictions and purity
Hardships and knowledge
Calamities and patience
Beatings and kindness
Imprisonments and holiness of spirit
Riots and genuine love
Labors and truthful speech
Sleepless nights and the power of God
Hunger and Weapon of righteousness
In honor and dishonor,
in ill repute and good repute.
impostors, and yet are true;
unknown, and yet are well known;
dying, and see—we are alive;
punished, and yet not killed; 10
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as
poor, yet making many rich;
having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Thoughts and Questions
Can Sister Gloria Gaynor be allowed into the sacred space of worship: “I’m still alive.” Granted, this is a song about not finding reconciliation, but it is also a strong about strength and perseverance. It can also be a chance to express that sometimes healthy boundaries are needed in a relationship this side of eternity. Seeking reconciliation is actively living into forgiveness and trust. It is not being sheepishly mowed down over and over.
The paradox of faith is worth examining. We are living in the Kingdom established, yet unfulfilled. We see the fruits of the Spirit, but not in their full harvest. In the meantime, can the Church be reconciled to itself? Are there frustrations, tensions, and hurt feelings that need to be addressed? Is it enough to remind the church of its calling as a place of reconciliation without getting into details? Speaking past hurts - even institutional ones - can open wounds that have been healed, but one must ask, if they are so easily opened, are they really healed?
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.