Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Lectionary Reflection
June 24, 2012
He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40
In return–I speak as to children–open wide your hearts also. 2 Corinthians 6:13
Just who is this God we worship, love, and serve? This week’s lessons shatter any illusions of a safe, tame deity we can leave in the church building or relegate to a safe little box under the bed. This is the God who speaks to a suffering Job, who brought creation from chaos, and who intimately and intricately weaves relationship with humankind. This is the Creator of light, and life, and poetry–of all the is and was and is to come. Granted, we only get a snippet of this beautiful passage; keep reading through chapter 42 (the end of the book) for full effect.
The theme of God’s majesty and omnipresence continues in selected verses of Psalm 107. Foreshadowing Mark’s gospel passage, verses 23-30 recount a storm at sea, telling of chaos experienced, endured, and the release that comes when one turns to God. “You stilled the storm to a whisper/and silenced the waves of the sea” (29). How often do we humans ply “our trade in deep waters” (v. 23) and find ourselves in over heads? We go it alone, forgetting that God holds the cosmos together and that our trust is best placed in divine hands rather than in our own, and before we know it our little boats are far from the safety of shore and what anchors us. Whether our storms are related to the vagaries of empire, economics, relationships, or poor choices, they can be terrifying and isolating. Only God’s steadfast love and wondrous works offer reprieve.
None of these lessons promise a life of lemon drops and lollipops. In fact, quite the opposite–Job has suffered through no fault of his own, while Paul and his fellow missionaries face hardship, rejection, and abuse for the sake of the gospel. Even Jesus’ closest associates fear drowning while their master sleeps through a sudden storm. In fact, one thread that runs throughout is that there will be difficulties, and the way of the disciple is not an easy one. Why in the world then should one choose such a life? How do everyday Christians make sense of this reality? If one cannot get a handle on God, what hope is there? How do we explain God in a world that does not recognize the hand of the divine at work? What does it mean to encounter the Holy One in day-to-day living? What do we do with all the “what-ifs” that creep into the corners of our consciousness?
Maybe we should take a cue from Jesus’ response to his anxious disciples: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Sure, we don’t have Jesus in the flesh at our dinner tables or riding shotgun through rush hour traffic, but we have the cumulative witness of generations of faithful disciples. We also have some measure of faith–even if it is as small as last week’s mustard seed–or we wouldn’t be asking these questions at all. We can also take the hint from Paul and open wide our hearts to live life and experience faith wide open. Only God can fill the empty spaces, mend the cracks and broken places, and shelter us in the safe harbor of divine love and grace. Even when we think we are setting sail on our own, God is there. This, dear friends, is good news indeed. Blessings on your preaching and teaching whether you find yourself in the eye of the storm or in a peaceful waters!
Consider a choral reading of the passage from Job. Have a group of readers speak the couplets from within the congregation or before microphones in the choir loft. If you have projection capabilities, choose images to accompany the reading of this lesson that reflect the majesty and grandeur of God.
Consider telling the story behind the hymn “Jesus Savior Pilot Me” written by Edward Hopper and based on this week’s gospel lesson. Click here for one version of the story.
Show this video clip of a sailboat almost capsizing in the rough waters of Waikiki Harbor and talk with the youth about how the disciples must have been feeling when the storm came up. How do the storms of our life catch us off guard? How do we find Jesus “in the boat” with us?
Ask children to recall a time when they were afraid and to tell you about it. You will likely hear a variety of responses from fear of the dark to being lost in a store or being in deep water and not knowing how to swim. If you have a story from your own childhood be sure to share it and tell them how it felt when you were finally reassured and comforted. Relate this to the gospel lesson and remind them that no matter how dark, how deep, or how scary–Jesus is with us and will not leave us alone.