The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 21, 2015
I Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49
II Corinthians 6:1-13
Trusting God we can do greater things than we can imagine. Faith opens us to quantum leaps of power, inspiration, and energy. God’s grace is sufficient for us to respond to every crisis. Though we appear weak, we are strong in God’s love.
What child doesn’t love the story of David and Goliath, described in I Samuel 17. The underdog defeats the villain, the bully gets what’s coming to him, the weak defeat the strong. Yet, beyond the real violence of the story – after all Goliath is vanquished and beheaded – a deeper message may be found. When we trust God, we can respond with courage and strength to the forces that threaten to defeat us. Power belongs to God, and our alignment with God’s vision, not with bullies, oppressors, and those who would plan evil. God makes a way when there is no way!
Psalm 9 describes God’s preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. The oppressor’s days are numbered. God will deliver the weak from the snare, and the impoverished from the unjust. Yet, God’s timetable differs from our own. Will we have the patience to let the moral arc of history emerge in its patient and persistent way?
Paul proclaims that now is the day of salvation. Today is the day of healing and transformation. Yet, healing and transformation often appear under their opposites. Paul and his companions are described as externally powerless and the objects of scorn. They are of no account and subject to the whims of the powerful. Beneath the persecution and contempt, they are empowered by God’s presence. They possess an inner joy that flows from trust in God. Their joy is not the result of external circumstances but their relationship with the Living God, revealed in the suffering and resurrected Christ. Salvation and healing are real, and contemporary, regardless of the circumstances of life.
Mark 4 describes Jesus’ ability to still the storms of life. The disciples panic when a sudden windstorm rocks their boat, filling their craft with water. In their fear, they call upon Jesus, whose calm voice stills the storm. There are two storms described in this miracle story – the first is the storm at sea, the external realities that put us at risk. For many congregations, the storm at sea involves budget and membership. We fear what will happen to us; we wander if our congregation will survive the changes in the North American spiritual landscape and its own aging demographics. The second storm is the inner tumult, the fear and anxiety within each of us and our institutions. A fishing prayer goes, “The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” Dwarfed by the grandeur of the universe and the challenges that confront us, we appear to be powerless. We are uncertain if our lives matter or if the universe cares for us. An alternative version gives us another perspective, “O God, your sea is so large and my boat is so small.” The sea is God’s sea, not an indifferent force, and God’s sea ultimately will bring us homeward with waves of healing.
As I read this story, I see two miracles described. The first is the inner miracle. When the disciples remember Jesus is in the boat, they are still fearful, but they are no longer hopeless. They know that Jesus’ love and power is greater than their fear. Their attitude toward the storm begins to change: yes, this is difficult and we are in trouble, but God is with us and we’re going to make it. The second miracle is the pacifying of the storm. Jesus is so in synch with the energies of the universe that by his energetic word he can calm the storm. Jesus sets up another type of vibration, strong enough to neutralize the destructive impact of the storm. (For more on Mark’s Gospel, see Bruce Epperly, Healing Marks: Spirituality and Healing in Mark’s Gospel and Mark’s Holy Adventure: Preaching Mark’s Gospel for Year B.)
Today’s readings remind us that despite our apparent weakness, we experience newfound course and strength when we trust God’s loving power. The storms of life will not cease, bullies may continue to threaten us, and external factors may put us at risk, but nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.