Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pentecost 5B

Mark 4:35-41

35On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Today we'll talk about water and word – creation and chaos – divinity and humanity.

As we number Sundays after the Day of Pentecost, the Church's Year of Grace continues in the 6-month long green and growing season of Ordinary Time. "Ordinary" is common to all of us, but more than that, it's structured, organized, ordered and has a regularity about it.

This event happens "on that same day" as the two agricultural parables we discussed last week. Today's gospel reading brings us water and the word. What does that remind you of? (Julie knew the "baptism" answer.) This exact same story's also in Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25. The closely related narrative of Jesus walking on water is in the gospels according to Mark, Matthew, and John.


There are four canonical gospels; we call three of them synoptic, meaning viewed (optic) the same (syn). Similar words include synonym, synthesis, synod, synagogue. Optometrist, optician, optical, optimistic. This is Mark's year in the ecumenical Revised Common Lectionary that gives us our scripture readings and that all the denominations share. Mark, Matthew, and Luke each have a distinctive personality and viewpoint, but they generally convey similar perspectives (syn-optic) on Jesus' life and ministry. John is the very different outlier gospel; it's the latest and almost didn't get into the canon of scripture. More than the synoptics, John's community brings us realized eschatology, the right now, everyday presence of the Reign of Heaven in our midst.

Today's Gospel

Jesus tells everyone they're going "across to the other side." That other side was where non-Jews lived. Genesis tells us Abraham was an ivri – Hebrew – one from "the other side." Jesus includes everyone, maybe especially the other than us, the people from that other side, and calls us to do the same.

The actual body of water in this passage is freshwater Lake of Galilee, but Mark always refers to it as the Sea of Galilee. In scripture sea or ocean is a symbol or sign of chaos and disorder. In Genesis 1 and in Psalm 104 the chaotic, untamed waters are the womb of creation. God's word speaks order into the waters, separates water and dry land, (check out today's reading from Job 38:1-11) gives limits and boundaries to the sea and to all creation. We know about the sea of the Exodus crossing. Noah's flood. Quite a few rivers throughout scripture. A recent hymn by Thomas Troeger sings, "God marked a line and told the sea its surging tides and waves were free to travel up the sloping strand, but not to overtake the land."

Here we read about a great storm, great (=dead is mega in Greek) calm, great fear. This fear really is frightened, scared, and not the "awe" fear of Luther's Small Catechism.

We've talked about God's call to us to live as careful stewards of creation as God's presence on earth—God's work, our hands. That includes the waterways, particularly urgent with the devastating pollution and species destruction that's been happening. In today's gospel reading, Jesus' word controls and subdues the movement of the water. The somewhat parallel stories of Jesus walking on water illustrates Jesus, God's offspring, having power over chaos by walking on calm waters that otherwise would be chaotic and impossible to tread. We hear about the smooth "glassy sea" in the book of revelation and in the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy." God creates us in the divine image and calls us humans to live out that divine nature, these days particularly by caring for each other and for all creation.

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