Thanks for bringing us through the past year and a half into the beginning of a post-COVID reality. We've been reading Mark's gospel that often shows us Jesus in unexpected places. Mark's Jesus welcomes everyone into the Reign of Heaven on Earth and changes (much for the better!) the world people have known and expected it always to be. In Mark, we've seen Jesus speak hope into situations of need that aren't all that different from what we're experiencing now. Mark opens his gospel with "the beginning of the good news." Jesus calls us to continue his ministry. Thank you for trusting us to continue the good news!
35On that same 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 Jesus 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?"
39Jesus 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's Good News
As we number Sundays after the Day of Pentecost, the Church's Year of Grace continues in a 6-month long green and growing season of Ordinary Time. "Ordinary" is common to all of us; it's structured, organized, ordered with a regularity about it.
This event happens "on the same day" as the scattered seeds and mustard seed agricultural parables we discussed last week. Today's gospel reading brings us water and the word. And yes, that provides more than a hint of baptism's power to drown old established systems and summon the new creation. This same story's also in Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25; Mark, Matthew, and John include a related narrative of Jesus walking on water. The actual body of water in this reading is freshwater Lake Galilee, but Mark always calls it the Sea of Galilee. In the Old Testament a sea or ocean often is a symbol or sign of chaos and disorder. Untamed waters in Genesis 1 and in Psalm 104 are the womb of creation. You remember the sea of the Exodus. Noah's flood. Jonah's ocean. And quite a few rivers besides the iconic Jordan. Check out today's reading from Job 38:1-11.
Jesus tells everyone they're going "across to the other side." That other side was where mostly non-Jews lived. Including everyone by bringing outsiders into the inside is a particular hallmark of Jesus' ministry in Mark.
This meteorological event is a great storm surrounded by great (mega in Greek) fear, with Jesus' word leading to great – mega – calm. "Fear" here really is frightened, terrified, scared, and not the "awe" fear of Luther's Small Catechism and some Psalms. In today's gospel reading, Jesus' word that subdues the water is the same word he used to exorcise the demon.
• Mark 1:25 Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit
• Mark 4:39 Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind
Into a Future
In our families, affinity groups, and communities we often encounter borders and boundaries. As COVID-19 cases have lessened and vaccines have rolled out, cities and states in the USA have been opening to almost pre-pandemic normal. We're now at a border between COVID and post-COVID. "A world in the wake of COVID" probably would be more accurate than "post-COVID." People only can imagine what their places of business, schools, churches (and yes, families) will look like a few months from now. We know God has gone to our futures before us and waits for us there.
Mark's gospel was written down around the time of the destruction of the second Jerusalem Temple, which served as a cultural, social, economic, and religious landmark for everyone. The J-Temple was THE reference point for every Jew. No more temple meant the end of the world as they'd known it.
Without being too cliché and without risking a merely "metaphoric" reading of scripture, although paintings of this sea scene by Rembrandt and other artists picture Jesus and disciples in a smallish boat, this scriptural account approaches a cosmic scope that can encompass memories and hopes of the Temple and other establishments. No more temple meant the end of the world as Jesus followers had known it. In this year 2021, we easily could parallel environmental devastation, cyberhacking, racism, democracies struggling against totalitarian governments (you easily can add to this list) as the end of worlds we had known and expected to continue. In addition, it's no stretch to equate the destruction of the J-Temple with ways COVID-19 has changed the shape and extent of the world as we'd known it. On some level most of us expected most of our worlds to remain static and stable, with any disruptions being gradual and humanly manageable.
• Mark 4:38 They call the sleeping Jesus "teacher."
• Mark 4:41 After Jesus tames the storm, the disciples ask "Who is this?"
• Who is Jesus for us?
• Who are we for Jesus?