A sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, Texas
the Lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
A few years ago, in the good old days when meeting up with a big group of friends for coffee was a typical activity, I was sitting with some good folks conversing about nothing specific as we just enjoyed our beverages and each other’s company in the cozy setting of our local cafe. One of the ladies that I know fairly well had just made a lovely statement about being an image bearer of God. The various conversations around our table quieted as it seemed everyone was pondering the depth of her casual comment. And then someone began to laugh and said, “well if we are created in God’s image then God is a cranky middle aged woman.” And everyone laughed and resumed their previous sentences and thoughts.
Of course the thought that went scrolling through my head is “nope, that’s creating God in your image” and I’ve always wondered if I should have spoken up in that moment but being a priest in that kind of social situation is always tricky and so I decided that it wouldn’t have been productive at all to correct her publicly even if I could have pulled it off as a witty and friendly comment. People would have responded to anything I said as a priestly correction instead of me just voicing my beliefs as they all were. Anyone else around the table could have said what I was thinking and it wouldn’t have brought the gathering to an abrupt halt.
But this moment wasn’t a wasted moment – God has brought good fruit from it as I’ve seen in myself where I was painting God in my image rather than discovering the image of God in me.
In our gospel reading today, we are continuing our walk through the good news story as told by Mark and the bit we are given today that helps us discover how we see God is best understood in light of the what comes before and after it. So, I’m going to give us the bookends to today’s reading:
If you recall, last week the gospel reading was about seeds and growth and provision – a little mustard seed is so much more than what it seems to be at first, just like the parables Jesus uses to teach.
After all this talk of seeds and the purpose of parables, Jesus decides to take a boat ride with the disciples to the other side of the lake, just a he was. Did you catch that part? The disciples took Jesus in their boats: just as he was.
In all the years I’ve known this part of the story, I can honestly say I’ve never noticed those four words before. One of the amazing and life-giving things about God’s word that we have in our Bible is that when we go to it with an open heart and mind, we are given something new. I know these four words have been there all along, but in this time, they are new to me.
They took him into their boats, the Jesus they thought they knew so well, to sail to the other side of a lake they’d been fishing on and walking the shores of their whole lives. They knew this lake well, too. They knew that sudden, dangerous squalls were common and they knew how to navigate in these storms to safety.
And, Jesus, taking advantage of a little down time, decides to take a nap. Our bodies need rest and taking time off was God’s idea to begin with, right? So Jesus is napping. And a storm envelopes them. These men who had navigated probably hundreds of these storms in their life wake Jesus with the accusation that Jesus doesn’t care.
Having grown up with a hobby fisherman, I know the drama with which fishermen like to embellish their stories, something that has apparently been around a long time.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Without hesitation, Jesus calms the wind and the waves. And then he turns to them as says, “why were you afraid? Where is your faith?”
These men hadn’t been working with Jesus for very long at this point, but they had seen him heal people and make them new; they had heard him speak about growth and God’s provision.
I think Jesus’ question about faith is two fold: Don’t you believe in what you’ve already seen me do? AND Don’t you yet believe that you will do amazing things with me? Jesus is asking them where is their faith in God AND where is their faith in their ability with God’s help to do what Jesus has called them to do.
But, before we get into that a bit more, I first want to share what comes after today’s reading because even though I’ll be with y’all next week, the lectionary skips over the next bit that so beautifully frames today’s part of the story. Let me tell you the story:
As they arrive on the opposite shore, they encounter a man possessed by a legion of demons. Jesus speaks and the demons leave the man and enter a herd of pigs who then rush over a cliff to their death.
The disciples weren’t the only witnesses. The people tending the pigs witnessed what had happened and at first they were in awe of Jesus power to restore this man to wholeness and wellness. And then they turn on Jesus because of the pigs. Perhaps they had flashes of what God renewing power would mean for their own lives and weren’t ready for such change. Perhaps they just weren’t capable of seeing anything in a new way. And so they rewrote the story so it sounded like Jesus was out to get the pigs and told Jesus to leave and never return.
They see Jesus for who they need him to be so that they don’t have to change who they are. They aren’t seeing Jesus as he is.
When the disciples are sailing through the storm, they get mad at Jesus because he is letting them do what they are good at. Jesus wan’t a fisherman, he had been trained as a carpenter. And so he trusts the fishermen enough to sleep while they navigate. But this trusting Jesus isn’t enough for them. They need to see him disturbed by the storm just as they are. they aren’t seeing Jesus for who he is but who they are comfortable with him being.
Jesus calms the storm but he doesn’t call any of us to be passive passengers in the boat. We all have something to contribute to the bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We have to trust, have faith in God to provide what we need to do what God calls us to do AND we have to believe in our own God given abilities, skills, talents, and treasure to participate with God as we travel across the lake.
When the disciples first got in the boat with Jesus they saw him as they thought they knew him. Perhaps they saw him as they wanted him to be. They saw him as he was to them at that point in time.
And then they saw him in a new way. They saw Jesus speak to the natural elements and to demons. And then they saw others not see Jesus as he is and I wonder if they, like I did, want to correct the Garasenes image of Jesus and yet used the situation to deepen their own view of Jesus?
Where in our own lives do we settle for seeing Jesus as we thought we knew him when we first encountered him?
Where in our own lives do we create God in our own image so that we don’t have to grow and change?
Where have we rewritten the story so we can maintain our comfort zone?
Where in our own lives has God shown us a new glimpse into who God is and who we are in relationship with God?
Where has Jesus calmed our storm so that we are open to letting our knowing of God be made new?
Jesus meets each of us where we are and we take him in our boat as he is. And as we follow Jesus we come to know who God is and who we are in God’s image, as God created us to be, participants in the Kingdom on earth as in heaven. Amen.