It’s been a long day of teaching and working the crowds. He tells the disciples to load up the boat and to get ready for a trip across the Galilean lake. And they all go aboard…
taking Jesus along “just as he was.” Nothing extraordinary in this: the experienced fishermen-disciples take up their stations at oar and sail; the exhausted rabbi rests his head on the pillow in the stern. He trusts his companions to do what they know how to do…steer their way safely across the waters to the country of the Gerasenes. (Check it out in Mark 4:35-41.)
So why, in the midst of a storm, do these experienced boaters cry out to Jesus? Have they never worked through the suddenness and violence of a wind-swept Galilee? Of course, they have. Does their new-found relationship to Jesus expunge from them every bit of knowledge they brought along from their previous careers? No. I struggle to find an adequate explanation for their behavior…including their willingness to indict their Teacher on the grounds that he simply does not care for them simply because he has taken a much needed nap. What’s going on here?
Maybe this: We often think about faith from only a human perspective…asking questions of ourselves and others about whether or not we have faith in Jesus or faith in God or faith in God’s plan for our lives. Sometimes we might even be so thoughtful as to wonder about whether or not we have the faith of Jesus…that daring, radical trust in God’s favor and power.
But I wonder if this particular text isn’t also (maybe even mostly) about glimpsing God’s faith in us. These disciples, to whom Jesus has explained everything, are entrusted with their own roles to play in Christ’s announcement and enactment of the coming Kingdom of God. Jesus himself apparently trusts them enough to let them do what they already know how to do…safely drive the boat…so that he can do what he needs to do. Unfortunately, they seem unwilling or unable.
Dear sisters and brothers: God has not created us without gifts and abilities. Holy Trinity is a community blessed with smart, faithful people and abundant resources. The reach of our ministry has actually grown over the last year…not in ways we expected, of course, but grown nonetheless. Yet sometimes we seem not to see that growth and those marvelous assets. Sometimes we hesitate to take up those gifts and abilities for the sake of the kingdom work entrusted to us. Why? Well…maybe we’re worn out after more than a year of pandemic illness, isolation, and uncertainty. Maybe we are afraid of doing the wrong thing, and we don’t want to get chastised for our mistakes. Maybe we just don’t want the responsibility that comes with being a mission team and not a club or a consumer product or a pretty building. Whatever the reason, our faith seems at times to fail us…just like those first disciples.
But God does not fail us, and God’s faith in us and love for us does not waver. I believe that God continues to trust that we can do what we have been gifted and sent to do.
Recognizing God’s faith in us is especially important at this moment in time. We are beginning (at last!) to emerge from the pandemic, and we do so into a world that has changed. All the new things we’ve learned…all the new folks we’ve met…all the changes we’ve needed to make are now a part of what some folks refer to as the new
normal. And we need to be prepared to meet that new normal and to be church within that context. It’s hard work.
But some things have not and will not change. We still have the good news of a Crucified and Risen Lord who demonstrates clearly that sin and death do not get the last word. We still rely on the unrelenting grace of God which reaches to us in the transformative love of God’s Holy Spirit. And we still offer a vital and purposeful way of being in the world to a world which searches desperately for such hope.
Now is the time, dear friends, to grab hold of the oars…to take up the mission we have been given…to re-double our commitment to moving beyond the building and into the community by whatever means we have in order to invite, welcome, and connect our neighbors to Christ’s saving work. We are at a moment of preparation for the next great era of what it means to be church.
Yes…the storm still rages. Yes…some days we will be afraid. But even stronger than the storms around us or the fear within us is the constancy of God’s love for us and God’s purpose for us to bear good news to the world. What a great time to be the Church!