The readings for today are at The Lectionary Page.
Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *
when brethren live together in unity!
We seem to have missed the mark on this one.
White Christians killing black Christians,
Armed cops killing unarmed citizens.
Everybody, squabbling about marriage, money, and who has the power.
Even within ourselves, we are broken.
We are not whole, and our communities are not whole. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of a storm maybe more than one.
Today’s readings offer us a storm on the Sea of Galilee. In Mark 4:35.41, Jesus had finished up some teaching and wanted to head east towards the region of the Gerasenes, He and the disciples set out on the sea, along with some other boats. Everybody in the ancient world knew that there were monsters in the sea. It’s a dangerous place, and the Sea of Galilee is still known for it’s frequent squalls. You can imagine the terror that the disciples must have felt when the boat started taking on water. But, where was Jesus? Jesus was asleep. He wasn’t even helping bail water.
We don’t know what kinds of conversations the disciples had before they woke Jesus up. They may have been angry that he was sleeping, hoping that he would wake up, trying to handle things themselves. We just don’t know. What we do know is that they finally said, “Jesus! Don’t you care about us? We could die!”
If we are honest, most of us have wondered where God is and why God doesn’t do something. Why, for example didn’t God prevent the shooting in Charleston, or anywhere else for that matter? Why doesn’t God quiet the storms in our communities, or the ones in our families, or the storms in our hearts that keep us up at night? It can seem like God is asleep. “Where are you?” we ask.
Well, God is in the boat with us, in the storm, just like he was that night on the Sea of Galilee.
I do not know how Jesus got those waves to be still on that night long ago, nor do I know how to quiet any other storms. I know this: God is with us, and that is enough.
I want to share another story with you, it is a story about the apostle Paul. Paul started a church in a city called Corinth. I am pretty sure that he started this church the same way he started a lot of churches. But something happened in Corinth. Things went wrong. We don’t know exactly what it was, but I imagine that things were said, feelings were hurt, somebody got mad, relationships broke down.
Hearing about these troubles, Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth. His solution is not to smooth over these divisions. There will be no sweeping it all under the carpet. He spoke to them plainly about a range of issues. It is his last word of advice, though, that seems most instructive:
“…our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.”
Open wide your hearts. By putting it in the context of his own open heart, Paul is saying be open with those you are in conflict with, be vulnerable in your community, be honest with one another. We all like to think that our hearts are open when it is just us and God. It is something else entirely to open your heart to another, especially if that one has hurt you, or you have hurt them. It would seem, though, that this mutual vulnerability is the way forward.
There was no mutual vulnerability between David and Goliath. We are supposed to read this as a story between good and evil, though David is not exactly a good guy. By the end of his life he will have been a murderer, a rapist, a bandit, and those are the things we know about. For today, though, he is just a cheeky lad, spouting off to his big brother, confident that God is with him.
David threw off convention, discarded Saul’s protective gear, and faced the giant Goliath with only what God had given him, plus five smooth stones from the riverbed. He prevailed against the surprised giant.
There are giants all around us, and some of them seem unbeatable. But, you don’t have to be particularly strong, or well-liked, or even very good to defeat a giant. Whether it’s a racist society or an unruly heart, giants fall everyday when they are confronted honestly, with open hearts, and the innocent confidence of a child. We don’t have to sweep things under the rug and go on pretending that everything is alright. None of the readings this morning give us that message. Each of these stories tell us to honestly confront our giants, raging storms, and unhappy divisions. Look them in the eye, be brave as a child, and watch them fall!
Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when giants fall.