by Maria Evans
I’m absolutely sure today’s Gospel is not an accident that Lectionary Lotto caused it to fall on Inauguration Day. The disciples are in a boat, and really, all they want to do is cross over to the other side. A storm blows up. It’s a pretty big, scary storm. The disciples look to Jesus, their leader, and what they see doesn’t help at all. The guy they trust–the guy who their gut says might be the only one who can do something about the storm–is cutting Z’s on a cushion, and honestly, it must have felt like he was totally asleep on the job. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Yet, when Jesus does wake up, what does he do? He rebukes the wind.
That simple phrase, perhaps, is our take home message today.
It’s probably an understatement to say the 2016 election season was a rather windy one, and it’s probably also safe to say that no matter which way a person voted, it was with the howling of a scary wind in their ears. No matter what point any of us in America occupied on the political spectrum, who we voted for, or whether we chose to stay home and not vote at all, it was influenced by a very scary wind–a wind that seemed to appear out of nowhere, A wind that sounded like it was going to sink our boat and kill us all–and for many, it still feels that way.
In a wind like that, the overwhelming tendency is to simply believe we have no agency, we have no choices except to duck, cover, protect ourselves–and blame someone. What Jesus does seems counterintuitive to an introvert like me. I suspect if I were asleep on that cushion, when the frightful sounds and the water woke me up, I would rather curl up more tightly in a ball and keep pretending I was asleep, and not have to deal with anyone else’s fear but my own. To name the tumult that scares us and rebuke it can feel as dangerous as the physical danger of the storm itself. Yet that’s what Jesus does.
Our Epistle (politically abhorrent as it is in spots) reminds us we still live in this physical world, with all its problems, with all its powers, and all its principalities. Yet, as Christians, we live in this world but no longer are fully of it. This tension demands we discern and self-differentiate, yet at the same time appeal to our higher authority–God–in prayer and action, and name the tension. This is why I took my bishop’s recent blog post to heart, and why, I think, when Jesus does wake up, he speaks directly to the sea and the wind.
We too, as followers of Jesus, are called to address the storms and rebuke them–not only with our words but with our lives.
When the winds and cacophony of the news media and social media make us afraid, we are to rebuke it. We have the agency of listening or not listening.
When the winds of oppression and injustice throw water into our boat, we are to rebuke it by respecting the dignity of every human being.
When the winds of our own fearful hearts and our unruly tongues are causing us to sink into ourselves, we are to rebuke it–and name it to God, and ask how we are to live differently.
As children of an incarnational God, we have more agency than we think–and it starts with the courage to stand up in the boat when the boat is rocking so badly one can barely stand at all, while calling the wind and sea by name. We are all in this boat together, and we are called to be with each other’s fears in the name of the One who can stand up to all fears. Thanks be to God.
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a transitional Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.