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6/21/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - The Third Sunday of Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:31 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:32 PM by Terry Brady ]
Let us pray:

“O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Amen
(Prayer #60, 1979 BCP)

Our Gospel lesson for today could not be more opportune. Not only are we experiencing far more thunderstorms than is usual in June, but we are in the midst of an economic storm in which many people feel they are sinking. Ever since 9/11, much in our world feels as though it has been turned upside down. Such was true that day for the disciples in the boat. The Sea of Galilee is both beautiful and dangerous. It is shallow and surrounded by high hills or mountains. When a storm arises it can cause a terrifying sea.

Let us look at it closely. Jesus asks them to take him to the other side of the sea and they did so, taking him just as he was. The storm arose and the boat was in danger. Meanwhile, Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat on a cushion, seemingly untroubled by the waves and wind. The disciples woke him up and challenged him, asking if he cared at all that they were in danger of dying. Jesus woke, calmly rebuked the sea, and all was quiet. He challenged their faith and fear, and the disciples were in awe that he could control even the violence of nature.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen, so it was odd that they panicked and did not do the normal bailing, lowering of sail, and rowing that they were accustomed to do. Instead of asking God to save them, a normal response to fear, they accused Jesus of not caring. His response was to use words of exorcism to calm the storm: “Peace! Be Still!” The disciples were anxious at that point for Jesus had demonstrated that he had power over demons and chaos, a power reserved for God alone! They had not yet understood that Jesus was the human face of God…the loving, saving, tender, ever-present God who created us for God’s delight.

We, too, experience fear during the storms of our lives. People are plagued by illness, depression, economic insecurity, painful relationships…the list of life experiences that produce anxiety and panic is long. We often, like the disciples, call out to God for help without having nurtured our relationship with the Holy One ahead of time. We are sure we are in control of our lives until something radical happens. At that point we try to pull God out for help, without the calming preparation of trusting faith. We treat God like an occasional genie in a box when we cannot control what is happening to us, rather than the one who is the source of all life. Frank Wade has said that:

“When we assert our authority over life we come against God’s greater authority. People, even people of great faith and piety, are not very good at recognizing the line between individual responsibility and God’s authority.”
(Whose Life is it? Francis Wade)

True faith is trust in God in the midst of the storm, not as an afterthought. Yes, we are to believe in ourselves. There is much data to affirm that self-confidence and optimism are essential qualities when trouble comes. God wants us to be responsible and brave and believes that we can be. However, as Frank Wade has said, we need to remember that, ultimately, God is in charge.

I have learned over the years that fear, anxiety, hurt, jealousy, anger and most strong emotions begin with the same feeling in our stomachs. Often we have not learned to trace those back, to find what has triggered them. As a consequence we respond inappropriately, often with anger, when our real issue is fear or hurt. One way to deal with these feelings, after we find their source, is to pull them out and look at them, to name them and expose them to air, by sharing them with one another and with God. In doing so they assume an appropriate proportion and we find that we can trust God and ourselves in the midst of the anxiety and pain.

In the Gospels, Jesus, as the human face of God, illustrates God’s power over demons, death, chaos, nature and disease. There is no question that God’s power overarches and grounds all that is, was and will be. At times God is accused of “sleeping” when our prayers are not answered as we wish. There is a story of a long time church organist whose daughter became ill. She asserted that if her child did not live she would never play the organ again. Her daughter died and she never again played an organ in church. (Copied)

I cannot believe in a God who chooses that this child will die and that child will live. That is a quixotic, puppeteer God that, for me, has little relationship to the God of love whom I worship. I believe in an ‘in-suffering’ God, one who suffers with us and never leaves us. God suffered with Jesus on the cross yet did no lift him off and end his pain. The promise has always been that God will be with us always, even unto the end of our lives and beyond. We were not promised freedom from pain, anxiety or suffering, only the constant love and companionship our Creator.

Let us, during these slower days of summer spend some time reconnecting with God through private prayer, worship and the love we experience with one another. Let us expose our demons to the Holy One and allow them to be exorcised and released. Let us, like those first disciples, finally, through the cross and Resurrection, come to a faith that sustains us every day of our lives. Those early Christians sustained many forms of persecution and death, yet it did not prevent them from spreading the Gospel to the ends of the known earth. Let us seek that same trust and relationship that will enable us, with God, to help to bring about the Kingdom. AMEN