1.22.2021 – Homily
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’Mark 4:35-41
Does this passage have anything to say about our current day politics, God’s rule and reign, and our response?
First, a quick word from NT Wright, Anglican Bishop and scholar:
“the Jews were not a seafaring people; they left that to their Phoenician neighbours to the north. The sea came to symbolize, for them, the dark power of evil, threatening to destroy God’s good creation, God’s people, God’s purposes. In books like Daniel, the sea is where the monsters come from.”Wright, N. T.. Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 52). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
The story of the Storm and the boat has a few symbolic tones. For one, we think of how the Jews viewed the sea: as a dark, evil power who needed to be subdued and conquered. There are a number of Psalms and Old Testament passages depicting how God delivered His people from the evil waters: the exodus and parting of the sea, Jonah and the big fish, Jesus walking on water.
All of these stories point to a second reality: the God-made-flesh sleeping in the boat is the One who created atmospheric pressure, the sun, rotation….which impacts wind and rain, waters and waves. The Creator napping is the One who has sovereign rule over all of creation. Here’s the point: God’s kingdom is at hand with all the power needed to speak life and order from chaos and death.
On Thursday, January 20th, 2021, if you’re a republican who wanted Trump to win, you feel like you’re in a boat and there’s a storm that’s about to affect the economy, the stock market, and the policies you believe in deeply. You might even be afraid and angry.
On Thursday, January 20th, 2017, if you’re a democrat who wanted Trump to lose, you felt like you’re in a boat there was a storm that was about to affect the policies you’ve been fighting for, mourning the Obama administration era coming to a close, and wondering what’s going to happen to the leadership in this country. You might even be afraid and angry.
I’m not as smart as some political and economic strategists and consultants are. My life is but a blip, a grain of sand compared to the big dynamics happening in Washington or on the news channels. But as a chaplain who listens to leaders and employees discuss their fears and longings, I think about what the Gospels have to say about our current day realities.
In both January 20th days, Jesus was in the boat listening to his disciples share their fears and anger. Jesus was speaking peace to the storm and telling sailors to not be afraid. More so, Jesus was rhetorically asking when they were going to stop by afraid and to have some real faith?
Whatever political spectrum boat you find yourself rocked in today, the Creator is speaking peace over the storm and is telling is not to be afraid. To have real faith.
Have the kind of faith that will trust God to rule and reign over your business, finances, but mostly your heart. Guard your heart from fear and anger. Guard it from pessimism and polarization. You and I have lived through different administrations and as we submit to God’s rule and reign, will God not speak peace over our storms? Will God not call us to a deeper trust?
Like the disciples, when I disagree with policies and personalities, I get angry and afraid. I might lash out. I might criticize. I might bemoan. And I’ve had to repent several times. I’m not always right. But I’m trying to get it right.
Lord of Creation, we offer up to you our anger and fears, our hopes and desires. We ask that you speak peace over our political storms and call us into a real faith that submits to your Lordship, your rule and reign. Amen.