Third Sunday after Pentecost -- Proper 7B (6/21/2009)

Who then is this, that eventhe wind and the sea obey him?

Lessons:     Job 38:1-11     Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32     2 Corinthians 6:1-13     St. Mark 4:35-41     Semicontinuous Series:         1 Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49         Psalm 9:9-20

Prayer of the Day:     O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 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?" 39 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. 40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41 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?" 

St. Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

You have certainly heard the story of Job. It's a very familiar story. He is a wealthy man, with ten children, 7,000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 oxen and 500 donkeys. Most of all, he is a faithful man. He loves God. Yet through a troubling series of circumstances, God allows Job to be tested. Calamity after calamity strikes. Job loses everything: his children, his animals and his servants. Finally, he loses his health.

Enter, then, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar - Job's friends and counselors. They sit in silence with him for seven days and seven nights, not speaking a word (do you have friends who care that much?). Finally Job speaks, cursing the day he was born. His friends try to blame him: to suggest that some unrevealed sin is the reason these things have happened to him. But Job holds to his guns. He claims to be innocent - that his suffering is undeserved. This goes on for thirty-five chapters! Finally, God speaks out of the whirlwind.

God's words are troubling. They seem arrogant and condescending. For four chapters God goes on, providing an image of a God who is awesome, majestic and powerful. In comparison, Job is but a speck of dust. The final result of God's address to Job is found in the 42nd chapter: Job confesses. He continues to hold that his high moral standards ought to have been rewarded with happiness. But when faced with the power of God, as evident in the whirlwind out of which God speaks, Job humbles himself and finds renewal. It is a story that communicates the power of God, and the need for the faithful to stand humbly in God's presence.

The power of God is evident in this week's Gospel lesson as well. Early on, Jesus is in Capernaum (his home, according to Mark 2:1). They are in a home, and it is filled with people. A paralytic is lowered through the roof and Jesus heals him. A man with a withered hand is healed as well, and pretty soon the crowd is so thick you can't get anywhere near him. He sets out in a boat, and begins to teach the people from a few feet out. After a long time of teaching and preaching, Jesus instructs his followers to row the boat across to the other side.

A this point the power of God once again becomes evident. By Jesus' word, a great storm is stilled, the hearts of those traveling with him in the boat are calmed, and their ultimate response is one of shock: "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Who is this indeed! No less than the Son of God. No less than the King of kings. No less than the One who is and who was and who will be to come. On that stormy afternoon, Jesus shows his followers that they need fear no evil, for God is with them, to comfort and to calm and to protect them.

And with us as well. Many times, life's journey resembles a storm at sea: when health fails or death is near, when marriage and parenting become a challenge, when making a witness to our faith puts us at considerable risk, when standing up for what is right makes us stand out from the crowd... in those times, we may feel as though the waves are crashing and the boat is sinking. Yet we don't travel alone along life's journey. We travel, accompanied by the presence of Christ, who stilled the seas and calmed the hearts of his followers, and promises to do so for you and me today. Thanks be to God for that good news! Amen.

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. What kind of storm must it have been, to frighten fishermen who spent their lives on the water?
  2. Given what they had already seen Jesus do, why were they afraid in the boat?
  3. How must Jesus' actions have become a reassurance to them, even many years later?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. What particular storms are passing through my life right now?
  2. How will I turn them over to God, and trust that God will guide me through them?
  3. How might I become an instrument of strength and comfort for someone else experiencing a stormy time?