Peace!

A sermon, based on Mark 4.35-41 and 1 Samuel 17.1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost, June 24, 2018

When Jesus inaugurated his ministry, he declared, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand.”(1) Soon after, he recruited disciples. Soon after, he began to teach and preach, perform healings and miracles. Jesus, empowered, enflamed by God’s Spirit, compelled by God’s call, God’s claim on his life, was in a mighty hurry.

Jesus Teaching by the Seashore

After teaching all day by the seashore, “when evening had come”, he says, “Let us go across to the other side.” Immediately. And giving no reason. And “just as he was,” that is, with no preparation.

If I had been one of his disciples, especially at this early stage of his ministry when, though fascinated by this charismatic person, I was striving, struggling to figure him out, and, as a fisherman familiar with the turbulent nature of the sea, I might (no, I would!) have begged: “Jesus, let’s wait until daylight. Please!”

But, no, at his command, off they go, scrambling aboard several boats, pushing off from the shore, a convoy heading across the sea. A great storm rises, the wind blowing hard against the sails. Rowing with all their might, they make no progress. The waves spill into the boats. Bailing is useless. Fear seizes, strangles whatever embryonic faith they possess.

(What a contrast to David! Facing the coming storm known as Goliath of Gath “whose height was six cubits and a span”, standing somewhere between six-and-a-half and seven feet, who terrorized King Saul and the armies of Israel, David declared with triumphal trust in God, “The Lord who saved me from the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine.”)

The disciples awaken Jesus. After a day of exhausting teaching, he is asleep. (Surely, a sign that, though divine, Jesus was…is human, but I digress!)

Now, I don’t know how he could sleep or why the disciples waited so long to awaken him. If I had been there, I would have had him up at the first breath of wind, the first rise of the waves: “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”

And Jesus, who is the peace of oneness with God, creator of heaven and earth, doesn’t calm the storm. That would be like trying to appeal to an angry spirit or David trying to appease the violent Goliath. No. As David struck down the giant, Jesus overpowers the storm. As God, in the beginning of creation, spoke and all things came to be,(2) Jesus speaks, “Peace! Be still!” And, instantly, as great was the storm, now great is the calm.

Jesus Stilling the Tempest, James Tissot (1836-1902)

Jesus rebukes his disciples for their lack of faith and they, “filled with great awe,” fear and reverence, can only wonder: “Who is this?”

Sometimes, I wonder about the first disciples and us.

They walked and talked with Jesus. They heard him teach and preach. They saw him perform healings and miracles. They were rescued from the storm. Nevertheless, they, filled with faithless fear, questioned and doubted…

So, what hope do we have? We who are subject to the powers of angry winds, violent rain, tempestuous seas, bellowing volcanoes, diseases of body, mind, and soul. We who are susceptible not only to natural calamities, but also destruction at the hands of human evil. How many before us have cried, now cry, and, in time to come, will cry for relief, yet hear no word, “Peace! Be still!”?

As a disciple of Jesus, I confess that I desire a pain-and-stress-and-danger-free life. Yet in this life pain, stress, and danger always, like the kingdom of God, are at hand. Thus, by faith, I trust Jesus who, throughout his earthly ministry and unto this day, always is crossing the sea. This, for me, is a metaphor for connecting whatever divides. Jesus always is crossing the spiritual divide between the righteous and the unrighteous. Jesus always is crossing the sociopolitical divide between the rich and the poor. Jesus always is crossing the physical divide between the well and the sick. Jesus, in challenging the authorities who sought to maintain the status quo of division between the powerful and the powerless, climbed up on the cross and stretched out his arms spanning the chasm between his life and death. And Jesus, in his resurrection, proclaims the good news that he bridges everything that dares divide us, even our fear of death.

Therefore, I have faith in Jesus that come what may, come whene’er, come howe’er, whether sunshine or shadow, joy or sorrow, I, you, we, in him, have peace.

I planned to end the sermon here, but a real-world experience comes to mind; one that, though many years ago, for me, confirmed then and confirms still the real presence of this peace of Jesus.

I was on a flight to Atlanta to attend a conference in the company of the Right Reverend Quintin Ebenezer Primo, Jr., then Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago and one of my earliest mentors. The skies were turbulent. The flight, rocky. I hated flying. (Still do!) I was terrified. Bishop Primo was fast asleep, his arms folded in peaceful repose. We hit an air pocket and the plane suddenly dropped. Stirring, Bishop Primo looked over at me and into my eyes wide with fear, saying, “Have faith”, and then went back to sleep! I marveled at his trust, his confidence. I asked him later how he could be so calm in the midst of the storm. He said, in words I’ve never forgotten: “I was blessed to be born. One day, I will die and I will be blessed to enter the fullness of eternity. And, trusting in my destiny, I am blessed by every moment I am given in between.”

I’ve never known anyone like Bishop Primo. One who knew, embraced and embodied, breathed the peace of Jesus. And one day, in spite of myself, I will have it, too!

 

Footnotes:
(1) Mark 1.14-15
(2) Genesis 1.1-27

Illustrations:
Jesus Teaching by the Seashore, James Tissot (1836-1902)
Jesus Stilling the Tempest, James Tissot

3 thoughts on “Peace!

  1. Paul, I just love this story!!!! I remember the first time I heard you tell that story about being on that turbulent flight and the words spoken by the then Suffragan Bishop, I just laughed and laughed. BUT reading his words again today I feel a sense of energy!! We just have to embrace every moment of this life, the highs and lows, joys and sorrow, love, hate and forgiveness….

    I’d say we are in the midst of a huge storm in our world today. But my faith tells me that Jesus may still have been sleep ini the boat as the storm rages, confident that all would be well if we just hear “Peace, be still”…. I’ll take solace in the fact that we can find peace in the midst of any storm…. Today I went out to Joy and sat for a bit to find my Peace. It’s where I can be Still and look out the window. Even though I was only “camping” in my driveway I still felt the peace overtake me as soon as I closed the door!

    I continue to pray that our crazy world will stabilize as opposed to more strangeness each and every day with endless tweets. This sermon reminds me to think of Jesus in that boat, sound asleep without a care in the world, knowing that in spite of the storm and the darkness all was going to be well.

    Much Love!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loretta, the image of you sitting in Joy “camping in your driveway” is a perfect one for me, matching the image of Jesus asleep in the boat amidst the storm. For it is that your hope and prayer “that our crazy world will stabilize”, too, mirrors for me the kind of confidence Jesus could have to allow him to sleep whilst all about him was raging.

    You comment raises another immediate thought for me…

    I wonder. When the disciples asked, doubtless, screaming, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”, it seems to me that they had imagined only one outcome. Death. So, at the very least, they wanted Jesus to be awake with them to behold their mutual fate of succumbing to the deep waters. So, what if Jesus, in rebuking the storm, did something so far outside their comprehension (in other words, they couldn’t conceive of any end other than death) that they were stunned and only could ask, “Who is this?” And what if the outcome of Jesus having rebuked the storm and their lives being sparred was so far beyond anything for which they could have hoped that they were more terrified with the potentialities and possibilities of what that meant. In others words, I think I’m going to die. You save me. Now, what else…what more will be demanded of me and my life, of me in my life because my life was spared?

    So, could it be that we and all folk of good will, in our daily living, are called to engage this crazy, stormy world just as it is – perhaps not stabilizing or calming down – and to pronounce, in our words and deeds of love, “Peace! Be still!”? What if it’s our job?

    Now, that’s a sobering thought!

    Love

    Like

    1. Oh WOW!! YES it is a sobering thought… that we continue to as you say “carry on” in spite of it all… Hmmmm, maybe so!!!!! I’ll be pondering that question this week!!

      Thanks for that!! Love!!

      Liked by 1 person

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