‘When Storms Matter’

Posted: June 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

Pentecost 5B June 24, 2018
I Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49        Mark 4:35-41

‘When Storms Matter’

Goliath stood huge in his stocking feet, wore a massive collar, big enough to go around several dog’s necks, a great helmet and a waist belt big enough to saddle a horse with. When he put his full armour on, he looked like a Transformer of skyscraper size. Built like a Sherman tank when stripped to the bare essentials, he had plenty to carry around, and flesh and bones were the least of it. There was a sense of the great burden of having to defend his title against all comers. He was the great defender, the mighty warrior and there was a sense of the mangled remains of the runners-up. The burden was expressed when he tried to think something out, because it was like struggling through a bog up to his hips, and when he tried to explain something, it was like pushing a truck uphill. His dark moods were leaden and his light moods like carrying an elephant on his shoulders. He would have considered underarm deodorants a sign of effeminacy.

The stone from David’s slingshot caught him between the eyes, and when he hit the dirt, windows rattled in their frames as far away as Ashkelon. The mighty had fallen to the ground, the world was ending. The ringing in his ears drowned out the catcalls of the onlooking armies, and his vision was all but shot, but he could still see enough to make out the naked figure of a boy running toward him through the scrub. The boy’s hair streamed out behind him like copper, and he was as swift and light-footed as a deer. As David straddled Goliath with Goliath’s sword in his hand, the giant believed that what he was seeing was his own soul stripped of the unwieldy flesh at last for its journey to paradise, and when David presented the severed head to Saul later, there was an unmistakable smile on its great lips.

In the storms of life, regardless of what we name the mystery our God is with us. Facing impossible odds, we receive divine guidance and energy. Trusting in our God, we can do greater things than we can imagine. The impossible becomes possible as we tap the deeper energies of the universe be it seeking to name them or give them anthropomorphic shape and concept to explain our human agency. Miracles that don’t violate the nature’s law; nature’s power and the powers residing in us are often more than we can imagine. Faith, Hope and Trust open us to quantum leaps of power, inspiration, and energy. What we name as God’s grace is sufficient for us to respond to every crisis. Even though we appear weak, we are strong in Creative love.

What child doesn’t love the story of David and Goliath, described in I Samuel 17. It accommodates instinct in that there is violence in the victory, and this story is an inspiration for the “Bully and the bullied” within each of us. The underdog defeats the villain, the bully gets what’s coming to him, the weak defeat the strong. Yet, beyond the real violence of the story – the Goliath who is vanquished and beheaded – a deeper message may be found. Beyond the violence, beyond the destructive instinctive purely humanistic response there is more. When we trust in this mystery we name God, and I might name Creativity itself, we can respond with courage and strength to the forces that threaten to defeat us. We do not need to accept violence as a natural human activity. Power belongs to the creativity we find in serendipity, ambiguity and the unexpected and dare I say it the satirical, and this suggests that our alignment is not with bullies, oppressors, and those who would plan evil. There is a way when there is no way and we progressives know this as ‘The Jesus Way’. In Creativity God we are inspired to be agents in our own destiny and co-creators with the divine.

The challenge for us in our story is that we are called to be compassionate toward Goliath. He was a tool of the opponent. Perhaps, gigantic as a result of a genetic abnormality, the adversarial mode, the instinctive primitive brain, the military response gave him status and income, and delivered him from social ostracism as a result of his size. He became a victim of culture and of evil. Fighting was all he knew, and bluster and bloviation were his meal ticket. Perhaps, Goliath hoped for a quiet life, far away from the battlefield. But, his destiny was to fight and sadly to die. In the end he is more a victim than a villain in this story.

In Psalm 9 which we did not read today God’s preferential option is for the poor and vulnerable. The oppressor’s days are numbered. Prayers will be answered. We will be liberated from those who unfairly treat us. God will deliver the weak from the snare, and the impoverished from the unjust. We will rise. The catch in this, or the moment of awareness, is that God’s timetable differs from our own. Patience will be required and we have it. The patience to let the moral arc of history emerge in its patient and persistent way? Here is our understanding of the nature of evolution which is in its free serendipitous uncertain and random being our very certainty. Our finiteness in infinity as the science of the quantum might say.

And then we come to our epistle. Again, the dichotomy as Paul proclaims that now is the day of salvation. Today is the day of healing and transformation, confirming that healing and transformation often appear under their opposites. Paul and his companions are described as externally powerless and the objects of scorn. They are of no account and subject to the whims of the powerful. They have nothing. Yet, beneath the persecution and contempt, they are empowered by God’s presence. They possess an inner joy that flows from their trust in God. Their joy is not the result of external circumstances but their relationship with the Living God, revealed in the suffering and resurrected Christ. Salvation and healing are real, and contemporary, regardless of the circumstances of life. We are encouraged in reading this, to look with imagination and confidence for the presence of mystery – to seek the peace that calms and empowers – despite what we are currently enduring. We have everything we need to experience this and our sustenance our way through and beyond adverse circumstances.

Finally, we find Mark describing Jesus’ ability to still the storms of life as well as the storms of nature. The disciples panic when a sudden windstorm rocks their boat, filling their craft with water. In their fear, they call upon Jesus, whose calm voice stills the storm. There are two storms described in this story – the first is the storm at sea, our relationship with that which is beyond our immediate control, the external realities that might put us at risk. The passage proclaims God’s ability to work within the forces of nature to bring health and peace to the planet. The cosmic purpose is about the reality of creativity and change, there is always the movement from what was to what might be, yet, stilling the storm seems a fantasy for those in the path of hurricanes and tidal waves. In an interdependent universe, we have some effect on the forces of nature, we acknowledge this in our acceptance of some responsibility for climate change. and perhaps in the tradition of rainmakers and shaman, Jesus’ own spiritual power and synchronicity with nature could have influenced the course of a storm. Still, we know it is best – during severe storms – to pray for sunshine and find a place of safety!

For many of us as congregations in the western world and in countries where the secular has been strong, the storm at sea is more existential than meteorological. The storms we face involve budget and membership. We fear what will happen to us; we wander if our congregation will survive the changes in the spiritual landscape and our own aging demographics. We wonder what will happen to St David’s Community of Faith because of the need to save old buildings, what will happen to the value of St David’s in a post secular world. The second storm Jesus addresses is the inner tumult, the fear and anxiety within each of us and our institutions. A fishing prayer goes, “The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” Dwarfed by the grandeur of the universe and the challenges that confront us, we appear to be powerless. We are uncertain if our lives matter or if the universe cares for us. An alternative version of the saying gives us another perspective, the sea is God’s sea, not an indifferent force, the sea may be huge but it is dependent on each one of us. God’s sea ultimately will bring us homeward with waves of healing.

As we read this story, we can see two miracles described. The first is the inner miracle. When the disciples remember Jesus is in the boat, they are still fearful, but they are no longer hopeless. They sense that Jesus’ love and power is greater than their fear. Their attitude toward the storm begins to change: yes, this is a difficult situation and we are in trouble, but God is with us and we’re going to make it. The second miracle is the pacifying of the storm. According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is so in synch with the energies of the universe that by his energetic word he can calm the storm. Here we have the synergy with the very creation story of old, Jesus seems to set up another type of vibration, strong enough to neutralize the destructive impact of the storm. In summary then, today’s readings remind us that despite our apparent weakness, we can experience newfound courage and strength when we trust Creativity God’s loving power. The storms of life will not cease, bullies may continue to threaten us, and external factors may put us at risk, but nothing in all creation can separate us from the love or the power of love that has its roots in Creativity itself. That which we see as the Jesus Way and that which we might name Creativity God. Amen.

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