June 20, 2021 The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s verses: Faith in the Dark
Job didn’t know the behind-the-scenes show down in the spiritual world that set up his sufferings. Children dead! Wealth gone! Painful disease! In these afflictions, it’s only natural for him to rage against heaven and demand an accounting for this extremely cruel treatment. After thirty-seven anguished filled chapters the Almighty shows up in our reading today in Job: 38:1-11. You really have to continue through the next three chapters featuring God’s intimidating awesomeness to appreciate this encounter’s climax, where the Lord basically says, “…I don’t answer to you.” Job repents in humility for overstepping his bounds and accusing God of injustice. Later, the Lord restores him in a double fold happy ending. Who knew? So, in times of trouble, how do you approach a mysterious all powerful Being whose very presence will blow you away? Well, you trust in His character, remember that He loves you, and ride out the storm with Him. In other words, you live by faith.
When it comes to living by faith, nothing compares with the ancient sailors. It takes a lot to place yourself at the mercy of the elements and push out onto the ocean on a floating wooden crate. But it’s out there, on the knife edge of danger, that God becomes all the more real, as our seamen discover in Psalm 107:23-31. Today’s reading starts out with its’ conclusion that those who go to the sea in ships have seen the works and wonders of the Lord in the deep. When the wind blows hard and the waters grow high, they know it’s under the Creator’s control. The storm hits. Their vessel rises like an express elevator over the top of a mountainous wave. They plummet into the dark abyss of its’ trough. It repeats over and over again. Tossing and turning in the black chaos, there is nothing left to do but hold on tight and with soiled pants call out over the roaring wind for God to save them. He hears. The storm is stilled. The waves are calmed. The stars come out. They fix their position and He guides them to port. Their wild ride is over and they give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness. You just can’t get this depth of faith sitting in your pew at church. Faith is not safe. We’ll see that as Jesus, in true Psalm 107 style, plumbs the depths of His disciple’s trust in our gospel reading today in Mark 4:35-41.
It was a long day of gathering crowds and parables. That evening, the Lord decided that it was time to apply His lessons and give the disciples an unforgettable practical exam. Dismissing His audience, an exhausted Jesus orders a night sailing to the shore on the other side and lays down on a cushion in the back of one of the boats. But, the weather on the Sea of Galilee is a tricky thing and shortly into the voyage a fierce storm arises. Waves slam and spill into their decks threatening to sink their little God ordained flotilla. They grow fearful and desperate. Over the gale force winds they cry out to Jesus, who apparently would be one of the few people in the world who could sleep in economy class. They wake Him up with a “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?” The Lord speaks. The wind stops. The sea becomes glass. Everyone on the water that night is hammered with the shocking realization that Jesus is even more formidable than the storm. “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Christ asks. No one says anything to Him, neither would we. The answer to our Lord’s question is found deep, unspoken, and gnawing in our hearts. But, if we scrutinize it, the “Does God care for me?” question becomes clearer.
For the Almighty, speaking the creation into existence was easy. Conquering sin and death to recreate us in His image was a little more involved. It took humility, sacrifice, and suffering, which the second Person of the Trinity gladly endured because the Godhead possesses the one key ingredient needed to go through with it all…love. It was the love the He had for His Father and for His Church that led Him to walk the difficult road of His life. At Gethsemane, because perfect love casts out all fear, He courageously accepted His Father’s will and went to Calvary. In love He asked for His executioners to be forgiven. It was love that held Him to the cross through the mocking and His agony until “It was finished”. He gave up His spirit, trusting His Father’s love would not leave Him in death. They placed Him in a tomb and that Sunday…He resurrected but, not just Him alone. Our reading in 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 tells us that we, His people, also rose again with Him so that we in Christ no longer live for ourselves. We are new creations with new perspectives controlled by the love of our Savior. It is in this reality of our new existence in Christ’s love, that we can confront and contend with the lifelong challenge of what it means to walk by faith.
Our wrestling with faith rests in the deep-seated instinct that we want to write our own stories with our own happy endings. When life deviates from our own narratives we collide head on with our new born again calling of “Thy will be done.” But, tested faith is our opportunity for spiritual growth. It’s all in the plan. In today’s readings the all too real terror of drowning that the disciples and our ancient sailors faced was more likely to happen than not. But, no matter the outcome, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. I am in the same boat with you.” Tragedies and injustices surround us and we are hard-pressed to reconcile them with a loving God, especially, like Job, when they become up close and personal. But the Lord insists by word and deed that He is in control and He truly does love us. We have to let God be God. He writes our stories. Faith is the marvelous adventure that the Holy Spirit orchestrates in our lives. No matter how difficult, our Savior promises to never leave or forsake us. Because of this, we can confidently rest in Proverbs 3:5-6:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Let God be in charge of your happy ending. Don’t worry! Fear not! Have faith!