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The Rev. Jennifer Adams- July 1, 2018

Proper 7B: 1 Samuel 17:1-49, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41

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 windstorm 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)

What if all we heard in this gospel story was around the phrase, “Peace, be still.” I wonder if we can do that? “The wind ceased,” the gospel said. “And there was dead calm.” Peace. Still. Calm. What if those were the words we took from this story? I wonder if we can do that? I hope that we want to do that.

Because we know the storm, right? We all do. We’re familiar whether we want to be or not with the kind of storms that take a hold of our worlds and frighten even the most skilled among us. We know of the “gales” as one Biblical translation puts it, that scare us in the most familiar of settings when the boats we’ve come to know get, in Markian terms, “swamped.” We’ve been there. Some of us are there.

That’s what happened to these disciples. Remember that several of them were very skilled fishermen who had made their living on the water. They knew the sea well because they’d grown up on it and shaped their lives around it. The sea had also shaped them. These disciples could navigate their way through just about anything that could happen on the water and they very likely took some appropriate pride in those skills. “Weathering it” was not a new thing for these guys. They weren’t naïve to the challenges of crossing over. But in this story, the disciples honestly thought they were perishing. Those were the words they spoke out loud. “We are perishing,” they said. They were literally, in their own mind and hearts, life-threateningly swamped.

And we know the storm. We all know the storm, right? There’s a pattern in this gospel that goes something like this:

Healing. Storm.

Feeding. Crossing over.

Wholeness. Storm.

Healing. Storm.

Continued…

And it’s true for us too no matter how hard we fight it. As one of my favorite authors explains on any given day in this place and in this world, there are some among us who are feasting; we have things to celebrate. There are some who are crossing over; we’ve just gotten in the boat. There are some here and everywhere who are experiencing a healing; a form of new life has come! And there are others are watching the waves come over the edges; we’re not sure whether or not we’ll even make it to the other side.

But remember that no matter where you are in the gospel story, remember that Jesus was in the boat. He was healing those who needed healing, He was blessing and breaking the bread. And Christ was in the boat.

And in another of the “storm narratives” which we’ll hear soon, Jesus walked across the water and got into the boat. Because in that story too, the very same, very skilled and experienced disciples were watching the waters pour over the edges and they were again frightened to their core! And in both stories, Jesus offered peace (which he did on land too.) And Jesus spoke to them of stillness. And a calm that passes all understanding took hold again.

Christ in the healings. Christ in the feasts. Christ in the storms that scare us.

In this gospel the storms are a given. They are a part of the pattern, part of the lives in which and through which the good news was and is told. And in those stories, the peace comes as grace. And then, in this gospel, over time, the peace becomes a given too. Which means that woven into every moment, woven into every fabric of the story that is ours, the peace is a given too.

And I want us to hear that today.

This new favorite author whom I’ve mentioned here and there, his name is Padraig O’Touma. He’s a poet and theologian whose home is Belfast. He teaches and speaks on religion, storytelling, and conflict resolution and is leader of the Corrymeela Community in Ireland, a center whose work is reconciliation and that offers, “A Christian witness to peace in Northern Ireland.” O’Touma lives in the midst of a very long, generationally long storm. And the struggle is still real. And in the midst of it all, he and so many are seeking peace.

One of O’Touma’s books is titled “In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World.” In this book he talks about one of these gospel storm narratives. And after exploring some of the many experiences and stories that come from his and others’ own crossings over, O’Touma says that all of this is “as if to say, that only in the midst of a storm can we find a truth that will settle us.” Only in the midst of a storm can we find a truth that will settle us.

Which is not to belittle the fear. O’Touma feels that fear and engages it, every day. Nor is it to ignore the pain and effects of the storm. He listens to those and witnesses those too, every day. Nor does it mean the work of the crossing is over is complete. He and we are mid-journey, always.

It’s all simply to say that peace is a given too. And in the midst of storms, we are offered peace in ways that surpass our understanding. Maybe because we least expect it there, this is peace that often comes as a surprise.

Peace comes from the stern just when our own frustration peaks. Or it comes walking across the waters towards us against all odds when it seems as if the darkness might have indeed won.

In the second letter to the Corinthians we heard from Paul that peace sometimes comes through our own actions, our own faithfully, stubbornly beautiful intentions. To a people and as a people experiencing persecution Paul wrote, “we have commended ourselves in every way: through [the great storms of] afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; we offer, patience, kindness…genuine love,truthful speech,” And he reminded them that within those gifts we offer there “is the power of God.” Sometimes, peace comes through us.

This gospel story and others tell us that peace comes among us even as the waters begin to fill the boat – whatever that boat happens to be. Whatever the waters happen to be. “As if to say that only in the midst of a storm can we find a truth that will settle us.”

Christ in the healings. Christ in the feasts. Christ in the storms that scare us.

“Peace, be still,” offers the holy and much needed voice. “Peace be still,” invites the presence. As we cross over in so many ways, may we let it, may we help it be so.

Amen.