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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Have You Still No Faith - 06/24/2018

This metaphor of Jesus and his disciples being swamped in their little fishing boat must be one of the most relatable metaphors in our scriptures.

This wind there is called the Sara'ah. It is the wind that shipwrecked Paul nearly 2,000 years ago. It comes up fast and furious on those shallow, warm, fish-filled lakes. Everything it touches is whipped to a frenzy.

And even without ever being there, and maybe because we live here and know that it’s the lake who’s really in charge of our environment, but even without physically being on the Sea of Galilee in that boat, there is something about just imagining big open waters, storms and nighttime that can make us feel a little anxious. Our alert systems go up.

So, for many people, this story, this metaphor for something that may be going on in or around one of us,  becomes a poignant way to think about or realize the ways in which we can feel swamped.

When I read the text  this week, that’s where my thoughts went first. So I started to make a list called: “What is being swamped right now?” I only got three items in …. “Our borders,” “Their bodies,” “Our minds,” … three items in and I stopped because I was already feeling more like I was drowning, not just being swamped.

Our borders are swamped by our nation’s struggle to compassionately and realistically manage them from our side; and from the other side, they are swamped by desperate people fleeing from danger and violence and bleak, joyless futures for their children. We’re parents, many of us. We have all loved a child. We know a parent doesn’t attempt to swamp this border unless it’s the best shot your kid’s got.

Their bodies are being swamped because wars over politics and power, like the ones raging in our nation right now, they so often happen on the backs and psyches and lungs and nervous systems of the most vulnerable people. The ones with little voice and very few options.

Our minds are swamped … well, see the first two things on the list. What do we do? How do we tackle this stuff as individuals, as church? It’s very much like, we imagine, being on big open waters in a storm, at night. Our alert systems go up.

I do not know what the answer to these question are, by the way. I’m not that smart and besides, I’m certain the answer differs. The way God calls us to respond to situations such as these …

… and we are called into that, my friends … “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 13) Jesus taught us. And all the way back to Exodus were are urged: “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners…” (Exodus:23.9)

… so the way God calls us to respond to situations such as these differs, from skilled professional to teenager, from church to mosque, from town to city.

A pediatrician might decide to use vacation time to go down to the border with their medical skills. A church might decide to help out legal organizations that are now beginning the difficult task of reuniting families, or of representing our brothers and sisters who work for the government, but whose consciences will not allow them to do what they are being directed to do.

Maybe you call your elected officials and tell them you fully expect them to be part of real solutions that are up to the standards and visions this nation is capable of reaching.

Maybe you aren’t called to do any of these things, but you can grab a shovel and head up to the Keweenaw to help out a vulnerable stranger there and show the world what it means to pray with your heart and your hands.

So, the answer to these swamping situations isn’t something you can sum up on a post it note and put up for the world to see.

However, there is Good News for us people of God and followers of Jesus, swamped as we may be. It’s in the rest of this story of the stormy night in a fishing boat with Jesus.

Now I don’t know about you, but this is one of those stories about Jesus I had to relearn as an adult. I think it was because of my sense of what was normal as a kid, which was that my mom, who was raising me and my sister and brother by herself, worked as an RN and mostly worked the midnight shift. So as children we were very aware that we needed to do the impossible. We needed to be quiet when we got home from school so Mom could sleep.

It’s why we moved to the UP, actually, 40 years ago this past week. We couldn’t be quiet, Mom had to figure out a way to get off the midnight shift. That way was Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital and some family who lived here already.

Anyway, because of that experience I think, I always read this story as though Jesus was mad or really frustrated when the disciples woke him from his much-needed sleep in the stern of the boat, just like my Mom would get when we just couldn’t be quiet.

Their alerts were up “and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ (Jesus) 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 rebuked the wind – the Sara’ah, but not disciples. To them he said, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:38b-41) And I’ve come to hear Jesus say that in a comforting voice with a tinge of pointing out what should be obvious. He had quieted the storm to say this. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

That’s the Good News! Because we do know the answer to that question.

Of course the disciples had faith! We know this because it’s wasn’t up to them. Faith, like grace, is a gift of God given to us freely and with ridiculous abundance. It’s something God places inside of us that grows and changes things when we hear words of forgiveness wash over us, when the Word of God inspires us, or when we come around the bread and the wine together to eat of eternal life.

It’s gets breathed into something bigger and amazing when we do things like take our young people to the ELCA Youth Gathering and when we all come together to joyfully raise the money needed to make that happen.

***

And sometimes we get swamped, or the world around us gets swamped, and our faith starts to feel kind of small and damp, we have a hard time finding it.

But it’s there. Hear that Good News and hear it in the comforting voice of Jesus, who remains in the stern of our boats, big and small. “Do not be afraid,” he says. Go with courage and inward sureness in the ways God is calling you and calling our communities because all that swamps us, even the Sara’ah and sea, obeys Jesus’ command to be at peace and stop raging.

And then, with a tinge of pointing out what should be obvious, “Have you still no faith?” Jesus asks us too … And to that we know the answer because it’s not up to us, thanks be to God. We most certainly have faith. So where is God calling you forward, to be courageous with your faith and your praying hearts and hands?

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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