Sunday, June 24, 2018

Faith, Courage, Life

Job 38:1-11   2 Corinthians 6:1-13   Mark 4:35-41

Carol A. Newsom [The New Interpreter's Bible  Volume iv, Job, p600] reminds us that "a storm often accompanies a divine appearance in biblical tradition." The Bible's first whirlwind (sa-ar in Hebrew) 2 Kings 2:1, 11 transports Elijah into the heavens. Job 38 is the second. Whirlwinds reminds us that God and His creation are not under our control nor are they "safe." That sense of danger is evident in the Gospel today.

It is a simple story. After a long day Jesus and His disciples began crossing the lake with some other boats. Jesus fell asleep almost immediately, and when a storm came the disciples accused Him of not caring about them. Jesus awoke and commanded the storm to stop; then He accused His disciples of *cowardice because they were *faithless. Even to this day the sudden storms on this sea are notorious for their intensity. So why does Jesus upbraid the disciples? I assume because fear and doubt, the twin engines of sin, are of the Enemy. You and I cannot fall back on the "only human" excuse without realizing that being "only human" is the deadly problem. We were created to be filled with God, not "only human" but divinely infilled (theosis). We are to become what Jesus is and share in His life.

The storm, well known in ancient creation literature, is often a symbol of chaos and the evil spirit which rules the world. The pagan myths were familiar to the Jews and early Christians. Tiamat was a water goddess of chaos and Ba'al was a storm god. These stories also lurk in the background at a deeper, mythic level where God calls us to order and unity, the false gods of paganism (Satan's realm) seek to disrupt God's creation with disorder, chaos and death. The storm is at odds with God, and Jesus, as God's Messiah, will literally muzzle the 'monster' and command it to be silent.

The Gospel is no doubt a real memory from the historic ministry of Jesus. Little details (just as He was, the other boats, asleep on a cushion) are the sign of an eye witness production. But there is something more than a memory going on here, there is also a revelation and confrontation. Each question resonates not simply as a historical remembrance, but as a spiritual accusation. The Scripture text turns outward and asks us the same questions....

Why are you so afraid?
Why are you so timid?
and then the heart of the matter.... Do you still have NO faith?

To believe or not to believe, that is the question.
Have you NO faith? The Judge asks the question of our eternity.
Why so scared? Why so timid and afraid? Do you not believe at all?

It is easy to ignore the reality of the incarnation, and make excuses for ourselves about the challenges of life, but remember Jesus was in the same boat in the same storm. He was so exhausted from ministry that He was sleeping. He trusted. He was brave.

And we also overlook the blasphemy of the question "do you not care that we are perishing?" Only a cold, untrusting heart could raise such an accusation against Him, especially after witnessing the hours of healing ministry and teaching. Unbelieving hearts are ruled by doubt and fear. Unbelieving, frightened hearts accuse Jesus. Our hearts, mine and yours, are often such hearts...

Life is full of storms. Family life, economics, social and political life, our mental and physical health. Chaos, death and pain are always lurking nearby. Frequently, to avoid the fear, we distract ourselves with the middle class lifestyle and all its trinkets and technology. But deep within we know that at any moment, chaos can sweep it all away, like a vicious, unexpected storm on a lake. We pretend its okay, but once the storm hits our hearts accuse God, "Don't you care if we perish?"

The decision for faith is best made before the storm. Understand, friends, the storm clouds are on the horizon and the chaos comes. We cannot delay our conversion. It is time to embrace courage and nurture faith. One with God in theosis, we must battle the sin within us and embrace His Word and Spirit bringing healing salvation. We must also be brave, very brave (Joshua 1). Faith produces courage. Jesus may sleep in the boat for awhile, but He is with us...

*deilos the Greek word for coward appears also in the Matthean parallel of this story. The third, and only other time, the word appears is Revelation 21:8. TO lack courage or not have faith heads the list of those who will perish outside the Kingdom.   "The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But to the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. That is the second death.""

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