The raging storms are all around us!The tumultuous winds are raging, churning up the waters and tossing us about in traitorous seas. Our small boats are tossed to and fro as massive waves heave us left and right. The roaring winds create upheavals, which leave us cowering in fear, trembling as we struggle to meet each wave that carries with it the potential to destroy the few planks of wood that have been hewn together to carry us upon the changing sea which holds both the promise of sustenance and the threat of oblivion within the darkness of its depths. With each crash upon the hull our fear raises, and the ferocity of the storms intensify. Frightened, clinging to life as we are tossed from one danger to the next, we cry out into the storm, convinced that only a power more intense, bigger, stronger, massive, beyond our abilities to even imagine can save us from being swamped in our small boats. We know that left to our own devices without the meager security offered by our small boats we will be overcome by the waves and drown in the very sea that we must rely upon to sustain us.
The raging storms are all around us. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that howl so ferociously that all we can hear is the sound of people’s fears as we see the very real possibility that the bottom might just fall out of the small craft we have fashioned to navigate the troubled waters that lie ahead. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that drive us ever closer to wrecking our small boats hastily designed without thought to the perils which threaten to consume us as the monsters of the deep surface all around us. The weather forecast looks bleak as one storm after another rolls our way and we are so very tired. Tired of the winds of racism, which continue to blow despite our efforts to quell their intensity.
We have seen the power of racism that over and over again rises up in our midst. Some of us have learned to live in the almost silent breezes generated by our fear of the other. We have figured out mechanisms to quell the intensity of racism’s loathsome impact. We built lifeboats to carry us beyond the pain of the hatred that wafts in and around us, blown about by racism’s destructive currents. We know that there aren’t enough lifeboats to save us all so we jettison lives and turn away as others drown. We’ve grown accustomed to systems that allow us to deny their suffering as they flail about, trusting our lifeboats to protect us. Different seas have different others, but the lifeboats are crafted from the same materials. As racist breezes churn up the waters, poverty, disease and violence continue to howl and all the while, we are tossed upon the waves trusting that sleeping in the back of our lifeboat lies a power who if roused will protect us, save us, carry us safely to better shores.
Today, many of us are feeling more than just a little seasick. We thought we’d managed to quell the racism that once again howls in our midst. It’s a beautiful summer morning and we were looking forward to calm waters so that we can relax and breathe deeply in the warmth of our surroundings. But the winds of racism and violence have joined forces and blown the pain of children separated from their parents, lost and along languishing in detention centers, coupled with the knowledge that so many children continue to flee for their lives as wars continue to rage in far too many places. Even the imagining the pain, the fear and the dangers, threatens the stability of our lifeboats. We recognize the power of racism and violence to stir up the waters and so we comfort ourselves with the thought that these destructive winds are blowing in the south as if we here in the north are immune to the dangers that are blowing in the wind. We point to our American cousins as if they alone are the only ones in danger of sinking with their lifeboats weighed down by the presence of a raging orange fool whose tweet-storms causes new phrases to be added to our Orwellian lexicon: “tender age shelters”.
Never in our wildest nightmares would we tear children from their parent’s arms. But we have our own baggage stowed deep within our holds and our baggage has the power to sink us. Not even the images of the 60’s scoop that lie deep within the bowels of our own lifeboat can convince us to jettison the baggage of imperialism that we are hell-bent upon preserving even if it means that Indigenous women and girls are thrown overboard or families and indeed whole nations are denied safe drinking water; water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
We proud Canadians breathe deeply of the winds of racism, while all the while denying that the very air we breathe is polluted by systems designed to ensure that we the privileged few continue to enjoy the benefits we have grown to love and to horde, convinced that if the first inhabitants of these shores would only learn to swim just like us all would be well. The winds of racism carry with them abuse, while poverty howls, disease wipes out family after family, and violence destroys, and we turn away, continuing to deny that we have the power to save them all, so we don’t save anyone of them, because they are them and they, are not us. Let them, those people, the others, let them, save themselves, for there is only so much we can do. So, we narrow our gaze, trim our sails and hope for calmer seas. When word comes to us of faraway storms that have been generated by the need we have to consume fuel for our lifeboats, we allow our gaze to rest upon images of the suffering of millions of refugees tossed about in small boats on distant seas, and we give thanks to the winds for sparing us their misery. Images of migrants tossed about in leaky life-boats, have us clinging to our luxurious well-equipped life-boats as we tally the numbers wondering when we will be asked to move over to make room. Fearing the magnitude of the numbers of refugees, our determination not to let the numbers get out of hand, sees refugee families languish in detention centers in this our beloved Canada.
Friends, the powerful metaphor offered to us by the anonymous gospel storyteller that we call Mark is designed to open us to the reality of the relentless storms that rage all around us. Using familiar symbols designed to conjure up images of the fears we all harbor deep inside the very fiber of our beings; the gospel storyteller wants us to feel the lashing winds that threaten to separate us from one another as we desperately seek to survive. We have been distracted for too long now arguing about whether or not the story actually happened exactly the way it was written. It simply doesn’t matter whether or not Jesus of Nazareth preformed miracles. In fact, a miracle worker living 2000 years ago doesn’t matter at all when people are dying and being killed here and now. What matters to those who are threatened by storms or who are perishing in storms, or who are mourning the death of victims of storms, is not whether or not some guy living 2000 years ago had the miraculous power to change the course of nature. What matters to those in peril on the sea is what you and I and they are going to do in the face of the howling winds of racism, disease, poverty and violence. For if this miraculous story is worth anything at all, it needs to be able to carry us away from the realities of the ordinary into the dream of a future where miracles are actually possible.
In the past, I have always read this story with more than a modicum of frustration. It has always annoyed me that Jesus lies sleeping in the back of the boat, lying on a cushion no less, while his followers are in fear for their lives. I know that according to the story, Jesus was tired. He’d spent the whole day, saving those around him. The crowds had gathered and were pressing in on him and the only way to get away from their incessant demands was to get in a boat and sail away. Who among us hasn’t needed to get away from the incessant demands of others? We get it. Jesus was tired. We’re tired. I’m not sure if I can bear to turn on the news. I don’t want to hear about one more disaster. I’m sick of hearing about racism. I’m smart enough to know that I’m one of the privileged. I know that the systems of power and control favour me and mine and well what can I do about it except try to be nice to others. Let the Americans sort themselves out. I don’t even want to go there. I don’t understand their obsession with boarders and walls. I don’t hate refugees, I’m not afraid to welcome the stranger. I wasn’t raised to think I’m better than anybody else. Yeah, I know the system that has extracted resources from the developing world ensures that I’m one of the haves. And, yes, it’s true, I enjoy my life as one of the privileged inhabitants of the developed world. But I didn’t ask to be born white and powerful any more than they asked to be born poor and powerless. Besides I can’t save them all. So, I sail on in my well-appointed life-boat, sparing only a prayer and some small change for those who are flailing about in stormy waters.
I usually read this story about Jesus being roused from his slumber and think, OK buddy we could sure use a little help down here, so wake up and do something. Which leaves me shouting into the winds which simply continue to roar. I want Jesus to rescue all of us. If not Jesus, then that big something more than me…… that God fella has a lot to answer for leaving us alone to flail about, letting untold millions sink to the bottom.
So, I read the story and I want to scream, “Wake up! Jeezus! Wake up! Don’t you care that so many people are drowning. Wake up we need you to do something. Help us! Save us!” I like to believe that if we shout loudly enough that God will hear us, and that God is powerful enough to make a difference, to save us, to save them. To still the winds and calm the seas. Peace! Be still!
The other day, when I was reeling from the onslaught of the news and trying to make sense out of this text, I remembered the words of the dismissal we sometimes use to close our worship service: “Go in peace. Be LOVE in the world.” Be LOVE in the world! As I repeated the familiar words, other familiar words came to me:
God is LOVE.
Be LOVE in the world.
Be God in the world.
God in the world.
Christ is God in the world.
We are the body of Christ.
Christ has no hands now but yours.
Be Christ in the world.
I’ve been reading this story for years and failing to understand the power of this metaphor which has Jesus asleep in the back of the boat. Be Christ in the world. I’ve always seen myself in this story as one of the disciples, terrified that the storm is going to cause the seas to rise up and drown me. I have always identified as one of the disciples and felt their frustration and annoyance at Jesus for sleeping while we face our demise alone and afraid. This week, for the first time, I saw Christ sleeping in the back of the boat, resting on a cushion. For the first time I heard those who were afraid shouting at Christ to wake up and I remembered that we, you and I the followers of Jesus, we are the body of Christ. It is time for us to wake up and calm the storm that is raging. We have the power together as the body of Christ to command the winds of racism, disease, poverty, and violence to cease. Together we are the Body of Christ and together we are so much more powerful than the storm.
It does matter to us that our sisters and brothers are going to drown. We do care. It is time to wake up. It is time to put an end to the power of racism, disease, poverty and violence. There is work for each one of us. We all know the power of racism.
We have all, at one time or another remained silent in the face of racism so as not to rock the boat. We all have relatives and friends who are trapped in delusions of superiority and have spouted racist comments and we have let them pass. It is time for each of us to speak up and to take some risks, we have to rock the boat even in the midst of a storm. And if our particular part of the sea appears quiet, we have to have the courage to see our reflection in those calm waters and take a long hard look at the way we live our lives. We need to examine the systems that we are engaged in to seek out injustice and to do our part to create peace through justice. Some of us have studied the issues, we know our history, and we are aware of the perils that are tossing our indigenous sisters and brothers about on a sea of indifference. And yet, we too have remained silent in the face of friends or relatives because we don’t want to rock the boat.
Rock the boat people, rock the boat, in calm waters and in troubled waters. Wake up to the reality that even in Canada migrant children are held in detention. 595 minors have been detained at Canadian immigration holding centers in the past three years. Welcome the stranger, hell no, detain them, remember they might be dangerous. It’s time to wake up and learn all the ramifications of sending asylum seekers back to the United States because of an antiquated safe-third country agreement. The strangers crossing our boarders will not be safe if we send them back to the United States. Rock the boat people, rock the boat, in calm waters and in troubled waters.
We are a power more powerful than the raging storms or the treacherous waters. Together we, the Body of Christ must use our power to calm the seas. It’s time for us to wake up to the power of LOVE that lives in, with, through, and beyond us; the power that is the LOVE we call God.
Peace…be still….peace….be still…..peace….be still. It all begins when we are awakened to the power that lies sleeping within us all. Together we can command the winds to cease, so that as the seas are stilled, peace can be restored. It is long past time for us to wake up. It is time for us to be Christ in the world. The seas will only be calmed when we put an end to racism, an end to disease, an end to poverty, and an end to violence. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
“Act with justice and integrity: rescue the victim from the oppressor; do not oppress or mistreat resident aliens or the orphaned or widowed, and don’t shed innocent blood in this place.”
Wake up, there is no miraculous saviour who is going to swoop down and do it for us. We are the body of Christ. We are in God, and God is in us! In the LOVE that we call God, we live and move and have our being.” We are the saviours the world is crying out in fear to.
Wake up and be Christ in the world. Peace! Be still! Peace…be still….peace….be still…..peace….be still.
Peace begins when we are awakened to the power that lies sleeping within us all. Together we can command the winds to cease, so that as the seas are stilled, peace can be restored.
It is long past time for us to wake up. It is time for us to be Christ in the world. The seas will only be calmed when we put an end to racism, disease, poverty, and violence.
Wake up and be Christ in the world. Peace! Be still! Embrace the LOVE of God, Be the peace of Christ, and share the power of the Holy Spirit. Now and always. Amen.