I’m glad to be with you this morning. Since I was last here, my own spiritual journey has returned me to my Quaker roots. I’m now worshipping with the Friends at our Meeting House on Fern St. This morning, I bring you warm greetings from them.
Our two scripture readings this morning are filled with questions. In the reading from Job, we didn’t hear the whole story. Let’s quickly review it. God and Satan in conversation, Satan says, “Of course Job is righteous – look how you take such good care of him.” Now God believes in Job. So He gives Satan permission to do anything he wants to Job, except take his life. Satan takes everything from him except his life and his wife.
Then three friends come who have heard of Job’s plight. They sit down beside him as he picks at his scabs and scratches at his boils. For 7 days and 7 nights they are silent - simply present to him and his suffering. Oh that each of us would have a friend like that! But then the urge to advise, and surmise, and spiritualize gets the better of them, so then there is a series of back and forth monologues between Job and his friends. In his agony, Job asks God some probing questions: “Why was life given to me? Why were there breasts that I might be nursed? Why have you made me your target? Have you abandoned me? Do you not care?”
Finally God shows up, and this is the point at which today’s scripture reading enters the story.Instead of giving answers, God asks the questions. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” In other words, “Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?” Another translation says, “Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence?” Providence is a wonderful old fashioned word for loving kindness, benevolent care.
God continues, “Where were you, Job, when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who decreed the boundaries of the seas? Who dug the valleys? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when everything is dust and clods? Can you hold back the stars? Can you insure the proper sequence of the seasons?”
Listen to this one! I love it. “Who makes the wild donkeys wild? I have placed them in the wilderness and given them salt plains to live in. For they hate the noise of the city and want no drivers shouting at them! The mountain ranges are their pastureland; there they search for every green blade of grass. Who makes the wild donkeys wild?”
God’s answer to Job is a tsunami of questions that put Job’s life and loss in a new perspective. Within the very questions God asks, we see the delight God takes in creation, and the benevolent understanding from which God provides for every creature. We see a God who cares, who does not abandon.
Let’s fast forward to the Gospel reading in Mark. We find Jesus and his disciples at the end of a long day. Jesus requests they go to the other side of the lake. Pushing off from shore, they leave the crowd behind. Exhausted from his day of teaching, the one thing Jesus needs most is rest. He is a man after all. So he goes to the stern of the boat, lies down, and immediately falls sound asleep.
We can envision the men in their places rowing away. A breeze comes up. They raise the sail. The breeze becomes a wind. They lower the sail. The wind becomes a storm, waves crash across the bow. They take the buckets and begin bailing.
Now at least four of these men know what they were doing. Peter and Andrew, James and John, are all fishermen; they earn their living on these waters and no doubt have survived many a storm. The others? Maybe not so much. We don’t know the skill set of all the disciples, but one of them we know. Matthew, the accountant- tax collector, for all we know he’s still wearing his suit and tie. At best, this is a motley crew to be plying a boat through a storm! We can hear the turbulent air thick with shouting, swearing, panic. (Storms rarely generate harmony, at least not while we’re in them.) Panic and fear. Fear is contagious, so even if the four fishermen knew what to do, they weren’t able to inspire the others to hang in there.
In desperation, someone thinks to wake Jesus. They ask him, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we’re all about to drown? Don’t you care?” Sounds like Job.
Why do we so quickly turn on the God we worship and presume this God doesn’t care? Has abandoned us? Are we using our ignorance to deny God’s providence? Certainly Job didn’t know the back story of his experience. We’re told what is going on between God and Satan, but Job is never told, so yes, he was speaking out of ignorance. When the disciples ask Jesus, ‘Do you not care?” I suggest they do not know their own back story - at least not yet.
Jesus stands, rebukes the wind and stills the sea. Then he says to the disciples “Oh you of little faith.” It’s like a pet name he has given them, “Oh my little-faith ones.” And then he asks, “Why are you so afraid?” Implying they did not need to be afraid.
Jesus is not afraid. He has been sound asleep. I suggest if he had had a modicum of fear, that violent storm would have awakened him. Jesus knows his men. That’s why he says, ‘you of little faith’. He’s seen their lack of faith before, he isn’t surprised. I think he is disappointed. That’s why he asks, “Why are you so afraid?” You see, Jesus believes in his disciples. God believed in Job.
Jesus believes they have what it takes to bring them safely through the storm - the skill set necessary to manage the boat, the comradely to work together, the compassion to encourage one another and press through their fear, the willingness to be each other’s keeper. Jesus believes in his disciples. They do not yet believe in themselves. They do not yet understand that the same divine power they see in Jesus is also in them. It would take Pentecost before they know it.
I don’t think this story is teaching us that God is an interventionist. “Just wake me up, get my attention, and I will come and calm your storm.” Our God is not an interventionist. Our God is Love and love is relational! Love comes along side and works with us and in us and through us. Love sustains us through the storm.
My mother taught me from an early age, “There is that of God in every person.” Divinity dwells in everyone. This is our back story. This is our Original Blessing!
What does this divinity look like? Can we see it in each other? Can we feel it in ourselves? When we walk through woods and are overwhelmed by wonder, when we sing and dance in joy with a child, when we get the urge to create something beautiful- a lovely painting or a fabulous rack of ribs, when we feel compassion for those confused, incarcerated families waiting to be deported, when we weep in the night because one of our loved ones is still estranged, when we pay attention to what we purchase, when we recycle and reduce our fat footprint, when our hearts are broken when someone is bullied or marginalized, when we grieve when our first response is prejudice, then we are experiencing our divinity. Wonder, creativity, joy, compassion, caring, forgiveness, grief, conviction -this is God’s heart in us!
The human species is in a storm! The question for us this morning is, what will we do with our divinity? How will we live, as human beings, as sisters and brothers, as followers of Jesus?
I suggest God’s providence has given us what we need – skills, intelligence, compassion,imagination to envision beyond what we know, science, medicine, technology, music, art, theatre, tradition, scripture, our own personal experience, and this indwelling divinity.
I suggest the gospel is still being written today, the gospel according to Daniel, the gospel according to Marion, the gospel according to David, the gospel according to each one of us. We write our own gospels but we live it out in community.
The gospel according to James Bay United Church. Now that Karen and Bev are away for these months, there may be days when you feel your boat is beginning to sink. I suggest Karen would not have left you if she did not believe in you! You may not be able to still your storm, but you can pull together and bail water. May you believe in one another, look for Christ in each other. And I especially encourage you as you prepare for Pride parade. May you have joy and laughter and dancing as you participate. This is a beautiful way you are choosing to let your light shine, to speak your gospel, to live your divinity. Bless you.
Dear ones, God has called us by our name – even if some days that name is ‘my little-faith ones’. And God has put within us this divine spark. I think it must be God’s way of saying, “I believe in you. I’ll not abandon you. I’m in the same boat you’re in and you are mine”. Amen