april 5th, 2020 – Palm Sunday

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reading #1
O God you are very great; you are clothed

with splendour and majesty. 

The heavens declare your glory, the skies

proclaim the work of your hands.

 
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

 

The Lord wraps himself in light as
with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers
on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on
the wings of the wind.

 

He set the earth on it foundations;
it can never be moved.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines,
they give water to all the beasts of the field.

 

How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established
it on the waters.
                          (from Psalm 104 & Psalm 8)
 
 
God of Love,
Hallow the hyperspace between us.

 

You created us for community,
You created us to need one another’s
presence, but now our loving solidarity
requires our loving separation.
In what may become a long loneliness,
we lean fully on Your love,
from which no quarantine
can separate us.
 
We pray to you, O God,
Do not be distant. Be with us.
                                  (Beth Carlson-Malena)
 
 

Psalm 27  (click here for audio link)

Lord, You are our light and our salvation
Why should we be afraid
Lord, You are our shelter, protector and defender
Why should we be afraid
Hear us O Lord, answer our prayers
Have mercy on us, Our hearts have heard You say

 

Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
Lord we are coming, Lord, you say
Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
Lord we are coming,  O Lord
 
 
Reading #2:     
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

 

The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.

 

Reading #3:    
Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it,
you will find a colt tied there which  no-one has ridden. 
Untie it and bring it here. 
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 

 

Those who were sent ahead went and found it
just as Jesus had told them. 
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them,
“Why are you untying the colt?”
 
They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 
 
The disciples brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 

 

As he went along,
a large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from trees, and spread them on the road. 

 

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted:
                        Hosanna in the highest!
                        Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
                                                                                   (from Isaiah 61, Luke 4, Psalm 119, Mark 11)
 

Holy Lord  (click here for audio link)

Holy, holy, holy Lord

God of power and might

Heaven and earth of Your glory are full

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest

 

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
 
 

Today is the beginning of what has been called Holy Week.  It is a time in which we are invited to journey with Jesus through the last week of his life.  Of course this framing of things is from the perspective of looking backwards in time.  Those around Jesus, even his disciples, wouldn’t have known the way the events of the week would unfold.  On several occasions, the Gospel writers point out that they didn’t fully understand what was happening right in front of them until much later.  I point this out because sometimes it’s easy to frame the week in a concrete fashion, scripting it in a way that misses the dynamic choices that shaped the trajectory of events.  If we open ourselves to the humanity found in these stories, we may gain a new appreciation for the man people called Jesus, while at the same time, being pulled deeper into the mystery of the Saviour called Jesus. So with that, let’s join in with Jesus and his disciples and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. 

 

Just a quick side note:  In rudimentary form, Passover commemorates the people of Israel being led from Egypt, out of slavery, to become a free people in their own land.  In the Exodus account, Moses asks the Egyptian Pharaoh to free God’s people from their slavery.  The Pharaoh refused over and over again to grant Moses’s request, which in turn, resulted in a series of plagues.  The final plague was described as the coming of the Angel of Death, whose visitation would result in the loss of life of every first-born son in the land.  Moses warned the people of Israel that they needed to be ready to leave on short notice. To save time, they were to bake bread without using yeast.  In addition, Moses instructed the people to kill a lamb and use the blood to paint their doorframes so that the Angel of Death would ‘pass by’ them. Hence the name ‘Passover.’  In the time of Jesus, the main focus of the Passover festival revolved around sacrificing a lamb at the Temple and eating a meal mirroring the last meal before leaving Egypt.  In these two actions there was a retelling of God’s faithfulness to God’s people and a reminder of God’s sovereign plan for them. 

 

Ok, back to Palm Sunday…

 

As Beverly read, Jesus’s arrival into Jerusalem caused quite a stir.  The story strikes me as being a little bit funny  – Jesus seems to have a bit of dramatic flair.  It’s on his instructions that the disciples find a donkey for him to ride into the city.  As is often the case with Jesus, he is understated in his words, while at the same time making a grand declaration with an action. I think this is going on here.   In this story there is very little spoken by Jesus but how he enters the city makes a huge statement about who he is.

 

If you look in the Gospels, the headings above the accounts describing Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem say things like, ‘The Triumphal Entry’ or ‘Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as a King.’  It’s easy to understand how it can be categorized that way.  In the stories, people were waving palm branches and shouting hosanna.  In the culture of the time, the palm branches were symbols of victory, triumph, and eternal peace.  The word ‘hosanna’ literally means ‘Please, save us!’ but through time, its transliteration came to mean ‘Salvation has come!’  In many ways the people around Jesus were declaring him to be their King, their Messiah.  It was good news for the people.

 

While all this is true, we should take a minute to consider that there may have been some disconnect between what the people were expecting Jesus to be and the true nature of Jesus.  I suspect at times there is disconnect even for us between what we want Jesus to be and who he reveals himself to be.

 

In itself, Palm Sunday seems to raise the issue of Kingship and Kings.  What is it that comes to mind when you think of kings?  If you could be king for a month, or a week, or even a day, what would you do?  What would it be like to hold all of that power?  To have the ability to make the rules and the control to enforce what you wanted.  As king, what would you want to be remembered for? 

 

Human history is littered with Kings of all kinds.  I looked some of them up.  You have names of kings that one may traditionally expect to find.  Kings such as:  William the Conqueror, Alexander the Great, Valdemar the Victorious, Pedro the Liberator, and Richard the Lionheart.  Some kings are in a category, shall we say, of unfortunate monikers.  Kings like: Charles the Bald (a little close to home), James the Vain, Enrique the Impotent, and Arnulf the Unlucky.   There are records of kings who seem to be remembered for doing good.  Kings like: Alfonso the Good, Demetrius the Saviour, Leopold the Saint, and Eric the Kindhearted.  However, the majority of kings seem to be associated with, in some fashion or another, the need to hold power at all cost.  Kings such as:  Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Cruel, Yazdegerd the Wicked, and Geoffrey the Hammer.

 

All of this seems to point to a need in all of us that wants to make kings – maybe not always in the traditional sense, but certainly metaphorically.  We look for Kings who will inspire us, will think for us, will take up our cause, who will make our lives better and more fulfilling.  Who will get us what we want.

 

The people of Israel struggled with this.  They begged Samuel to let them have a king.  You can read about it in 1 Samuel 8 & 9.  The people of Israel said, ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’  Samuel warned them that to have a king would cost them their freedom, and it did.  You can read the history of Israel and their kings in 2 Kings 15:32 – 2 Kings 20:21 & 2 Chronicles 27 – 2 Chronicles 32:33.

 

And that is the truth about kings.  No matter what we hope for, instead of giving life, kings take life away. They cost us our freedom, in small and big ways.  Kingship in this world has showed itself to be an order where the powerful rule the weak and where freedom is replaced with slavery.

 

So how is it that Jesus demonstrates kingship?  Is it that he is the most powerful, the smartest, or the biggest source of power?  As crazy as it is, Jesus is nothing like this.

 

Let’s go back to the account in the Gospel of Luke.  Subtle as it is, Jesus riding in on a donkey says everything about what his kingship is rooted in.  In the Ancient Middle Eastern world, kings rode horses when they were riding to war.  They rode donkeys if they were coming in peace.  Jesus asked his disciples to find a donkey for him to ride in order to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah.  The prophet wrote, ‘Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble and riding on a donkey.’

 

The people were looking for Jesus to overthrow the oppression of the Roman rule and lead them into complete religious, social, and political autonomy.  They looked to Jesus to begin a revolution.  But it was a revolution of a different kind.  Jesus did come to bring the people freedom from oppression and to restore what had been broken, it’s just his way of liberating was not what the people who watched him ride in were asking for. 

 

And at times it’s maybe not what we ask for.  His kingship seems to be upside down. 

Jesus gave up power and chose vulnerability because what he really wanted is relationship and love, not power.  Jesus doesn’t take power, he gives it away. We’re not in his hands, Jesus is in our hands.  He’s not over anything, he’s subjected himself to be under everyone.  He doesn’t lord over, he comes to serve. The whole way of traditionally defining kingship is shattered by his actions.

 

We talked about the nicknames of kings.  How about this:  Jesus – the King who gave up being king – for the sake of serving, for the sake of forgiving, for the sake of freedom, and for the sake of empowering.

 

This is our King.  This is our example to follow.
 
 

Reading #4:

Give thanks to the Lord
for He is good!
 

His love endures forever.

Let all the people say:

“His faithful love endures forever.”

It is better to take refuge in the
Lord than to trust in people.
 
The Lord is our strength and
our song; The strong right arm
of the Lord has done glorious things!
 
The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This Lord has done this and it is
wonderful to see. 
Bless the one who comes

in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
                             (from Psalm 118)
 
 

Holy Holy (click here for audio link)

Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
Who was and is and is to come

 

Lift up His name with the sound of singing
Lift up His name in all the earth
Lift up Your voice and give Him glory
For He is worthy to be praised
For He is worthy to be praised
 
 
Let’s pray our closing prayer: 
 
O Lord our God,
   as we have sinned,
      whether in word, or deed, or thought,
   forgive us all,
      for Thou art good and lovest humankind.

 

Grant us a peaceful and undisturbed sleep,
   and deliver us from all influence
      and temptation of the evil one.

 

Raise us up again in proper time,
   that we may glorify Thee
      as we learn to live alive in hope, victory,
   and power of the resurrection.

 

Thou art the eternal Father,
   the Only begotten Son,
      and the all holy, and good,
   and life-giving Spirit.
Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
   Amen


Resources For Holy Week

As we begin our journey through Holy Week, we’d encourage you to use these two resources to shape your time either personally, or with others in your home. We hope that you’ll find some good ideas to get you started in your reflections and we’d love to hear about your experiences as you journey toward Easter.

Holy Week Activity Guide

Stations of the Cross



march 29th, 2020 – disorientation

 
 
 
 
*The liturgy ends with the opportunity to have communion together.  Before we begin, you may wish to have some bread and wine/juice ready.
 
 
 

Let’s pray:

Compassionate God we come to you in our need
confessing to you what we often

dare not admit to ourselves:

 

it is hard to celebrate life
when faced with the mystery of death.

 

It is hard to look to the future when surrounded
by the uncertainty of the present;
it is hard to embrace the day
when hope is eclipsed by despair.

 

Help us this day to know you and find you
in the whole of life:
in its beginnings and in its endings.
May we discover you in our pain as well as our joy,
in our doubts as well as our believing.

 

Help us to receive this day, and in the days to come,
comfort from your word and light for our darkness.
Amen.

 

Psalm 27 (click here for audio link)

Lord, You are our light and our salvation
Why should we be afraid
Lord, You are our shelter, protector and defender
Why should we be afraid

 

Hear us O Lord, answer our prayers
Have mercy on us, Our hearts … have heard You say

 

Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say,
Lord we are coming, Lord, you say,
Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say,
Lord we are coming,  O Lord
 
 

Let’s spend a few moments in prayer.  After each section there is space for silence, in which you can voice your own prayers: (click here for audio link)

 

God of kindness,

you gave your only Son,

because you loved the world so much.

We pray for the peace of the world.

Move among us by your Spirit,

break down barriers

of fear, suspicion, and hatred.

Heal the human family of its divisions

and unite in us the bonds of justice and peace.

 

We pray for our country.

Enrich our common life;

strengthen the forces of truth and goodness;

teach us to share prosperity,

that those whose lives are impoverished

may pass from need and despair

to dignity and joy.
 
Silence
 

We pray for those who suffer.

Surround them with your love,

support them with your strength,

console them with your comfort,

and give them hope

and courage beyond themselves.
 
Silence

 

We pray for families,

for those whom we love.

Protect them at home;

support them in times of difficulty and anxiety,

that we may grow together

in mutual love and understanding,

and rest content in one another.
 
Silence

 

We pray for the Church.

Keep her true to the Gospel

and responsive to the gifts and needs of all.

Make known your love and saving power in Jesus Christ

by the witness of our faith,

our worship

and our lives.
 
Amen
 
 
I waited patiently for the Lord
     he inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
     out of the miry clay

 

I will sing, sing a new song
     I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song
     how long to sing this song
 
You set my feet upon a rock
     You made my footsteps firm
Many will see
     many will see and hear
 
 
This past week was my foray into working from home.  While the commute time has significantly decreased and the dress code has become more lenient, it’s been a little disorientating trying to find a rhythm and structure in this new context.  Several times I found myself wandering around the house feeling lost, inevitably looking for my compass bearings in the snack food section of our kitchen.  I think all of us, in a variety of ways, are feeling the strain of navigating the disruption and ensuing chaos of the COVID 19 pandemic.   In this, I have been reminded of Walter Brueggemann’s ideas around orientation, disorientation, and reorientation.  Although if I’m honest, what I really feel an affinity with is the movement from orientation to disorientation. That being said, I have found myself spending time reading through the psalms.
 
Just a quick side note to refresh our memories: Brueggemann suggests that human experience consists of movements between orientation, disorientation, and new orientation.  In the place of orientation life is good. things make sense, and there is gratitude for God’s ordering of life.  In disorientation, the ordered world has come undone, life is turned upside down; sadness, anger, disillusionment bring questions about God’s ordering of life. In new orientation there is resolution of disorientation.  A new and deeper place of orientation is established, along with an accompanying awareness of and gratitude for God’s faithfulness.  Brueggemann points to the psalms as a place to read the written songs and prayers reflecting on experiences of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. (His book is titled The Spirituality of the Psalms if you want to go deeper.)
 
Back to the psalms….the psalms are shaped by the full spectrum of life experience.  Some speak to God’s dependability, faithfulness, and care while others question the very existence of God’s presence.  There are psalms depicting a loving, gracious, and forgiving Creator while others paint pictures of a God who turns God’s back on those who fail.  Some are filled with pain – they are dark, desperate, and even vengeful.  At the same time, there are psalms expressing joy, hope, love, and generosity.  It doesn’t take long to discover that the personal experiences of the writers shaped the way they wrote; their vantage points shifting as life circumstances changed.  That hits closer to home than maybe I care to admit, but also brings with it a level of comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this.  The psalmists were ok in honest offerings of their experiences, secure in their understanding that God had the ability to hold both tensions on their behalf.  That is good news for us because it means that God hears our questions, our anger, our fear, our pain, and our critique without it negating the affection we carry for God and our desire to follow after God.  God has the ability to hold space for all of our experiences – even the ones that are seem contradictory – to make it possible for us to find our way into a deeper place.  That brings me peace and gives me some amount of hope as I navigate through my place of disorientation.
 
In my reading last week I was drawn to Psalm 77 and Psalm 40.  They served as an inner monologue for me, allowing me to feel both despair and hope.  For me, the juxtaposition of the two Psalms worked as a kind of call and answer.  Psalm 77 giving voice to the place where I presently find myself and Psalm 40 reminding me of God’s faithfulness. 
 

 

Peace Sign and Psalm 77 and Psalm 40

And when it’s all a blur, You are the hard line
In the disorder, You are the peace sign
And when the riots stir, You are the sound mind
In the disorder, You are the peace sign
 
I cry aloud to God;
    I cry aloud, and he hears me.
 In times of trouble I pray to the Lord;
    all night long I lift my hands in prayer,
    but I cannot find comfort.
When I think of God, I sigh;
    when I meditate, I feel discouraged.

 

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,    
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.

 

And when it’s all a blur, You are the hard line
In the disorder, You are the peace sign
And when the riots stir, You are the sound mind
In the disorder, You are the peace sign

 

I spend the night in deep thought;    
     I meditate, and this is what I ask myself:
Has the Lord stopped loving us?    
     Does his promise no longer stand?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has anger taken the place of his compassion?”
 
He put a new song in my mouth,    
     a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and be amazed,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

 

And when it’s all a blur, You are the hard line
In the disorder, You are the peace sign
And when the riots stir, You are the sound mind
In the disorder, You are the peace sign
 
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    I will remember your great deeds, Lord;
I will recall the wonders you did in the past.
    I will think about all that you have done;
I will meditate on all your mighty acts.”
 
May all who seek you    
     rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God.

 

One of the ways we connect with the presence of Jesus is through the act of taking communion.  The bread, the wine – the body, the blood of Jesus.  They are tangible, physical, tactile reminders of who Jesus is.  As we eat, we take in Jesus so to speak.  We are reminded of how great his love is for us – that he loves us with everything that He is.   So in the action of eating  may we encounter the presence of Christ.  Jesus, who sits with us in whatever places we find ourselves in, promises to always be with us.  And in that place may we find hope.
 
Let’s take a moment of silence for prayer and then as the music plays take in Jesus through the action of eating the bread and drinking the wine.
 
 

Holy Communion (click here for audio link)

 

Gracious Father we give you praise

     and thanks for this holy communion

The body and blood of your beloved Son

 

The body is broken

     God’s love poured open to make us new

Lord make us new

 

Abba Father we bless your name

     and take part in this holy communion

Make us all one to love like your Son

 

 
Let’s pray our closing prayer:  (click here for audio link)

 

O Lord our God,

   as we have sinned,

      whether in word, or deed, or thought,

   forgive us all,

      for Thou art good and lovest humankind.

 

Grant us a peaceful and undisturbed sleep,

   and deliver us from all influence

      and temptation of the evil one.

 

Raise us up again in proper time,

   that we may glorify Thee

      as we learn to live alive in hope, victory,

   and power of the resurrection.

 

Thou art the eternal Father,

   the Only begotten Son,

      and the all holy, and good,

   and life-giving Spirit.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

   Amen



march 22, 2020 – peace

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As we prepare to move through this liturgy, let’s take a moment to be still. 

 

Let’s pray:

Compassionate God we come to you in our need

confessing to you what we often

dare not admit to ourselves:

 

it is hard to celebrate life

when faced with the mystery of death.

 

It is hard to look to the future when surrounded

by the uncertainty of the present;

it is hard to embrace the day

when hope is eclipsed by despair.

 

Help us this day to know you and find you

in the whole of life:

in its beginnings and in its endings.

May we discover you in our pain as well as our joy,

in our doubts as well as our believing.

 

Help us to receive this day, and in the days to come,

comfort from your word and light for our darkness.

Amen.

 

Hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, ‘Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads. I will give you rest.  Accept my work and learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will find rest for your souls.’ 

  Matthew 11:28,29

 

We Come  (click here for audio)

 

Our hearts are empty without you

Barren and cold but for the bold hope you, yourself planted within

 

In the mighty name of God

In the saving name of Jesus

In the strong name of the Spirit

We come, we cry, we watch, we wait, we look, we long for You

 

Psalm 139:1-10

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

 

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

The Lord Almighty is with us.

 
When we pray, we bring two tensions together in the name of Jesus—we stand in the presence of the pain, worry, and darkness of the world and we kneel in the presence of the creator of the world. In praying for God to fulfill God’s ancient promises, may we discover that our own pain, our own darkness, our own worry is somehow being dealt with as well.

 -NT Wright

 

 

Hear our cries Lord, hear our prayers

Take our burdens, calm our fears

 

God hear our prayers as we lift them to heaven

We’re praying that you will receive and embrace them

The hopes of the empty, the cries of the broken

We’re reaching our hands out, oh Lord will you hold them

 

God hear our prayers, we lift them to you

God hear our prayers, Lord make our hearts true

 

Let’s spend a few moments in pray.  After each section there is space for silence, in which you can voice your own prayers.

 

Gracious God, rejoicing in your blessings,

trusting in your loving care for all,

we bring to you our prayers for the world.

 

We pray for the created world:

for those who rebuild where things have been destroyed;

for those who fight hunger, poverty, and disease;

for those who have power to bring change for the better and to renew hope.

 

Silence

 

We pray for our country:

for those in leadership;

who frame our laws and shape our common life;

who keep the peace and administer justice;

for those who teach and those who heal

for all who serve the community

 

Silence

 

We pray for people in need:

those for whom life is a bitter struggle;

those whose lives are clouded by death or loss,

by pain or disability, by discouragement or fear,

by shame or rejection.

 

Silence

 

We pray for those in the circle of friendship and love around us:

children and parents; sisters and brothers; friends and neighbours;

and for those especially in our thoughts today…

 

Silence

 

We pray for the church in its stand with the poor,

in its love for the outcast and the ashamed,

in its service to the sick and the neglected,

in its proclamation of the Gospel,

in this land and in this place.

 

Silence

 

Eternal God:

hear our prayers, the spoken and the silent,

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

to whom with you and the Holy Spirit,

be all praise and glory for ever.

Amen

 

 

During the past few weeks there have been moments when I have experienced anxiety around what how the future will unfold in the face of the COVID-19 virus.  I’ve worried about family, I’ve worried about friends, I’ve worried about the economy, I’ve worried about people around the world.  Some of the worry I experience makes sense, it’s natural and there is nothing wrong with it. It’s right to be concerned for health and safety and people. Other times fear brings with it an irrationality that can be paralyzing and unhealthy.  I suspect I am not in this alone in this ‘Ping-Pong’ of emotion.

 

One of my favourite writers is Debbie Blue. Several years ago she wrote a reflection about fear and the presence of Jesus that has often served as a beacon for me amidst worry.  Perhaps you will find it helpful…  

 

Mark 4:35-41

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind. But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

 

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

 

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

 

This crazy story is found in the gospel of Mark:  it’s a story in which the disciples face death and the one that is supposed to care for them sleeps.  In this account, the disciple’s storm is real, it is not a storm created from the musings of an anxiety-fuelled imagination.  They have very good reason to believe their death may be imminent.  A lot of them were fishermen, after all.  They weren’t city boy, land lovers scared of a minor squall.  They were highly experienced on the sea, and they realized they were going down.  This was a bad storm.

 

In a moment of terror, they scream at their leader who is fast asleep, ‘Don’t you care about us?!’  It’s actually a little hard for me to imagine.  Sleeping seems so indicative of carelessness.  And how would sleeping even be possible when you’re on a small sort of boat in a raging storm? I imagine the boat would have been tipping back and forth, heeling, like sail boats do, so that person would have to hold on if they didn’t want to slide right off into the water.  And the story says ‘the waves were breaking into their boat.’  The whole scene had to be very wet, very noisy, and very chaotic.

 

Could Jesus really sleep, rolling back and forth, with water crashing over him?  It’s an absurd image.

 

‘Who is this man?’ is the question the disciples ask in the story, and it’s not really answered.  Mark asks a lot more questions than he answers.  Maybe because questions prod the reader to respond.  Statements cut things off, in a way: they end in a period.  But questions sort of require relationship:  they require the listener to become engaged, to respond.  Maybe Mark writes with questions because living life with God, living life with a living being, is more like asking questions rat than knowing answers.

 

‘Who is this man?’  The implication of the question in the gospel story is really pretty important.  It implies that people who think they know Jesus, even people who become his disciples, may find themselves realizing that he’s unfamiliar.

 

So often what is brought out about this story is that Jesus is the victor in the struggle with chaos.  He stills the storm.  And that does seem to be what impresses the disciples.  It impresses me.  It’s so much what I want.  Chaos defeated.  But perhaps Jesus sleeping through the storm indicates that he’s a lot more relaxed about this so called chaos than we are.

 

Maybe Jesus sleeping in the storm gives us a glimpse of what faith looks like.  Maybe sometimes it looks more like sleeping that vigilance: an incredibly peaceful certainty that God will provide for our needs, a way of being so completely unthreatened, totally secure, complete faith in God as creator and sustainer of all, utter confidence that God will make things right.  Maybe faith could mean a relaxation so profound that one could sleep through the storm.

 

Perhaps this is the faith that the disciples lack in the boat in the storm.  In this story they don’t lack faith in Jesus’s ability to do something about the storm.  It seems like they expect he will.  That’s why they wake him up.

 

Maybe it’s not so much like:  What?  You have no faith?  Of course I’m going to fix this, you faithless people.  But more like:  What?  You have no faith?  You think if the storm tips us over and we start sinking to the bottom I wouldn’t be there with you? 

 

I don’t think the faith Jesus demonstrates as he sleeps, on the boat, in the storm, is the faith that we’ll all always be rescued from the chaos, the uncertainty, the deep.  I think it reaches deeper, if you will, reaches the deep.  I think the hope that faith promises is that your boat could shatter in a million pieces, and it would be okay.  There’s no place you can go, no thing you can be, nothing that can happen, that is beyond God’s reach.

 

If Jesus came to me in the middle of my anxiety and asked:  ‘Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?’  I’d have to answer, ‘Well, I guess not, I’m not sleeping, I can’t sleep.  I’m afraid of the storm.  I’m afraid my boat is going to break in a million pieces.  I’m afraid to drown.’

 

Part of what is hopeful to me about this passage is that Jesus doesn’t abandon the disciples for being faithless cowards.

 

I think the faith that let Jesus sleep, must be really, profoundly, deeply, hopeful:  a faith not confined to shallow water and a quiet breeze, but one that extends through every storm, to every boat that has ever capsized, every sailor that ever sunk, to the bottom of the sea.

 

I think the faith that lets Jesus sleep is a faith that God reaches very far for us: if our boat is wrecked, if we’re drowning, or if, like the disciples, we have no faith.

 

The story points me, in my sleeplessness and my anxiety, to Jesus, whose sleeping bears witness to a promise.  The promise of a God who reaches beyond what we can ever comprehend to be with us.  It points to a God who becomes a vulnerable baby, dies a painful death, walks in the deep, calms the storm, reaches far, reaches deep, not necessarily to lift us out, but to walk with us there.  I hope, however much faith we lack, we can somehow, some way, go in peace, knowing God is with us.

 

I Lift My Eyes Up  (click here for audio)

 

I lift my eyes up to the mountains

Where does my help come from

My help comes from you, Maker of Heaven

Creator of the earth

 

Can you sing over me words of comfort

Can you satisfy me with sweet honey

Can you break through me with your strong hand

Can you undo me enough to heal me

 

Oh how I need you Lord, You are my only hope

You’re my only prayer

So I will wait for you to come and rescue me

Come and give me life

 

You take the weight from my shoulders

My hands were clenched now they’re open

I’ll take your goodness poured from the sky

Food from the ravens, water from the dry well

 

Let’s pray our closing prayer:

 

O Lord our God,

   as we have sinned,

      whether in word, or deed, or thought,

   forgive us all,

      for Thou art good and lovest humankind.

 

Grant us a peaceful and undisturbed sleep,

   and deliver us from all influence

      and temptation of the evil one.

 

Raise us up again in proper time,

   that we may glorify Thee

      as we learn to live alive in hope, victory,

   and power of the resurrection.

 

Thou art the eternal Father,

   the Only begotten Son,

      and the all holy, and good,

   and life-giving Spirit.

Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

   Amen

 

Peace to you now, and in the coming week.

 



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