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Learning to live by faith

Pentecost 5 B 2018 1 Samuel 17:32-49, 2 Corinthians 6: 1-13, Mark 4:35-41

✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

How do we learn to trust God?

While David was still a young man, although anointed by Samuel, he was not yet king; but he was learning some important precepts. The Israelites were frightened of the giant Philistine army and made fun of the inexperience and stature of David but criticism did not stop David. While the rest of the army stood around, he knew the importance of taking action. With God to fight for him, there was no reason to wait. Can we learn as David did, that people may try to discourage us with negative comments, but can we continue to trust God and do what we know is right? By doing what is right we will be pleasing God, whose opinion matters most.

Reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, We wonder how they could toss aside God’s message, and, as Paul said,” to receive God’s grace in vain”. We find that they heard God’s message but did not let it affect what they said and did in their daily lives. Can we give ourselves a reality check and ask “Does God’s message reach us in vain?”

God’s message of salvation is for everyone, but some people put off doing anything about it, thinking that perhaps there will be a better time, but usually the present is the best time to accept God’s grace. In everything Paul did he considered what his actions communicated about Jesus Christ. In the course of the day can we be mindful of who is watching us, especially if our behaviour is undisciplined or careless? Can we be aware what non-Christians might be observing about us?

Can we be careful not to give another person a reason for rejecting Jesus Christ?

Paul was a great example for people to follow. He trusted God and was faithful, whether people praised him or condemned him. He remained active, joyful, and content in the most difficult hardships throughout his life. What a difference it makes to know and trust Jesus; that he cares for us in spite of what the world thinks. Christians don’t have to give in to public opinion and pressure and we need not let circumstances or people’s expectations control us. Can we be firm as we stand true to God, and refuse to compromise his standards for living? Can we encourage our local and world leaders to do the same, especially when refugees and victims of various atrocities are concerned?

The people of Corinth were reacting coldly to Paul’s words but he explained that his stern words came from his love for them. Paul really opened his heart to them and told the Corinthians that he really loved them and that he was exhorting them to be open to God’s messages of love and grace.

Paul’s message of Jesus was formed with the knowledge of his earthly life, death and resurrection. There is a variety in the New Testament. There is Paul’s message of Christ, starting a new movement in the church, and there are other teachers such as Antony of Egypt and Francis of Assisi who were telling the radical message where people literally followed Jesus and it was as if he came alive once more. We may wonder, can we preach the message Jesus preached today, given that Jesus’ messages and parables were before his death and resurrection, and that most of the New Testament stories were written after. Could it be that today is a time in history when what is needed most is the message of Jesus turning the ways of the world upside down?

Reading the gospel story we look at the geography of the Sea of Galilee which is just over 200 metres below sea level in some places and is surrounded by hills. Winds blowing across the land intensify close to the sea, often causing violent and unexpected storms. The disciples were seasoned fishermen who had spent their lives fishing on this huge lake, but during this squall they panicked. The storm threatened to destroy them all and Jesus seemed unaware and unconcerned about the danger.

This was a physical storm, but storms come in other forms. Think about the storms in our lives – the situations that cause us great anxiety. Whatever our difficulty we have two options. We can worry and think that God does not care about our problems, or we can resist fear, and put our trust in God. When we feel like panicking, can we acknowledge our need for God and trust him to care for us.

There is much symbolism in this story as well as the facts that point us to seeing Jesus as divine.

The disciples are in a boat with Jesus in a storm. This boat can be a symbol of the Church making its way through unruly and at times dangerous territory. We the disciples can be panicked into thinking that Jesus is asleep and that we will be swamped. The point of this story is to assure us that trust in God, of the kind that can sleep through a storm is what we need in reality. It also shows us that even if our trust is weak, Jesus will always answer our cry for help and our prayers. Even though the disciples lived with Jesus, they underestimated him. They did not see that his power applied to their very own situation. Jesus has been with his people for 20 centuries and yet, we, like the disciples, underestimate his power to handle crisis in our lives. The disciples did not yet know enough about Jesus. We cannot make the same excuse.

Jesus turned the disciples panic into a positive outcome – He showed them once again who he was. He showed them his divinity and creative power, reminding them and us of God’s work of creation as forming order out of chaos.People were already asking questions about the teaching of Jesus and his saving mission. There are questions about what Jesus does, or says, others are about why he or his disciples do something. The result is that the disciples again, start asking questions. They have crossed to the other side of the lake into new territory. They are shocked into asking “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The disciples question is at the very identity of Jesus, because he has control of some of the most awesome forces in creation - the wind and the sea. Mark is pointing us in the direction of Jesus and his divine status. The disciples had already seen Jesus’ power over death but now Jesus has shown his power over death dealing forces, so that the disciples see it as a matter of their own life and death and they can no longer remain spectators.

Mark is pointing us to more precepts that can be learned, just as the youthful David learned to trust God in his time, so Mark has shown us this Jesus who can also be trusted to save his friends in a storm. We discover he is fulfilling the prophecies about the messiah, and then we find that the one who calms the storm may be he. Can there ever be one single answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” There needs to be a new creation, a new way of looking at our world and our reason for being here, that takes us beyond the questions and enables us to form something of an answer and know who Jesus is, and the answer is always unfolding and it amounts to trust. Amen.

The Reverend Camellia Flanagan tssf

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