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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The Readings for Sunday, June 24, 2012:


First Reading: Job 38:1-11

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 1 Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49

First Reading (Alt.): 1 Samuel 17:57--18:5, 10-16 (Semi-continuous)

Psalm: Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 9:9-20

Psalm (Alt.): Psalm 133 (Semi-continuous)

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Gospel: Mark 4:35-41


We live in storm-tossed times. I wrote that sentence three years ago, and frankly, it doesn’t seem like much has changed, except that I know more unemployed people this year than I did three years ago, and I have less hope that we will collectively find our way to better times. In these early days of hurricane season, in the 20th anniversary year of Hurricane Andrew, I feel haunted by the idea that a big storm will come along and finish us off.

Maybe we can relate to those disciples in this week's Gospel. The boat is taking on water. We're sinking. We'll die out here in the middle of this lake. It was bad back there with the crowds, but we don't want to perish this way.

And so, like the disciples, we call out: "Where are you God? Don't you care about us, Jesus?"

Look at the response of Jesus in this passage. Many theologians have noted that he doesn't mock them for their fears. Their fears are real and valid. But he asks them why they're letting their fears get the best of them. It's as if he's saying, "I'm right here. I'm with you. Have you forgotten what is possible when I'm in your boat?"

And then, he calms the storm.

Today is also the feast day when we celebrate the life of John the Baptist, someone who knew first-hand what it was like to live in storm-tossed times. John the Baptist reminded people to stay alert, that someone greater was coming. John warned about a winnowing time, a time when dead branches would be pruned away. John was not afraid to speak the truth, even to the powerful, and John lost his life in part because of his witness.

John had a firm grip on who he was and where he fit in the narrative of the life of Jesus. I am most fond of his saying, “I am not the Messiah.”

All too often, we try to be the Messiah. We hesitate to bother God with our little lives. We try to handle storms on our own. John reminds us that we’re not that powerful.

Just because we're believers, that doesn't mean that we will never experience storms. We will, and we will likely be afraid. But Jesus assures us that even though we might feel alone, we are not alone. The storms will come, and storms will go. But God is always there, with us, in our boats.

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