2 Corinthians 6: 1-13
Saint Mark 4: 35-41
In nomine Jesu!
Grace and peace to you from God – Father, ☩ Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
I’m not a stranger here. Some of us have known one another longer than we care to admit. Some of us know each other from our “house church” over the past year; some have seen my wife Carole and me in our “Bucky chairs” worshiping outdoors and then in our favorite pew with you ever since we returned inside and in-person; some have seen me the two times I’ve been privileged to preside at this table, once in pre-taped video, recently with you, live. Since last Monday, some have googled me, and others have begun Facebook following and friending me – and my wife Carole. But I still think I need to introduce myself today.
But how to do that? Thanks to the overwhelmingly nautical theme of today’s readings, psalm, Gospel, and hymns that dilemma has been resolved.
So, first, in case you missed it, I’m an old salt. I’ve been around for quite a while. I wasn’t around for the launching of the Titanic, but I was around – on deck – for the launching of the ELCA. (Read anything you want into that!)
Second, because each of us have been washed aboard in God’s great baptismal flood, we’re all in the same boat. We share our place in that boat – we call it Christ’s Church – with the disciples we just heard about, crossing the stormy Sea of Galilee with Jesus asleep in the stern; and with a whole host of saints from ages past who have reached that other shore and, lest we think too small, with a whole host of those who are yet to be water-borne among us. We’re all in the same boat, Christ’s Church. That’s why we call this “the nave.” That’s why that sailing bark hangs there over our heads.
There’s something important that needs to be said about this boat today. Christ Jesus remains in this boat with us, amidst all the chaos and storms, waves and wind that have buffeted us; including during the last 15 months as we were becalmed in a Sargasso Sea of separation, sequestration, and for some of us, solitude. There is, however, one major difference between the Christ who was and is and will always be with us and the Christ who slept in the stern of the boat in Galilee: Ever since his death and resurrection, the Christ who is with us never sleeps. Christ is always awake, always “woke” for us, with us, in and among us; awake for us for the sake of world! Resurrection did that to Christ. Christ’s resurrection does that now for us.
I’ve learned one other thing about myself that’s worth sharing now. I don’t get seasick. Through 46 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve experienced more than my share of troubled waters and blustering storms.
Yet through all of these, the Holy Spirit has steadied me; given me, if you will, my sea-legs albeit with a limp. With you, Carole and I have been through half the pandemic and all of this past month’s trauma. But we’re all still in this boat. We trust, as Job’s God and Mark’s Jesus assure us today, that the One who created, saved, and breathes new life, energy, and vision into us remains with us. So we can face all that lies ahead feasting on faith and fasting on fear.
You know, the story in today’s Gospel is really a transition story. It’s about Jesus and the disciples leaving the familiar mission territory in Galilee, where they all grew up, and sailing across the lake to a new territory. A new territory. Strange, Samaritan, Gentile territory; tacking relentlessly toward Jerusalem; toward betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection itself. The whole point of their water-borne transition was to get them to that other side. The whole point of our transition is to do precisely the same.
So, what are we going to do now?
Now. We hear Paul use that very word in his letter to the Corinthian congregation today. Paul uses “now” in a very technical way – the entire New Testament uses this word in a very specific way – and it’s exactly the opposite of the way we use it; exactly the opposite of the way I just used it. I used it to express what many of us are thinking: What are we going to do now? Paul uses it to invite us to look, discern, and immerse ourselves in the truth of the gospel. Paul invites us to ask: What is God doing now?
For Paul, “now, the acceptable time” is about what I call a “kairotic moment;” the moment when we clearly discern and respond to God’s action for us. Through this pandemic, what has God revealed to us? Now are we responding. Through these pastoral changes, what is God doing, what is God saying to us? How are we responding?
What is God doing now?
Ask that question; discuss that together, and there will be no blame, no guilt, no anxiety, no suspicion, no distrust, and no fear. Ask that question and the Spirit will compel us to work joyfully and lovingly together. Imagine: if the disciples in their boat, transitioning from one shore to the other, had asked that question, they would not have panicked or ben afraid. For as long as I am privileged to serve in our little boat here, that will be my consistent question. And finally, in God’s “acceptable time,” when respond to that Gospel-nourished answer, I’m going to sit back down again right next to you and enjoy the rest of the journey. After all, we do know exactly where we’re going. We glimpse it regularly at font and at table as together with “…choirs of angels, the church on earth and the host of heaven” and those yet to be washed aboard with us — glimpse that we are all, with Christ, in this boat together…and when one of us gets seasick, Christ calms the storm! So let’s eat!
Amandus J. Derr
Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church
In the City of Houston, Texas