Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Proper 7B

This week has seen its fair share of storms.
Thunderstorms. Power outages.
More shootings.
Political outrage and debate.
Families torn apart.

The world is a stormy place.
Thankfully, Jesus offers peace in the midst of the storms.

We all know this story from the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus and the disciples get in the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee
to get some time away from the crowds.
Jesus is exhausted and along the short journey,
he falls deeply asleep.
Naturally, that is when a storm arises,
lashing wind, waves pushing against the sides,
scaring the disciples into thinking they were going to sink. 

Of course, they over exaggerate. 
Since most of the disciples were fishermen,
they probably all knew how to swim and the sea of Galilee isn't that big. 
Nor are there any sharks or crocodiles in the sea (again, too small),
It would be a long swim to shore, but not impossible,
so while the boat might have sank, they most likely wouldn't have all died. 
However, getting tossed about in any storm, physical, emotional, political, 
isn't the most fun and tends to make us human beings fearful and cranky.
We know well the disciples fear.
Many of us fear death, especially by one of the many storms of this world.

I wonder about that storm. 
They would have known it was a possibility. 
Though storms crop up quickly in the valley in which the Sea of Galilee rests, 
there are always signs of approaching storms.
Dark clouds, changes in temperature or pressure,
changes in wind gusts. 

Even in the socio-political realms,
you can usually tell when storms are arising,
inflammatory messages being shared, crimes against other people,
people making deals or changing their stance.

Even as I prepare to go to General Convention, 
the every three year National Episcopal Church governance and program convention, 
I can see the signs of gathering storms. 
I gathered this week with the other members of the deputation from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania 
and we touched on only a few topics, 
but topics I know will have much conversation and debate surrounding them:
The Israel-Palestinian conflict, 
the sexual harrassment #MeToo movement, 
Same Gender Marriage liturgies,
immigrant family separation and detainment,
and Book of Common Prayer changes.

It seems that on all sides,
we are in the midst of raging storms.
Even in the church, we are not immune to storms.

It seems,
that even though peace is one of Jesus' top three ministries in the world,
those being love, grace, and peace,
we still have no idea how to live into the peace Jesus gives to us.
We almost seem to like living in the midst of raging storms. 

Jesus stands up in the boat and commands the wind and the sea to be at peace.
And they listen to him. 
Immediately, creation responds.
Yet how often does Jesus stand among his disciples 
and offer them peace,
and even still they don't always live into the peace Jesus gives them.

Of course, the peace which Jesus offers 
is not one which gets rid of all the storms in the world.
It is not a peace which ignores the world either.
It is a peace which steadies our hearts and minds,
helps us work towards making a difference in the world
while knowing that is at work in the midst of the storm.

Jesus stood up and commanded the storm.
He shouted out peace and creation listened to him.
Jesus is not the only one who can stand up for peace.
We might not command the wind and the rain and the sea
but we do make a difference when we stand up together against the storm.
Now you may say, we can't stand up to the storm!
We could die!

Why are we afraid? We have God on our side.
We have Jesus who even the wind and the sea obey.

Thankfully as part of General Convention,
in the midst of all the storms of opinion and politics
the community will gather for worship together everyday. 

We will need the reminder of Jesus' peace, love, and grace for us
in the midst of all the issues inherent in governing and financing 
and guiding the national church. 

One of the many reasons we come together as a community
each week
is to be reminded of
and to share
the Peace
Jesus gives to each of us,
the peace he gave to his disciples that day,
when they too were rocked by the storms raging around them.
Our liturgy,
though confusing to some
is structured the way it is
in order to help us walk through life in this world,
to remind of us of God's love, grace, and peace for us,
to give us strength and courage
to walk back out of here
into a stormy world
keeping the inner peace
Jesus gives to us.

Whether we recognize it or not,
whether that is how we feel after church or not,
that is the liturgy's intention.
It is a gathering in together to draw strength, courage, forgiveness, grace, love, and peace,
and then a pushing out to share those things with everyone else in the world.

While today our communal worship may seem a little awkward,
doing the Instructed Eucharist splits up the natural flow of the service,
and we are going to end in the middle,
and then gather again next week to finish our Instructed Eucharist,
learning about the flow and intention of our communal worship 
allows us to go deeper into what each part is for,
why we do each part of the service, and why we do it in the order it is in,
so that when we come together on a regular basis,
we can understand and experience the love, grace, and peace,
which comes out of our worship together.

It is telling, in the Episcopal Church,
how fundamental in nature
Jesus' peace is to our working together as a community, as the church of God, 
in that the first act of a newly ordained priest,
is to share the peace of God with the congregation present.
The first thing we do as priests
is to spread peace.
To offer the gift of peace
in the midst of a stormy and violent world.

I offer to you today,
in the midst of all the storms present outside these walls,
physical, emotional, personal, public, political,
whatever storm you find yourself in,
I invite you into the peace of God,
here in this room,
the steadfast loving reassurance
that God holds you,
and loves you,
and has a calm place for you to rest.


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