Sunday, June 25

Sermon Thrid Sunday after Pentecost

Job 38:1-11
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

As I read various resources and commentaries on the Job and Mark passages for today, the theme of chaos kept showing up. Most seem to think that these passages have something to tell us about the chaos in our lives, or the chaos of contemporary living or the chaos of the world. Certainly the theme of chaos is here: God shows up to Job out of a whirlwind, and water and the sea is a symbol of chaos throughout the Bible, as well as in many ancient Middle Eastern cultures. What is interesting though is that in Job the whirlwind is soon forgotten and the sea and the storm are backdrop for the interaction between Jesus and his Disciples. So while chaos might be part of what these passages are about I don’t think they are meant to tell us how to handle the chaos in our lives, though I think they do tell us not to worry too much about the chaos that may whirl around us and threaten to engulf us. The reasons for this are two fold: God appears to us out of the chaos and God is lord even over the chaos.

I am no different than Job or the disciples and I venture to guess that most of us here are no different. Job when he rails against God and his suffering and chaotic condition does not expect God to emerge out of a whirlwind, and like the disciples we believe the storm might overcome us because chaos is the opposite of God… right?

God confronts us in Job out of the chaos and challenges us to contradict that God is hidden from us: There are things even about God’s relation to the physical universe that we do not know and may never know or understand. This knowledge is not something for us to seek, nor is our lack a defect, rather it is simply the distance between God and us. God created the entire universe out of chaos and nothingness, and we should not expect to fully comprehend God’s actions let alone who God is essentially. Part of the chaos we see may be because we are creatures and cannot make out the pattern. There is an interesting movie by David Afronsky, called Pi: Faith in Chaos, that touches on seeking patterns and the limits of human knowledge. . It is about this mathematician, who wants to see the ultimate pattern the pattern in all things, the pattern in the chaotic. The more he seeks the pattern and the closer he gets to the pattern the more chaotic his own life gets. In attempting to get at God, the pattern of all patterns, he passes his own limits as a human being and a scientist and mathematician. In the end he is saved as he forces himself to stop seeking the pattern of all patterns, and embrace that while there may be this ultimate understanding of the universe, one must also allow for the limits of the human understanding. At the end of the movie he very radically limits himself. On some level this is the message of Job 38, accept your limits, and as such expect God in the chaos, even if that makes no sense. This is part of what it means to have faith. This should not be confused though with some specific attack on intellectual inquiry or scientific knowledge. Job is after all wisdom literature. It does mean that faith is something that calls us beyond knowledge.

Jesus in our Gospel accuses the disciples of having no faith as they faced the storm and in being upset with Jesus for sleeping in the back of the boat and thus not giving this huge storm his concern. I use to agree with commentators that the disciples are looking to Jesus for a miracle, but I think while this is part of the disciples response that mostly they’re upset Jesus is not phased by what is fearful to them. It angers them that Jesus in his lack of anxiety and fear is not helping them bail the boat, or doing what ever they thought needed to get done to not be overcome by the chaos. It is also possible that one or two of them objected crossing the sea at this time, or in the very least are angry at Jesus because if he hadn’t had this hair brained idea about going across the sea at this time they wouldn’t be facing being drowned in the sea! I do find myself puzzled though. How are the disciples exactly failing to have faith? Were they to simply expect that Jesus or God would save them from the storm? Or was it their incomprehension of Jesus state of lack of fear? If they had faith would they have trusted Jesus response? What response would have elicited a “good job disciples you have shown me your faith!” from Jesus? I wonder if Jesus sees their lack of faith in their lack of understanding not only of who he is but also of who God is! At best the disciples expect to be rescued out of the storm by some miraculous means, but not by God actually stopping the storm. That is they believe that there is something that God cannot handle. The forces of chaos and water are not God’s to command. Despite much Biblical witness to the contrary including our Psalm of today, which I think the disciples suddenly remembered when Jesus stills the storm and they have an “oh shit” moment, as it dawns on them that not only is Jesus right that they lack faith but that God commands the wind and the sea. “Who is this guy we have been following?”

Of course this raises a lot of questions about the presence of evil in the world, if God can stop storms why didn’t he stop Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami etc.? This question bring us back to Job; sure we can ask these questions but in the end are they faithful questions or do they simply seek to reach beyond our limits as human beings and as creatures. In our attempting to grasp God and the often-chaotic world around us are we seeking the wrong thing? Are we seeking knowledge instead of faith? Do not hear a claim that knowledge and faith are mutually exclusive, what I hear in our texts today is not some form of anti-intellectualism, but perspective on our humanity and what we can know. Do we understand the limits of human knowledge and understanding and do we really understand the place of faith?

I am here before you admitting that I don’t think I can say with Paul look at my life and you will see the answer to this question. Paul faced the chaos of the world for the sake of Christ and the Gospel in faith. And so he can list all these things he suffered. We find Paul in these moments when he lists his suffering as odd and partly humorous, perhaps because we are more like his opponents than we are like Paul. We are in fact very much like the Corinthians. We want a calm Christianity that affirms our worldviews. We want a God who justifies us on our conditions on our sense of right and wrong. In the end we want to judge God.

God comes to us and says I am your judge, not the reverse. Insist on judging the world and me by your limited standards and you will find yourself lost. But I am your savior, I came into the world as a human being that you may know that I appear out of the chaos and that I am beyond you but am also love. Yes there is evil and yes there is chaos and these things are not comprehensible. But do not be afraid, and have faith, when you are at your limits, I am there. Have faith; know that now is the time of salvation, every moment is that moment. If you doubt this look to my servant Paul who suffered all these things, look not only to him but to all my saints and martyrs of the Church who have faced the chaos and violence and evil of the world the way Christ faced the storm on the sea of Galilee and know that I am with you and that I am found even in the chaos of this world. Find your rest in me and nothing will shake you.

I wish I were there. I know that even the little chaos of our move has thrown me off center. I am with the disciples in the boat complaining to Jesus that he isn’t doing anything. Even in a small thing like moving I lacked faith tried to keep everything going, church, community, temporary work etc. on my own and I collapsed. I had to admit that if God is in all this: Reconciler, the community of Holy Trinity etc., then I need to rest in him even when I don’t see how everything is going to get done, even when so much seems beyond my power. It took getting sick and coming to Friday evening without a sermon for me to understand that God was in all this even as I could only see it as chaotic. I am here preaching and presiding today not by my own power. It was beyond me, and when I let it all go I found I had a sermon. And this really was such a small crisis.

This is the point, in the end God calls us beyond ourselves because God calls us to be in relationship with God’s self, who is by definition beyond our understanding and knowledge and comprehension. If we find ourselves beyond our limits in relating to God, it is because we are relating to that which is beyond us. If the world seems beyond our grasped it is because it is founded in that which is beyond our knowledge and comprehension. We are to rest in this understanding. To rest in our limits, to accept what we do not understand, by giving ourselves over to God is faith. Yet, we can also rest in the truth that even if we are like the disciples in the boat with out faith, God and Jesus Christ do not give up on us, but continually call us to faith and relationship.
May God grant us the grace to have the faith that will bring us to rest in the God who is other than we are but who also became one with us in our humanity. Amen.

Note: A comment during the discussion after the sermon leads me to comment that this sermon taken in isoaltion could possibly be taken in a very individualistic way that would down play the role of community and the Church in the equation. Though it should be understood what I have said is true for the church as community as much as for an individual Christian.