13 December 2019
If we we fall in love set those we admire on pedestals, refusing to see their flaws and regarding them as bigger than life. We project what we long for into them.
The disciples had projected the entire messianic baggage on Jesus, as well as a load of personal needs and longings. Jesus was gracious enough to carry these projections, but at every point he attempted to get the disciples to withdraw them. Mark presents a string of stories about-this. The first takes place after Jesus has told his audience stories oabout seeds growing and tress growing.. Leaving the crowd behind, he and the disciples begin to cross the sea in a boat. A storm threatens to engulf them. Jesus is asleep in the stern. They might said, Don't just lie there - bail! Instead they attack him personally: "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" They personalize the storm, almost as if he has sent it against them spitefully. They address him not as another available hand in a crisis but as their teacher. They project on him concern for their well-being and survival, and are therefore they are emptied of the inner resources to deal with the storm themselves-these weathered seamen!
Where had their courage fled this time? Jesus had stolen it. More accurately, they had given up their courage by entering into dependency on Jesus. And so they experienced the storm not as challenge, but as evil threat.
Jesus he bears their projections and rebukes the wind:
Mark’s gospel – though it is short – is very carefully put together, and he makes every word count.
The Greek is “Siopa, pefimoso”. Siopa is an onomatopoeic word – that means it sounds like it the thing it means. “Siopa” – if you listen you can hear that it simply means “shh – be quiet”. And pefimoso comes from the word “muzzle”. It means “to shut the mouth.”. So what Jesus actually says to the storm is “Shh– shut up”. He tells the storm to stop shouting. And that is the key. It isn’t just the storm that is the problem, it’s what the storm is saying to these disciples – the message it is giving them – what they are understanding through it, that is making them panic.
As the storm rages outside them, another sort of storm rages within,
shouting to them that they are useless, failures – even at sailing. They should have been able to cope with this storm. They are fishermen – this is what they do.” But they have handed over to Jesus and become dependant and useless.
They couldn’t even get this short journey right. The storm is telling them that they can’t cope, that they are about to die, and, worst of all, that they are alone. When they wake Jesus up, what is their cry? Not “help us!” but “Don’t you care…?” That is their
worst fear – not that they are drowning, but that they have been abandoned.
We probably all know what storm voices sound like. When things go wrong, what do we think to ourselves, what are the messages that shout loudest in us? Often it is things like “I must have done something very wrong to deserve this,” or “ What a fool I am, I should have seen this coming.” or “I’m useless – I always thought I was, but now I know it”, and, like these disciples, the storm voices often tell us that no one cares, that we are all on our own.
These messages of blame, powerlessness, hopelessness, abandonment sap our courage, confidence and resolve – the very resources we need in times of trouble. And soon we find we are being pulled under by despair and panic.
They are usually voices we have learnt to hear from childhood, the voices of family and society, and they are very deep rooted.
The fears that assail these disciples have equally deep roots – but Jesus knows that they need to be dealt with. “Why are you afraid?” he says to them, when the storm is over. Not, “why WERE you afraid?” Thinking you are drowning is bound to be frightening, but now, in the calm after the storm Jesus knows that the deep down fears that came out in their desperate cry, “don’t you care?” are still there waiting to surface again when trouble next strikes.
It’s not just the wind and the waves on the sea of Galilee, but the storm voices in their souls that need addressing, because there will be plenty of storms coming in the future for these disciples.
Storms that will be equally terrifying. They will soon face the storm of Jesus’ death, when all their hopes and plans seem to have come to nothing. And later many of them will face the storms of their own persecution and death too. The memory of this moment, when
even the wind and waves gave way before Christ’s voice will be vital to them.
Paul knew a great deal about the storms of life too – he faced persecution and danger almost daily. He tells the Corinthians about it in our second reading today – afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings,imprisonments. But in the midst of these desperate situations he has found peace. He has learnt to hear the voice of God which tells him that even if he is dying “see – we are alive!” that, though he has nothing, yet really he possesses everything he could possibly need.
There's no shortcut to this sort of assurance. You get it by going through the storms, not by avoiding them. You get it by finding the courage to shout at God when you need to, when it feels as if he is asleep - "don't you care?” Only then can you find that he does.
The Work of PSN is based in helping people find their strengths. Caring does not mean creating dependancies, but helping people find their God given strengths and to use those strengths.
There are times when others need to do things for us, but there is a great danger when the very ones helping us threaten to make us independent. I can tell when I walk into a rest home what sort it is. Those which create independence for the people there by being able to make the most of all they can do and giving support where they cannot. And those who fit the people to their schedule because its easier to do stuff for people than take the time to let them do it themselves. Child shoes on – get confidence. Not grow unless given that space.
Families – in states of despair- use expert help- yes ! but not to make them dependant on coming back all the time, to give them the confidence and the resources to be able to find their own way. Anyone in the hlping professions have to be careful not to creat dependancies – because its good to know that people rely on them. Minister especially need to be wary of that. There are times when we need to lean on each other, and there are also times to have others lean on us for support but wisdom is knowing when each is right for us. In the lives of churches also – great dependancy on a programme or what ever but every church has within it the strengths to do the task they are called to. We are not alone and we can trust God to lead us but we also have to use the gifts we have to work that through. The storm was real, but they were the sailors who knew what to do, and Jesus was teaching them that they already had the faith to get through the storm.
Perhaps today you have come to church frightened that some storm in your life is about to pull you under. Perhaps that’s something you’ve known in the past.
The messages of those storms shout loudly at us, but the voice of God, when we have learned to hear it is strong and firm cutting through the clamour with the truth of his love just as faithfully now as it did on the sea of Galilee. “Peace – be still” he says to us – trust and use your faith, your skills your strengths and travel over to the other side into the unknown knowing that he is the one who travels with us.
Walter Bruggemann - Christian century article
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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