The Rev. Sarah Buteux
June 24, 2018
Proper 7 Year B
You all know I’m kind of type A, right? Yeah, I don’t think I hide that very well. I mean, you have to be careful saying things like that because nobody is just one thing. I don’t want to be reduced to a label anymore then the next person.
But I looked on-line and read an article titled: “16 Signs You’re a Little (or a lot) Type A,” figuring I might display maybe ten of the 16 characteristics and …well, no. I got a perfect score; which didn’t leave me feeling as good as that usually does.
Apparently, at least according to the Huff-Po, type A people love to-do lists, lose sleep over details, multi-task even when they’re trying to relax, grind their teeth, and have a low tolerance for incompetence. Which, experts agree, leaves us feeling a wee bit more stressed than the average person.
Type A people work hard and play hard, walk fast and talk fast, and they hate long lines, because long lines are a waste of time and time is the one thing Type A people cannot afford to waste.
All of which, for me, is true. How about the rest of you? Do I have any peeps out there? I know it’s a little crazy, but if the person ahead of me at the check out line decides that today is the day to sign up for a Target Red Card, I admit, a little piece of me dies inside.
Whenever I see a sign that says something cute like, “don’t sweat the small stuff…p.s. it’s all small stuff,” I want to grind it into a million little pieces and say, “How’s that? That small enough for you?”
And if Andrew offers to make dinner – God help us – I can’t just sit at the counter, enjoy a glass of wine, and talk to him like a normal person while he cooks. No. I do super annoying really not helpful things like adjust the heat on the stove while he’s rummaging in the fridge. I have been known to add ingredients to the pan while he’s not looking.
And worst of all…sometimes… if I’m not careful… I tell him what not to do… while he’s doing it… which is not fun for anyone.
The point is that I like to get stuff done, I want it done well, and I like to be in control while doing it.
Maybe you don’t. Maybe you are more of a type B kind of person, a little more comfortable with other people taking control. Maybe you’re more flexible, more willing to go with the flow.
Maybe you’re just not interested in taking on any more responsibility than you have to. It’s not that you don’t care, you just don’t see how stressing about things or running yourself ragged helps.…which I get.
Actually that’s not true. I don’t get it at all. Sometimes, I wish I did, but I don’t.
However, as different as we might be, we type A’s and type B’s, there is one thing I think we can all agree on and that is this: if we are not in control, either because we can’t be or because we don’t really want to be, we at least want to know that someone is. Right?
We want to know that someone is driving the bus. If I can’t be in control than I want someone bigger and more powerful than me who I just happen to agree with 100% to be in the driver’s seat.
Your standards might be slightly lower, but I do not believe I am unusual in this regard. I think we all want someone who has the will and the power to get us where we are going in one piece.
Parents, politicians, pastors, teachers, experts, administrators, doctors, generals….God… at the end of the day -especially days like these – we all want to know that there is someone higher up the chain of command who we can rely on, someone who knows what to do, someone who will ensure that it all turns out ok.
That desire runs strong in me, so strong that I think I’ve always read this account in Mark through that lens. And because of that, I think I’ve always missed a really important truth at the heart of this story.
You see, I’ve always read this story of Jesus calming the storm as a story about fear and faith. A story in which the disciples – always so incredibly clueless – lack the faith to see Jesus for who he really is and therefore lack the faith to truly rely on him.
I always thought it was about having enough faith to realize that God is in control and will eventually come through. In the midst of a terrible storm the disciples cry out: “Do you not care that we are perishing.” And the answer is: of course God cares. God cared for them just as God cares for us.
You just have to be patient and humble in the midst of life’s storms and realize you don’t know what God knows. God can do anything and God will do something, when God knows the time is right. Till then, “suck it up buttercup,” and try to hang in there.
And yes, I always tried to soften the message a little, but that was the take away.
This time around, though, I am seeing something completely different. Something that scares me a whole lot more than an all powerful, slightly capricious God who will eventually come through.
What I see in this story is:
– a Jesus much less interested in playing God among mortals and much more interested in simply being human.
– a Jesus who is less concerned with whether or not we believe in Divine power and whole lot more invested in helping us realize our own power.
What I see in Mark’s writing here is Jesus our Emmanuel, not just “God with us,” but a God who has come down from on high to truly become one of us with all the limits and potential that implies.
Take a look back at the reading, because there are some telling details in all this. Notice that the disciples took Jesus in the boat with them, “just as he was.”
Now that’s a funny way to describe someone – as if he could be anything other than what he was – but I think what Mark is trying to do here is really emphasize Jesus’ humanity – how small and ordinary he was in the midst of all these people.
I’m also struck by the fact that Jesus is totally comfortable letting the disciples take over. Many of them are fisherman, after all. Out on the land, trying to follow their leader, they are way out of their element, bumbling fools more often then not.
But when Jesus says to them, “let us go to the other side” of the sea and steps on to their boat, he steps into their element. They are the ones in charge now. They have the knowledge and expertise to carry Jesus for a time and he lets them because he knows they can do so this and he is really and truly worn out.
In fact, he trusts them so much that he allows himself to fall into a deep sleep. It is a sleep so deep that not even a horrible storm can wake him.
And when they finally do, when they finally shake him awake in a panic screaming, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” he’s not worried about the storm or apologetic for worrying them…honestly, more than anything else Jesus seems kind of annoyed.
I know Jesus comes across as all zen when he says to the wind and the sea, “Peace, be still.” But a more accurate translation would really be something more like, “Everybody, shut up, just shut up! Cut it out or so help me, Me…” After which everybody does.
The storm doesn’t gradually die down. It just ends. The disciples don’t gradually calm down. They’re frozen in shock. And there is nothing but dead calm.
Jesus is the one to break the silence. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Now I always thought Jesus was asking them why they had so little faith in him – like he was going to let them die out there or something – but now I wonder if maybe he wasn’t asking them why they had so little faith in themselves.
And sure, this may just be the Type A, take charge, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, part of me talking. But, you know what? When you think about it, this is a boat in a storm, and yes, that’s scary. But these guys are fisherman. These are their waters. Did they really have to wake him up or could they have figured this out on their own?
I wonder if Jesus isn’t disappointed in them. I wonder if he isn’t just waiting for them to pull themselves together and see that they don’t need supernatural intervention whenever things get rough. They just need to believe in themselves and do the good they know how to do.
I wonder all this, because I think on some level we all want a God who will get it done for us. We want a God who will act on our behalf, make it rain or, in this case, make it stop. We want God on our side using all that power for our idea of the good.
I mean nothing would have made me happier than to see Jesus return this week, split open the heavens and come down to the White House or down to the border and treat the people criminalizing immigrants and separating children from their parents with the same delicacy he treated the wind and the waves. Anyone else feel that way?
Imagine Jesus telling them all to shut up and cut it out or else. That would have been sweet. Then we could have watched as our Jesus magically re-united everybody and all gone home happy.
But that didn’t happen and I don’t think that’s going to happen. What I have instead is a God who is looking right at me – perhaps a little annoyed that I’ve bothered to rouse her with my anxious thoughts and prayers – saying, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? You’re woke, aren’t you?
You deal with it. I mean it’s a crisis in America, and yes that’s scary, but you’re an American. This is your country.
I can’t help but wonder if God isn’t disappointed in us right now. I can’t help but wonder if God isn’t just waiting for us to pull ourselves together and see that we don’t need supernatural intervention when things get rough. We just need to believe in ourselves and do what we already know how to do.
The refugees at our borders don’t need our thoughts and prayers, or anxious posts on facebook. They need our support. They need us to call our senators and show up at rallies and vote our conscience in November. They need us to take all our fear and all of our outrage and channel it into concrete actions, sacrifices of time and money, to calm the storm of hatred and demonization that is swamping our country and threatening to drag us all down.
“Do you not care that we are perishing?” we cry out. God does care, which is why God made us, beings with the capacity to make a difference for the good. If a body like this was good enough for Jesus to make a difference in, it is good enough for you and its good enough for me.
This week in the Christian Century, Willie Dwayne Francois III cried out: “The world needs Jesus-people to awake from our violent slumber— (our) moral narcolepsy—and speak with the unimpeachable authority of our teacher. While all the world loses its head, we can shut up the forces of chaos if we dare open our mouths and speak.”
The world -especially those who are fleeing from violence and longing for opportunity – needs Jesus-people like you and me to speak truth to power and breathe peace into the storm like never before.
And we can, not just with our words but with our lives. With these finite, limited, decidedly human bodies we can turn the tide, the way Jesus did. Not just because we believe in God, but because God believes in us.