Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Rocking the boat’
“To ‘go across to the other side’ can be a daunting prospect when you are used to and happy with the world you’re in. Having readied the boat and climbed on board, Jesus and the disciples finally begin their journey across the Sea of Galilee. Mark tells the story as if such journeys are to be a normal part of the life of Jesus’ followers. They involve leaving the crowds behind and confronting all manner of uncertainties and fears” (John Hoskin). God be with you …
A voyage to the other side may evoke curiosity, exploration, cultural connection, communication (reaching out, overcoming confusion, affirming differences, translation). Navigating a safe/effective passage in choppy conversation. Across generational or denominational divides. Making the effort to listen. Finding the courage to speak. Getting through a tumultuous period of activity or creativity. Making it through the day. Enduring nightmares or sleepless nights …
What do you imagine? …
The Book of Job invites us to discern the voice of God in the presence of a storm, in stormy weather. When, as the singer laments, “life is bare” and “gloom and misery” is “everywhere” (Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, 1933). Interpretation, as every good singer knows, is a voyage from musical score to performance, from word to world, from Scripture to life together.
What is our voyage? What is our God saying to us in the storm? We might consider the Uniting Church’s voyage from ecumenical partnerships to political-
Which storm rocks your/our boat? …
“We also get a sense of the normality of this journey for Jesus when we consider that he travels just as he is, and sleeps easily in the stern during the voyage. It’s worth noting that while Matthew and Luke record Jesus as having ‘nowhere to lay his head’, Mark uses no such tradition. Instead, he portrays Jesus as the one whose head is laid in the small boat crossing to the other side amidst the storm. Recalling that the little boat has long been an image of God’s church, it is comforting to find that Christ is most at home in the life of the church as it journeys with him to the other side” (John Hoskin).
This is striking. Christ is most at home in the life of the church as it journeys with him to the other side. As Christians, we might say, we are boat people.
In fact, the gospel image is an image used over and over in the Bible. Trying to get to the other side. Crossing the Red Sea, crossing the Jordan. These are stories about escaping slavery/oppression and finding freedom/safety on the other side.
Escaping slavery/oppression/persecution and finding freedom/safety/protection on the other side.
Often it feels as though it’s all in vain and our efforts to brave the sea and make it to the other side are going to see us pushed back, or swamped and drowned.
Christ/God seems to be asleep and quite oblivious to it all.
And yet … stormy weather could well be a picture of Jesus’ life, too. The whole gospel account is one of Jesus pushing on towards his destination, the promised land of love and mercy and hope, and the further he goes the more intensely he experiences storms of rage and resentment, gloom and misery, even abandonment …
Indeed, we may discern a link between today’s passage and the story set in the Garden of Gethsemane, because here Jesus is asleep and the disciples are terrified of the storm, and in the Garden the disciples are asleep and Jesus is terrified.
What can all this mean? Not surprisingly, the Book of Job offers no neat solutions. God may indeed speak in the storm – rocking our sense of entitlement (our personal/national/biological suffering is nothing exceptional), rocking our complacency, arrogance, sinful pride/sloth … But the God who so speaks is the same God who lauds Job’s desire for justice – the passion for freedom/safety/protection …
As for Job, so for Jesus … The Saviour who calms the storm assures the safe passage.
In Christ we have a companion for whom the difficult/dangerous voyage is normal, a companion who questions our fears, challenges us to trust the love of God in all circumstances, and fills us with awe and wonder.
To which shore might God be calling you today? Let’s complete the homily together by risking conversations in small groups of two or three … Amen.