Calming the storms

Proper 7 (June 21, 2009)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Job 38:1-11; Ps. 107:1-3, 23-32; II Cor. 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

We enjoyed several more days with our children this week – including a visits to Jerash, Ajloun Castle and the Dead Sea — before they returned to the United States on Wednesday. It was our first family vacation together in two years. Visiting historic sites was fun, but it was equally good to play card games and sit together over meals.

Jeremy floats on the Dead Sea

There is a lot going on in the region. This week, large crowds of Iranians have spilled into the streets to voice their concerns about the announced outcome of the recent presidential elections. The demonstrations have largely been nonviolent. Still, at least eight persons have been killed and many more detained by Iranian authorities. The situation could quickly turn violent if crowds continue to gather in defiance of the Supreme Leader’s call on Friday to end the protests.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently gave a major policy speech, announcing for the first time support for a conditional Palestinian State but refusing to yield on the issue of Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited the Gaza Strip and met with leaders of Hamas to talk about a just and peaceful path forward.

In Iraq, U.S. troops are scheduled to leave major urban areas on June 30. Some expect a surge in violence during this transition.

The Common Lectionary readings this week reflect on God’s power over the forces of nature. Three of the texts specifically mention God’s command over the seas.

In the Old Testament reading, God responds to Job’s complaints by asking, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? – and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?” (Job 38:8, 10-11).

Salt-covered rocks on the shores of the Dead Sea

The psalmist describes those who go down to the seas to do business on the mighty waters (Ps. 107:23). They become terrified when God raises a stormy wind, which lifts the waves of the sea (v. 25). The travelers are “at their wits’ end” (v. 27) and cry to the Lord in their trouble (v. 28a). God delivers them from their distress by making the storm be still, hushing the waves of the sea and bringing them to their desired haven (vv. 28b-30).

Likewise in the Gospel reading, a great windstorm arises when Jesus and his disciples are sailing across the Sea of Galilee. The waves beat against their boat, swamping it with water (Mark 4:37). Jesus is asleep in the boat and the disciples wake him. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they cry (v.38). Jesus rebukes the wind and commands the sea, “Peace! Be still!”(v.39a). Immediately, the wind ceases and there is “dead calm” (v.39b). Jesus chides his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (v.40).

In Epistle reading, Paul describes storms of another kind – afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonment, riots, labors, sleepless nights and hunger (II Cor. 6:4-5) , which he has endured in order to proclaim God’s good news.

With all the stormy circumstances around us, it is comforting to know that the same God who commands the seas to be still, is also sovereign over the political and economic affairs of the nations. Do we have faith to believe it?

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