Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (June 24, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
II Cor. 6:1-13; Job 38:1-11; Ps. 107; Mark 4:35-41
The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and activity. After visiting the three MCC advocacy offices (New York, Washington and Ottawa), we traveled to Alberta to speak in a variety of school and church settings. We also enjoyed interacting with the energetic and visionary MCC Alberta staff.
From Alberta we traveled to the Woodcrest Community in Rifton, New York — part of the Bruderhof communities. There we shared stories about MCC’s Middle East work and had a chance to visit with community members who have traveled to the Middle East during our Jordan years.
From New York, we traveled to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, for the June 9th wedding of our son Jeremy to Lyndsay Adams. It was a wonderful family weekend celebration. The bride and groom planned a beautiful ceremony and reception.
From Lewisburg, we flew to Kansas to begin a time with MCC Central States. We visited with pastors, MCC alumni and a local peace group; and spoke in a public forum in Wichita. We were impressed by the level of understanding and interest in Middle East issues. Next we spent a day with MCC New Orleans staff, learning about their challenging work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We then traveled to Meridian, Mississippi to speak in a worship service at Jubilee Mennonite Church – the congregation we were part of for nearly a dozen years in the 1980s and 1990s. What a delightful time to re-connect with so many long-term friends!
We are now spending a few days with Cindy’s mother in Kidron, Ohio, before finishing the last leg of our trip in Goshen, Indiana. We’re looking forward to returning to Amman on July 1.
We have been following Middle East news closely as we travel:
The situation in Syria only seems to be heating up, in spite of a U.N.-brokered peace plan. More than 110,000 Syrians are now living in Jordan. Some 22,000 have already registered as refugees with UNHCR. A Syrian air force pilot defected to Jordan on Thursday, June 21, along with his plane. Clashes between Israelis and militants in Gaza have also been on the upswing, with heavy casualties in Gaza.
The Common Lectionary readings for this fourth week after Pentecost are about God’s command over the forces of nature.
In the Old Testament reading, the Lord reminds Job about the God-created limits of the seas: “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out of 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)
The psalmist describes God’s capacity to both stir up storms and calm the seas:
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;
They saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;
They reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;
He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. (Ps. 107:23-29)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus falls asleep while sailing with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. A mighty storm swells the waves, which beat against the boat and terrify the disciples. In their fear, they waken Jesus and demand, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” The winds cease and there is dead calm. Jesus then turns to his disciples and says, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41)
We know in our heads that God creates and ultimately contains and controls the forces of nature. And yet, like the disciples of Jesus, we often become fearful in the moment – wondering whether God cares and whether global events are spinning out of control. The One who calms the seas still asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”