Sunday, January 27, 2008

Peace, be still

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
I actually roused myself to get to church today, and I'm glad I did for SuperPastor gave a very well-crafted sermon from this passage, and being the smart guy that he is, asked the question that I had always asked when I read this: To whom was Jesus speaking? Of course, both religious and secular fundamentalists use this passage to point out the power (or not) that Jesus had (or couldn't possibly have) over the weather. But SuperPastor made a very good point: Even though Jesus was looking at the waves, he was probably talking to the disciples, and because they're Mark's disciples they're pretty clueless. As he was revving up to make his point, I could just see the scene: Guys in a boat, a little rain falls, a little wind picks up, and in their minds it gets rainier and windier and terrible because it's not the weather that's scaring them, but the journey itself. (And the sea, after all, it's a symbol of chaos and the depths of the subconsciousness, don't you know.) What's scaring them is, as they say, all in their heads.

And SuperPastor hit this point and hit it well, that we are afraid of the chaotic seas within and without, and that Jesus isn't talking to the waves but to us. Peace, be still. There is nothing to fear, no hay nada que temer.

I found this sermon rather relevant because it's been a rather fear-filled week for me, mostly in my imagination but also in a few real-world moments. When I realized that our beloved dog, Buster, was not going to ever get better and in fact was probably slipping away from us, I could not concentrate and had to remind myself at several points before we took him to the vet that there was no point in obsessing about Buster until the moment came. I worried about doing well in the worship service I was helping to lead. I worried about doing well when school starts. I worry nearly every day that I may lose my job. I worry about money. It never ends. I worry that if I do well people will (as they have in the past and sometimes do in the present) make me a target of envy or scorn, or if I do poorly they will (as they have in the past and sometimes do in the present) bully or discard my worth. The things that are only ephemeral worries, I do nothing but grow insular, grow cold to the world around me, by letting them plague me. The things that are true threats, I do nothing but make myself incapable of dealing with them.

So Peace, Be Still, is a good thing to keep in mind.

SuperPastor listed several things along these lines that "Peace, Be Still" is good advice for. But it occurred to me that this is one of the things where the personal and the social do not meet. Yes, many of our fears are in our heads. But what about the ones that aren't? Most of us are very lucky, and our fears are not as terrible as we imagine. But the less agency you have over your own life, the more real-world your fears are. An abused wife fears for her life and that of her children. An person oppressed because of race or ethnicity or orientation fears rejection and violence at the hands of those around them. Those who are not U.S. citizens or are children of immigrants have many reasons to be afraid, whether they're here legally or not, in an environment where you're expected to prove your status if you have the wrong name, the wrong look, the wrong language.

I think the message of Peace, Be Still is meant for those of us who have a tenuous control over our lives, so that we might do what we may to have solidarity with our sisters and brothers who need it. And Peace, Be Still, is given to those in peril so that they can find shelter, solace, family in the family that God through Jesus calls us to be.


drlobojo said...

Excellent, as I pointed out over at ER's hate crimes are crimes of terrorism, crimes of fear. They may be against a single person but there purpose is to instill fear and disrupt the stability of the population.
Would that our leadership in America would have said, "Peace be still" rather than "spend more money" after 911.
Peace be still, be not afraid, was in fact the consistent message sent by Gandhi and MLK to their followers, and look at their victories.

HapaThealogy said...

Waging war and spending money has immediate payoffs, though. It took Gandhi years, and MLK's work isn't finished even yet. I think eschatological anticipation works in real-world situation as well as waiting for Jesus' round trip. Victories that end in human community will come if we're not afraid of waging peace.

Erudite Redneck said...

Way good. You inspire me, ya know, with yer studies and yer writing. :-)