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 windstorm 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?" -Mark 4:35-41
The story of the power of the storm and the calming of it by Jesus can go in many directions in personal meditation. But the readings I've chosen have to do with awe in the presence of nature.
This week the “stilling of the storm” on the sea of Galilee is juxtaposed (track 2) with the beginning of Job 38: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?.. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? …who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and door, and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed”? I think the purpose of this juxtaposition is to link Jesus with both the creation and mastery over the elements.
But I love to point out that the writer of Job 38-41 puts human beings in their place. For ten verses God compares humans unfavorably with the hippo in the covert of the reeds under the lotus plants. (39:15-24) The glory of the human being is somewhat lower than the crocodile’s goodly frame, coat of mail, terrible teeth, his sneezings, his breath, his underparts. A full chapter (41:1-34) is devoted to humorous cartoon-like sarcasm: human weapons verses the majestic reptile.
The collection of meditation prompts this week evoke the humility experienced in the presence of nature.
Ever so vulnerably, -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit)
healed ere we are aware
No amount of word-making will ever make a single soul to know these mountains. As well seek to warm the naked and frost bitten by lectures on caloric and pictures of flame. One day’s exposure to mountains is better than carloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographer’s plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul. All that is required is exposure, and purity of material. The pure in heart shall see God! … Come to the woods, for here is rest. … The galling harness of civilization drops off, and we are healed ere we are aware.
–John Muir 1838-1914
But if you wish to know how these things come about,
ask grace not instruction,
desire not understanding,
the groaning of prayer not diligent reading,
the Spouse not the teacher,
God not man,
darkness not clarity,
not light but the fire
that totally inflames and carries us into God
by ecstatic unctions and burning affections.
– Bonaventure 1221-1274 The Soul’s Journey Into God
The goal is not to read a book;
the goal is to read the story taking place all around us.
-Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme
When the Morning Stars Sang Together, William Blake, 1820
But the silence in the mind is when we live best, within listening distance of the silence we call God... It is a presence, then, whose margins are our margins; that calls us out over our own fathoms.
-R.S. Thomas 1913-2000
List for Sunday's Liturgy: Mark 4:35-41
4 twenty foot lengths of blue fabric (Sea of Galilee). 8 tall people to manipulate the waves over the congregation. "Other boats were with them." (vs. 36) 1 clean plastic water squirter. 1 polite, irreproachable young person to move up and down the aisles with the waves and gently spray the congregation alongside the waves.
1 thunder machine, 1 person to work it from the balcony, 1 person to switch lights on and off.
3-5 pieces of old curtain material. White. 3-5 people to be clouds. 1 or more battery powered set of fairy lights for clouds to wear beneath white material 1 golden mask for sunset The red, orange, yellow, tulle left-over from Pentecost hanging. (As Jesus calms the storm, the white fabric drops, fairy lights come on as the former clouds hold up the Pentecost fabric around the person in gold mask. Gorgeous sunset. “When evening had come” vs. 35)
1 disposable cardboard boat. 1 pillow (vs. 38) Disciples. (to look worried and try to wake Jesus) Jesus. (who can stand up and gently wave down the storm)
1 smoke machine (optional) 1 person to operate smoke machine
1 reader. From pulpit with microphone.
1 Leviathan (Psalm 104:26) lost in the wrong text. (Optional)
Jesus stills the storm, Gospel Book of Echternach, 11th century miniature
Meditation Two (insight)
nor can foot feel, being shod
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844-1889 God’s Grandeur
Creation of Animals, Master Bertram, 1383
Meditation Three (integration)
Originating power brought forth a universe. All the energy that would ever exist in the entire course of time erupted as a single quantum – a singular gift – existence. If in the future, stars would blaze and lizards would blink in their light, these actions would be powered by the same numinous energy that flared forth at the dawn of time.
There was no place in the universe that was separate from the originating power of the universe. Each thing of the universe had its very roots in this realm. Even space-time itself was a tossing, churning, foaming out of the originating reality, instant by instant. Each of the sextillion particles that foamed into existence had its root in this quantum vacuum, this originating reality.
The birth of the universe was not an event in time. Time begins simultaneously with the birth of existence. The realm or power that brings forth the universe is not itself an event in time, nor a position in space, but is rather the very matrix out of which the conditions arise that enable temporal events to occur in space. Though the originating power gave birth to the universe fifteen billion years ago, this realm of power is not simply located there at that point of time, but is rather a condition of every moment of the universe, past, present, and to come.
– Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry
The Universe Story
The Last Word
Thou mastering me
God! Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea;
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland (first verse)
Without Fear of Death
I hear this story differently in the season after Pentecost than I would, say, in Epiphany. Easter/ Ascension / Pentecost teaches me that Christ is enthroned, not far away in heaven, but in my heart. I'm called to draw upon the resources within myself to find Christ there, stilling the storm from within while I cope with the dangers surrounding me.
If I skim the surface of the Gospel stories, taking them out of context, I find that I want Jesus to be a miracle worker, a magician, always rescuing me from tempests real or imagined. The church year makes me go deeper. So does Mark's Gospel for that matter, as Alexander J. Shaia points out in The Hidden Power of the Gospels:
However, the progression of the crossing stories demonstrates a much greater message. Although Jesus continued to use his power to still storms, in each crossing Mark recounts that Jesus grew increasingly impatient with the presumption of his disciples that he would simply perform a divine act and in every instance relieve them of their fear. They seemed to completely ignore that they also had responsibilities. They had an obligation to endure and to find inner calm through faith. By the final crossing, Jesus was totally exasperated and demanded to know if his disciples had yet learned anything whatsoever. (p.117-18)
["Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?" Mark 8:17-18]
After Pentecost, although we may be sent to the “ends of the earth,”nothing separates us from the love of Christ. Not “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” (Romans 8:35) The yearly re-living and ritual enactment of the Paschal Mystery, Jesus' resurrection appearances, the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, mean to prepare us for whatever tribulations come in a divine reign in which death is not the end nor a determiner of value. After Pentecost we say with Paul “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:8-9)
So with boldness, without fear of death, I'm meant to attend to the mission at hand. As for Jesus saving me in my swamping boat of fear, rather than shouting “Do you not care that I am drowning?” I try to hear, “You will do works greater than these.” (John 14:12)