Proper 7 B
A sermon given by
Rev. Valerie Ann Hart
June 24, 2012
At St. Barnabas Episcopal Church
In that rather long first reading we got to hear the story of David and Goliath. Now Goliath was obviously a very large man. Whether he was quite as big as he is described in scripture is unknown, but he was obviously a much bigger man than any of the Israelites. You can imagine the fear, the confusion and the concern among the Israelite fighters. Remember, back then it was all hand to hand fighting so if someone was that much larger you, you were at a great disadvantage. But what was there about David that he didn’t get caught up in the fear and the concern.? What was it about him that he was able to keep his head and come up with a unique solution to that problem of Goliath?
We can imagine what it was like then, with the yelling and shouting and the cacophony of the soldiers cheering on their people. The waves of fear that must have gone through the camp as they realized they were going into war. So much chaos and confusion and anxiety, yet David responded with clarity and calmness.
That confusion and waves of chaos that David encountered were not unlike what the sailors with Jesus encountered. The Sea of Galilee is actually a rather shallow lake. I don’t know the physics of it, but the shallower the lake is, the bigger the waves are. So the Sea of Galilee, or lake Tiberius to the Romans, tends to suddenly have storms where the waves get very high. It is quite unpredictable. It is dangerous and it can be overwhelming.
Let’s think about the disciples. They were fisherman. Now a fisherman stays pretty much along the coast. He doesn’t go too far out into the lake because most of the fish are caught close to the edge. The disciples would be used to fishing so if there was a big storm they would close to shore and able to come in. But Jesus had them going straight across quite a distance, far out from shore. So, even though these were experienced fishermen they were terrified by the storm.
We can imagine being caught out on a boat in a huge storm with big waves. The water is rolling in over the boat and we think we are going to die. Then we look around, and our passenger is comfortably sleeping on the cushions in the back.
The disciples say to him, “Aren’t you afraid that we are going to perish?”
Now what was Jesus going to do. He doesn’t know anything about running a boat. He’s a carpenter. They, as fishermen, know much better what to do. Jesus wouldn’t be able to help them. What is going to, bail the boat? What do they expect from him?
They seem bothered by the fact that he was so calm amidst this storm. They seem to want his attention. “Don’t you care about us? Don’t you care that we are about to perish?”
“Actually not really too much,” is sort of Jesus’s response.
I have in my mind this image of Jesus kind of sleepily waking up and going, “Peace, be still.”
Then the waves stop and everything clams down.
Now this is one of his miracles where the disciples began to realize that Jesus wasn’t just a healer, but he could control nature – the wind and the waves. But to me there is a deeper level to this story and that’s the “Peace, be still” comment.
The real problem on that boat wasn’t the waves or the wind, but the fear, anxiety and confusion of the disciples. We all know what that is like. We all have times in our lives when the waves seem to be crashing over us. When there is so much stuff going on. When the fear of being able to pay the bills, worry about losing a job, concern that our children are acting out, or our parents are acting out, or we’re dealing with physical illness, with grief or loss. When the waves of pain, the waves of grief, come over us we feel it is going to sink us. It is coming from every direction, it is uncontrollable and our minds get obsessed. We all know what it is like when our minds are in great chaos. When it seems like we can’t think rationally anymore.
Like the soldiers when they were confronting this giant Goliath. It didn’t occur to them that there might be some other way of defeating him. They were just overwhelmed with fear.
But when we can quiet our minds a little bit, even for a short period, maybe we will see a way of getting through, of coping.
So I think that when Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” he might have been talking to the disciples as much as he was talking to the wind and the waves. “Peace. Peace be still.” What a gift that is – to find peace and stillness within the chaos of our lives.
That’s one of the reasons that it is traditional in many, many religions to have some regular practice of prayer and quiet. For me it is Centering Prayer. Some people do some form of meditation or relaxation. It is the idea of practicing peace and the stillness. If you practice that when life is going along okay, then when the waves start to feel like they are going to overwhelm you, you have something to go back to.
Of course what it really is asking Christ to be there with us, to give us that peace. Even if it is just 5 minutes a day. Even if it is less than that, just some time of quiet.
Just to give us a little taste of that, I’d like to invite you all to close your eyes and just notice your breathing.
(The sermon ends with a brief meditative exercise.)