Monday, June 25, 2018

Whatever you do to the least of these... Mark 4:35-41

Today's Gospel speaks of a great disturbance…so great that the disciples who are fisher men fear for their own lives.

One commentator points out that
“This is a remarkable story; Mark is not particularly interested in geographical details, but gets Jesus and his disciples to cross the sea.”[1]

I have mentioned before that mark has a lot of coming and going Jesus is constantly on the move. Jesus just decides out of nowhere to just up and leave.  They could have walked elsewhere but instead they got into their boats and went across the sea of Galilee.

“The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret or Kinnereth, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias, is a freshwater lake in Israel. It is approximately 33 mi in circumference, about 13 mi long, and 8.1 mi wide. Its area is 64.4 sq mi at its fullest, and its maximum depth is approximately 141 feet.  At levels between 705 ft and 686 ft below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.”[2]

Crossing the sea of Galilee is no big deal, most of the time, and well Jesus is with a bunch of fisherman. So, what can go wrong?  Well we hear a “storm of great wind” arises which is fairly common, yet the disciples panic the waves are coming into the boat and the boat is starting to fill yet Jesus sleeps.

This got me to wondering what the boat looked like. Luckily there was one recently discovered that dates back to about that time.  

“The Ancient Galilee Boat, also known as the Jesus Boat, is an ancient fishing boat from the 1st century AD, discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The remains of the boat, 27 feet (8.27 meters) long, 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide and with a maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet (1.3 meters), first appeared during a drought, when the waters of the Sea (actually a great fresh-water lake) receded.”[3]

So Jesus could have been sleeping along some sort of seat since the boat is 7.5 feet wide but how did he not roll off in rough waters?  How did he not get wet?
Now frankly either the Disciples are panicking for no reason or Jesus can sleep well balanced while rocking violently and wet!

I suspect, knowing the disciples, they were panicked for no good reason.  Well maybe one Good reason, so that we might learn to trust the lord.

“As often happens in these parts, a storm comes up unexpectedly, and the disciples panic, accusing Jesus of indifference to their fate. Like someone calming a boisterous dog, Jesus orders the sea to behave (and it does), then rebukes the disciples, for the first time indicating the importance of faith to them.”[4]

The importance of faith.  The importance of trusting.  The importance of looking to see God.Paying attention  to see God active in your life, if you want to see Jesus show up you must look for them.
How many times are we caught up in our own storms, our own mishaps, our own illnesses, weaknesses, needs, fears, our own got to have it because I want it moments? How many times do we, in our most significant hours of need lift prayers in dire earnest? How often in our least important moment of the day do we nonchalantly turn to the lord and just say please God. Yet in the end they all have the same measure and, in the end, we rarely look to see the answer.

We rarely pause to say thank you lord.  We rarely stop to acknowledge Gods presence.  Now I am not saying we do not do it.  We at least do it or think about it on a Sunday, but what about the other 6 days of the week?  I am just asking because this little passage got me thinking.
Now this calming of the sea happened neither here nor there they are in route from one place to another where this miracle occurs. One commentator points out that;

“Jesus likes to show up in liminal spaces in Mark -- sites of transition or risk. He chooses to go to marginal spaces, away from life’s regular patterns: near a graveyard (Mark 5:2-3), at a deathbed (Mark 5:40), or hoisted atop Golgotha. He situates himself at geographical boundary-lands, like the wilderness (Mark 1:4-9, 35), mountaintops (Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2), Tyre (Mark 7:24), and Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27). He also goes to sociopolitical borderlands, politically charged locations like a tax collector’s home (Mark 2:14-15) and the land outside of Jerusalem during Passover (Mark 11:11, 19).
The Sea of Galilee was both kinds of places: geographically, it separated the peoples of one shore from those on the other side; socio-politically, it provided sustenance to Galileans and generated resources that Rome could extract from those who depended on it to make a living. It kept populations distanced from each other, and it fed imperial appetites”[5]

This is important on two aspects symbolically calming the waters that are so agitated by imperial power could symbolize the effect Jesus’ life has on all powers that be. Eventually they will calm by Christs command.

The first part of this comment that “Jesus likes to show up in the liminal spaces. I just love.  Jesus in the in between space.  That spot where you are neither in nor out that place where we are neither here nor there.  The scariest of all places for it is in the liminal space where we tend to be the must insecure, the most frightened, and sometimes the most lost.  It is in these places that we often go in prayer to seek out answers.  It is in these the most difficult of times in life that Jesus shows up.

“Life stands toe-to-toe with death at many of the borders in Mark. Some of the boundaries separate what’s holy from what defiles, and they keep outsiders away from insiders. That’s how dividing lines work: they allow us to keep what’s known on one side, and we banish whatever makes us fearful to the other side of the fence.”[6]

Does that sound familiar? This week has been horrendous with headlines of migrant families torn apart because of an arbitrary rule that the current administration had created.  There is an us verses them attitude that is terrible. Since when has it been illegal to be human? Since when is it illegal to be a child?  Since when does this country turn away those in need seeking a better life?

 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” So, what does this say about our nation who currently does not welcome children but treats them as criminals and places them in concentration camps? I am sorry, but I am still angry, and I have learned I cannot trust this administration to do anything that even remotely appears to be just.
So, I have heard an argument that asks where are we supposed to put all these refugees?  We are going to run out of land. To me it appears this argument really comes down to whether one admits it or not to “Not in my back yard” as Christians our initial response should be come here, let us help, let us feed and clothe you and make you safe and then let us see what we can do to help make your home better. I believe we can do much better as a nation than we have been in the past few weeks.
These dividing lines, this us versus them …well “Either Jesus declares that those separations don’t work, or that if they do work he intends to tear them down.”[7] And Jesus is calling us to do the same.
If we stopped worrying about having the most land, the most money, controlling the world and instead actually starting to care for this world we can reverse all the damage done to the earth and feed the world.

In an article I recently read it says that;
“Farms already grow enough food for every person on the planet — 2,800 calories a day, if it were divvied up equally. But we have never shared resources equally, and no one seems to have figured out a realistic way of making people start… The challenge of feeding humanity is enormous and unprecedented. No species, that I know of, has ever organized itself to ensure that every one of its kind is fed. We have the means to meet this demand in the short term, and we are in the process of figuring out how to meet it in the long term. Human welfare depends on our figuring this out. So does the welfare of thousands of other species that live alongside us.”[8]

I believe this world is on a cusp and right now America, our society and culture, is standing at the heart of a limnal space, an in-between space, a space of danger and risk and insecurity…a place we have created…but

“In liminal places, Jesus conducts ministry, opens minds to new possibilities, and sets people free to enter into a new future in freedom and wholeness. He meddles with borders, not because he has a penchant for chaos, but because the reign of God extends divine holiness and a commitment to human well-being to places that we might have thought were beyond the limits. To him, no place is desolate. No one is abandoned.”[9]

We are faced with a great opportunity to prayerfully and carefully enter into dialogue with each other and with those in our community.  We have an opportunity to see the blessing that the migrant is to us.  For the migrant is nothing more than the stranger at the door.  Ironically a door way is a liminal space for in the doorway you are neither here nor there.

Today is pride Sunday in San Francisco.  There was a time when the LGBT community was the threat to Christianity, heck we were the threat to the fabric of the country at one time. Speaking of which, I wonder who else has been a threat to this country?

“In the late nineteenth century, political cartoonist Thomas Nast regularly lambasted Irish Catholic immigrants as drunkards and barbarians unfit for citizenship; signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply,” lined shop windows in Boston and New York and dotted the classified pages in many of the country’s leading papers; statesmen warned about the dangers of admitting Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe onto American shores, for fear that they were something less than civilized (and less than white). It wasn’t unusual for respectable politicians to wonder aloud whether Catholics could be loyal to their adoptive country and to the Pope.”[10]

What about the time we treated the Japanes and the Italians with favor…
 “The incarceration of Japanese-Americans is the best-known effect of Executive Order 9066, the rule signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. And for good reason. The suffering and punishment placed upon innocent Japanese-Americans was a dark chapter in American history. But the full extent of the government order is largely unknown.
In addition to forcibly evacuating 120,000 Americans of Japanese background from their homes on the West Coast to barbed-wire-encircled camps, EO 9066 called for the compulsory relocation of more than 10,000 Italian-Americans and restricted the movements of more than 600,000 Italian-Americans nationwide.”[11]

I have to throw one more in for my parent’s sake “Anti-Polish sentiment in the early 20th century relegated Polish immigrants to a very low status in American society. Other white ethnic groups such as the Irish and Germans had assimilated to the American language and gained powerful positions in the Catholic Church and in various government positions by this time, and Poles were seen with disdain.”[12]

The truth is we always have someone to blame for any and or all our woes.  It is always the immigrants fault! Be it German, Italian, Maltese, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Muslim, or someone from south America.  There will always be someone at our borders and they will always receive the blame for something or the other until we change the way we treat each other in this society.

“So Jesus banishes harmful spirits, welcomes outsiders and disadvantaged people, restores community, exposes the lies that prop up counterfeit standards of greatness, and defeats death. Nothing will inhibit his desire to do ministry on “the other side.”[13]

We as Christians have a hard choice today.  It is difficult and it calls from the margins to stand up, to pray for and seek out justice for the least of our brothers and sisters…no matter where they come from.

There is a sudden storm brewing. Jesus doesn’t care… “In the end, it does not matter what it is that threatens to keep him from crossing the lake. What’s more important is that he will not be deterred.”[14] We are invited to get in that boat and follow.  We are challenged to trust in Jesus and his Gospel as our way, the Christian way.

You see we are called to be disciples of Jesus and as disciples we need to pay attention to those disciples. What about those disciples? Well “As for them, they will keep getting into boats with Jesus. In other words, they continue to follow him, which is what he asked them to do in the first place (Mark 1:16-20; 2:14-15; 3:14). If they are to remain his followers for the long haul, they will need to know all the dimensions that his ministry of deliverance entails. They will also need to learn about the rejection that comes with the territory”[15]

I know I will get some rejection for speaking up?  I know we will be challenged if we stand with our neighbors in need.  I know my salvation does not lie in anyone’s opinion except my Gods. What ever you do to the least of these…

[1] King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013.
[2] "Sea of Galilee." Wikipedia. June 19, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2018.
[3] Ditto
[4] King, Nicholas. The Bible: A Study Bible. Buxhall, Stowmarket, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew, 2013.
[5] "Commentary on Mark 4:35-41 by Matt Skinner." Ephesians 2:11-22 Commentary by Kyle Fever - Working Preacher - Preaching This Week (RCL). Accessed June 20, 2018.
[6] Ditto
[7] Ditto
[9] Commentary on Mark 4:35-41 by Matt Skinner." Ephesians 2:11-22 Commentary by Kyle Fever - Working Preacher - Preaching This Week (RCL). Accessed June 20, 2018.
[13] Commentary on Mark 4:35-41 by Matt Skinner." Ephesians 2:11-22 Commentary by Kyle Fever - Working Preacher - Preaching This Week (RCL). Accessed June 20, 2018.
[14] Ditto
[15] Ditto

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