We divide the world between “us” and “them”. That’s how we’re wired to protect us from threats. You’re either on my side or you’re against me. One of the rules in many of our families is it’s always family first, all others second. But, if that’s the only option we have to evaluate the people in our lives, it reminds me of what Abraham Maslow said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
To see the world and the people around us in black and white terms—us versus them—divides what God seeks to unite in Christ. Jesus’ call to his disciples, and through them, his call to us, is to leave what we know and venture toward another reality known in the gospel of Mark as the kingdom of God. “After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”” (Mark 1:14-15)
The invitation to follow Jesus not only means turning away from business as usual, but it means embracing an adventure which is going to take us places we don’t want to go. Places and people we fear. I’ve concluded from a lifetime spent serving this church and the larger Christian community, that much of our historical practice of Christianity is meant not to help us follow Jesus as Lord of our lives, but instead to create havens of comfort which insulate us from the adventure Jesus calls us to live today—an adventure which will take us to the “other side.”
As we stood on the safe Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee and looked East across the lake two years ago, our guide, Julie Baretz read the passage below. She then explained what it meant for Jesus to take the disciples across the lake to the “other side.” The other side was where the Canaanite cities were, so Jews didn’t go over to the other side…period. This wasn’t some travel restriction that was new to the disciples, it was a travel ban centuries old, and a ban I might say developed for some pretty good reasons. Sinful Canaanite pagans lived in those cities, not law-abiding kosher Jews. Yet, that’s exactly where Jesus wanted to go…so they set sail.
But not only was Jesus asking him to go over to the other side, the Sea was known for terrible squalls that suddenly “blew” up as the cooler air from the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the northern mountains of Lebanon collided with the hotter desert winds from the east. It was a recipe for violent weather, and as the little boat was carrying Jesus and the disciples across the sea they got a big dose of bad weather. Here’s what Mark 4:35-41 reports happened:
On the evening of that same day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they left the crowd; the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. Other boats were there too. Suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the waves began to spill over into the boat, so that it was about to fill with water. Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow.
The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?” But they were terribly afraid and began to say to one another, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The focus of the disciples’ fear shifted from going to the other side to the one who had power over the forces of nature. I wonder if they experienced the same fear people experienced when an angel showed up, for the presence of the divine is terrifying. The “normal” we create to keep life under control is shattered by the God who has a plan for us, and that plan is not our plan. Once on the other side, Jesus healed the man possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus is taking the kingdom to the gates of hell, and beckons us to follow. If we’re following Jesus, there is no business as usual.
More on Sunday…
Here’s what I have on my desk…
CHILDREN, PARENTS AND VOLUNTEERS—SAVE THESE DATES!!
NEW & EXCITING PLANS ARE BEING MADE FOR OUR VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL & ARTS CAMP!
June 26TH through 30TH:
9:00 AM-11:30 AM: Maker Fun Factory Vacation Bible School: $35.00
11:30 AM-2:00 PM: Music Maker Arts Camp: $35.00 (includes lunch)
***Registration and Additional Details Coming Soon!***
Westminster Woods: 2-5 day Christian Camps for 2nd through 12th grade. Many of our children have experienced the excitement of this Redwood Adventure Camp, including Challenge Courses. They are excepting registrations now at: http://www.westminsterwoods.org/
RISING STRONG—THE RECKONING. THE RUMBLE. THE REVOLUTION.
Due to lagging ticket sales, the Rising Strong Even has been cancelled at this time. We are looking for your feedback regarding scheduling future presentations. If you are interested in attending a Rising Strong Event in the future, please indicate that interest on your Communication Card THIS SUNDAY.