Did you know that there is actually an area of study called “futurology”? It is also sometimes called “futurism,” and it concerns itself with the examination of the history of technological, social and cultural change, and with the postulating of possible and probable future directions for the human race. It is, in short, the non-fiction version of my favorite genre: science fiction.
One of the prevailing theories among futurists is that the psycho-social chaos attendant upon living in our contemporary era is quite likely not only to persist, but to increase, due to the accelerating rate of change in available technology. As the rate at which new technological innovations come whizzing down the pike continues to increase, we will find ourselves less and less able to manage the changes in our lives which they necessitate, and thus experience greater and greater levels of anxiety.
The reality of chaos, the anxiety which it generates in the believer, and the way in which the presence of Christ addresses both the chaos and the anxiety are the subject of this Sunday’s gospel lesson, as it was explained by L. Ann Hallisey in the “Healing Word” section of Homily Service in 2009.
The sea as the environ of chaos is a metaphor that begins in the first chapter of Genesis and extends throughout the Hebrew scriptures. Mark easily employed it as an image for the threat the disciples faced when equipped only with small faith. He is suggesting that it is a threat facing Christians in any age if we attempt to engage the chaos when we are in thrall to fear. For Mark there is a simple syllogism that might strengthen faith, if only the believer would grab hold of it. It is this: only God has power over the creation God authored. If Jesus is the Messiah then he will be able to subdue the chaotic forces of creation when they are out of control. Jesus is able to calm the storm; therefore, Jesus is the Messiah. Unlike next week’s Gospel, when faith precedes miracle, in this instance the function of miracle is to inspire belief.
Frightening as the experience was for the disciples, frightening as life is for Mark’s Christians, frightening as the world’s chaos is in any age, there is a still point at the center of the storm. He is sleeping in the stern of the boat.
What aspects of contemporary life generate the most chaos in the lives of your congregation, and how does their anxiety about it influence their lives as Christians?
L. Ann Hallisey is an Episcopal Priest and Dean of Students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.