The Creator sets the boundaries of the oceans, the foundation of the earth. Jesus stills the storm. Powers beyond our own fill these readings, forcing us to ponder the nature and shape of God’s strength. We cannot match the One who “laid the cornerstone” of the earth and can only marvel at One who commands the waves.
After an extended block of teaching material (4:1–34), Mark turns his attention to demonstrations of Jesus’ authority (exousia). From the beginning, “authority” is how Mark has expressed why Jesus is able to heal, cast out demons, and forgive sins (1:27, 2:10). Authority is a defining aspect of Jesus’ relationship with God. Unlike other human beings, Jesus’ relationship with God involves sharing God’s power and rule. In the account of Jesus calming the storm, this shared divine power is dramatically displayed. – Aaron Couch
When we are afraid, watching the storms come with their flattening winds and turbulence, knowing that the next day we might encounter a terrifying change in our life situation––losses, deaths, down turns, failure––we might remember that while the disciples were rebuking Jesus for sleeping, he was, in fact, in the boat with them. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” he asks.
We might notice that even when we turn to God as if divine power resides Elsewhere Than Here, wherever we find ourselves, that is the place where God’s power is at work.
In Job’s story we can see the divine power present in Job’s insistence that he is not at fault for the agonies life has wrought him––even while his “friends” assail him.
When at last God responds to Job’s claim of innocence and call for vindication, God expresses no sympathy or understanding for Job’s pain. Instead, God suggests that Job lacks the perspective to ask such questions at all. There is great debate over how to interpret God’s answer to Job. Within the liturgical context of this Sunday, God’s reply invites reflection on the power of God the Creator who, by limiting the power of chaos present in the sea, makes space for life. The lectionaries permit the book of Job to provide an answer to the disciples’ question in Mark 4:41: “Who is this?” – Aaron Couch
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
“Why does the Bible talk about God protecting us if God doesn’t protect us?!” exclaimed a client of mine. Her story—a childhood marked by abuse; an unwise, short-lived, and abusive marriage, financial disarray, multiple moves and job losses, and just plain loneliness. Why? Why does she suffer if the Bible talks “about God protecting us?”
Paul might be better at answering my client’s question, while also challenging her with Bible verses that quite clearly state that we are not protected from suffering: he writes, “...as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities…” [and more].
But Paul falls a little short of answering my client’s lament satisfactorily, for not all human suffering occurs because the humans in question are proclaiming the Gospel. News cycles announce almost daily the death of innocents. . . The story of Jesus stilling the storm is a stirring tale, but it can’t simply be interpreted literally–God will protect us, don’t you worry. We need to be honest about the terrible vulnerability of human existence.
. . . [Jesus’] rhetorical question, “Why are you afraid?” does not deny that the storm was perilously close to killing them all, but it may have been meant to remind them that in death, as in life, he would be with them. . . . As Paul said, “On a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Has God rescued us from every calamity, like an impervious shield—or cage? No. But we are not alone in our suffering, and the companionship we receive promises to soothe and console us—and strengthen us to extend a hand of protection to others more vulnerable than we. – Stephen Crippen
Aaron Couch is co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Stephen Crippen is a psychotherapist and a deacon in the episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Washington.
Homily Service 39, no. 7 (2006): 46-55.