Reflection: We of Little Faith
In the Gospel of Mark, the sea is a metaphor for demonic and chaotic forces that stand against the Kingdom of God that are even now at hand, and it's a boundary, literal and metaphorical, between Jews and Gentiles.
Though this sea, filled with devils, threatens to undo them, Jesus wants to cross it because the Good News of the Gospel is never for those on just one side of the sea.
In their attempt to cross to the other side to bring hope and healing and good news, the demonic forces within the sea, lying in wait like a troll under a bridge, stir the waters into a horrible whirlwind of a storm.
It's enough to terrify even the most veteran of sailors.
It's never easy to bring the Good News of the Kingdom to the other side, but Jesus calms the storm with the simple words,
"Be quiet. Be still"
and with these words, Jesus puts whatever is raging around us to rest.
When oceans rise and the thunder roars, we can trust the captain of the boat to not only see us through the squall, but also ensure smooth sailing - that's the point of the story, right?
Well, except we read that the captain is asleep at the back of the boat, and after the disciples wake him, he accuses them of having little faith.
They’ve been following him for about 3 years, so they obviously trust in his power, when the sea is too strong.
So why does Jesus ask, "Do you still have no faith?"
When the storms of life are raging, we obviously want Jesus to stand by us and our faith tells us that he will.
Jesus says it's time to go to the other side, which is usually a scary or undesirable place, or at least we think it is.
the other side of the tracks,
the other side of the road, or
the other side of the sea.
There's always a boundary we're taught not to cross.
We're taught that the boundary is there for a reason: for our protection, for our privilege, for our purity.
It's a wall, a fence, a law, an attitude, or a demonic sea.
Demons stir when God is on the move and Jesus knows this, but he chooses to sleep, because as he taught in the parable before they set off in their boat, God's power in the Kingdom is at work even while we sleep.
Jesus trusts the disciples to lead him to the other side, through the dangerous sea.
A chapter earlier, when he commissions the disciples, he gives them the power to cast out demons, so they have the power to rebuke the demons that stir up the wind and waves - they just don't have the faith.
When I was younger, my mother taught me how to do the laundry.
I was with her when she did mine and she showed me how to sort my clothes and how to use the washing machine.
But my laundry was piling up - "Mum, my clothes need washing." I cried.
"Okay, so go wash them." She said.
I did the smell test on a few shirts and thought they’d last until Saturday when she’d be home all day to do them.
On Saturday I called out, "Mum, I have no clean clothes for church tomorrow."
That should get her to do my laundry, with the whole can't-go-to-church-without-clothes bit.
"Okay, well the washing machine is free, so off you go."
But I didn't want to do my laundry - I wanted Mum to do my laundry.
"But you're my mother. You're supposed to do my laundry for me."
"No, I'm your mother and I'm supposed to teach you how to do your own laundry, because I won't always be here."
The disciples, commissioned by the Son of God to cast out demons, couldn’t or wouldn’t, rebuke the wind and the waves of the demonic sea.
Did you notice they didn't even try?
They're too busy panicking to think of calming the storm.
They're too busy casting out the water in their own boat, to cast out the demons around it.
"Jesus is in the back of the boat” They thought. “He'll save us."
The disciples know that Jesus can cast out demons.
They have faith in him, as they've seen him do it many times, but they just aren't willing to do it themselves.
You disciples of little faith, you believe in Jesus enough to leave everything behind and follow him.
You trust Jesus with your lives, trust in his words and trust in his power, but you don't trust in his power in you.
Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, which means that he believes they have what it takes to be like him.
He gives them power to proclaim the good news, to cast out demons, and to heal every kind of disease and sickness.
In Matthew 14, when Jesus comes to the disciples over the water, striding across the demonic boundary, he tells them not to be afraid.
Peter, bless his heart, tries to trust in the power and Christ’s promises to him, so he walks out onto the water.
He trusts that if Jesus says he can do it, then he can do it.
He trusts the power and promise that the gates of hell can’t overcome him, but the demons of the sea stir up again and Peter begins to fear - fear causes doubts and he doubts that the power in him is strong enough to stand against the forces of evil, so, he begins to sink.
"You of little faith," says Jesus. "Why did you doubt?"
We of little faith. Why do we doubt?
We believe in Jesus enough to worship him.
We trust him with our lives, we trust in his words and his power to bring life and to cast out sin and death, but we don't trust in his power in us.
We’re given the power to cast out demons, but we stand trembling in their midst instead of rebuking them.
We stand on the shore, fearing the storm that's sure to brew if we try to cross to the other side with the love of God.
Will we weather the storm if we try to cross that boundary?
Maybe it's just best to stay on dry land.
We of little faith, why are we so afraid?
We're too busy trying to calm ourselves down, to be able to calm the wind and the waves that batter people's lives.
We don't believe we have the power to stand above the forces of prejudice, hatred, violence, abuse and terror.
So, we don’t stand up and we don’t rebuke others.
Instead, we huddle down in the bottom of our boats and watch the squall through stained glass church windows.
What else can we do?
"We're just disciples in a boat," we say. “We’re followers, so we worship and we sing and we pray - that's all.
He chose us for this, to be his church: his singing, praying and preaching church.
If a storm comes up that keeps us from going to the other side, well, then it's up to Jesus to calm that storm if that's where he wants us to go."
But is that your understanding of faith?
Jesus doesn't call his disciples to merely follow - he calls them to lead, to heal, to proclaim, and to cast out.
He asks them to have faith in the power he promises and the work he commissions them to do for the Kingdom of God, whether that is spreading some seed and letting the power of God go to work while, or rebuking demons and watching the power of God go to work while he sleeps.
Faith is trusting that the power of God is always at work - in Christ, in the church, and in you.
Christ calls and commissions us to be exorcists of demons and healers of sicknesses that plague our communities.
Is there discrimination?
Cast it out.
Is there division?
Are there painful words?
Are there broken hearts?
Are there storms keeping us from proclaiming that nothing can separate us from the love of God?
There's a comic strip called B.C. that chronicles the humorous everyday lives of two cavemen
A few years ago, in one strip, two cavemen were sitting together under the night sky, when one says, "Sometimes I want to ask God why God lets so many bad things happen in the world."
The other asks, "Why don't you?"
"Because I'm afraid God would ask me the same question."
Almighty God, you are powerful and you never sleep.
You’re here with us and you give us power to do great things.
Help us to use the power that comes from you, to work with you bringing hope and peace and joy and love to this broken world where demons still run amok.
Help us to cast them out and proclaim the kingdom of God that is even now at hand.
We pray in Christ's name. Amen.