Year B; Proper 7; 6.24.2018
In the summer of 2007 John and I took a Mediterranean cruise. My brother, a high school teacher and his wife invited us to join a group of his students and parents to help chaperone at a greatly reduced price. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse!
The morning that the cruise was to launch, we arrived at the port in Naples, Italy and boarded the Italian cruise liner. We discovered right away that we were the only English-speakers on board.
Immediately after boarding we were called to the “Muster Station” nearest our cabin for a “Muster Drill.” That’s the place where passengers assemble when there is a ship’s emergency. The “Muster “Drill” was signaled by the blowing of the ship’s horn. There we were, strangers from many European countries standing together with us waiting for the crew’s instructions.
We learned to recognize the “General Emergency Alarm” which was seven short blasts followed by one blast. But I think the most sobering and moving part of the drill was when the crew members told us to never let a family member go missing after the blast and to also try to recognize our cabin neighbors to help them “muster” and not be lost.
The Mediterranean Sea is known for its treacherous storms. Even in modern times, ships have been sunk at sea. Thankfully, we never encountered a storm at sea.
The Sea of Galilee was known to have dangerous storms erupt unexpectedly. And today’s gospel is a story about one of those storms that was life-threatening. We can almost hear the shouts coming from the terrified disciples. Even the four experienced fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John knew that they were in danger of sinking and had reached their capacity for saving themselves.
“Teacher!” They cry. “Do you not care that we are perishing?” They were sure they were going to die. All primordial hell was breaking loose and where WAS the “Teacher?” He was in the stern on a bench sound asleep with his head on a pillow.
“ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!” They sounded THEIR General emergency alarm and mustered Jesus. Immediately, Jesus woke up and took command not only of the ship, but of the chaotic waters, those primeval waters of Genesis 1, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep…”
“Peace, be still, formless void!”
“Peace, be still, darkness of the deep!”
“Peace, be still, you sea waters that have burst out from God’s womb!”
No one perished. No one was lost.
The question then became, “Who…is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This is Jesus the Christ, who stays with us in calm AND in tempestuous waters. He is the Christ, the Son of God who saves us from drowning in our own pride and sin, in our despair and fears. He is Jesus the Christ who brings all things into order from chaos and destruction.
Jesus the Christ is sent to us, to “muster” us, that we never be lost to the treacherous and worrisome times in our lives. Over time, as we grow in our relationship with Jesus we understand that even though we are confronted by many things that are scary and uncontrollable, they do not have the last word.
Today, we as a nation are confronted by a chaotic storm of actions our government is taking against immigrants, particularly those coming from Central America and entering on the southern borders. Over the years many good, reasonable proposals for correcting our immigration laws have been offered. They have never been enacted.
These past two weeks, we have witnessed much chaos and lack of order in our country. Our government has decreed a “zero tolerance” for non-citizens entering our country without proper papers. They are bringing families with them. We have witnessed children being separated from their parents and deported to camps miles away.
The top justice official in our country stated that it was “biblical” for people obey the laws. That in Chapter 13 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapter 13, Paul instructed Christians to be “…subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”
Except, when the authority overrides God’s good order by breaking up families and leaving vulnerable children without the support of their moms and dads. “Part of the good order of God’s creation, which was itself established by the overcoming of primeval chaos, is the ordering of human affairs.”
Paul Achtemeier, a scholar of Paul’s letters writes this commentary about Romans 13: “Those who govern are finally answerable to God, because there is no area of reality which can exempt itself from his sovereign power.”
So, when a government official invokes Romans 13 to justify breaking up families because it’s following the law, he is wrong because breaking up families causes chaos and wrecks the family unit, which is against God’s good order.
The story of a six-year-old who was separated from her mother tells us that our government has created chaos and is not of good order. Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, describes the desperate desire to be “mustered” with her family. A reporter quotes her as saying, ‘Can I go with my aunt? I want her to come. I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her home. I have her number. Are you going to call my aunt so that when I’m done eating, she can pick me up? I have her number…my mommy says that I’ll go with my aunt and that she’ll come to pick me up there soon.” Alison still remains separated from family at this time.
We might be worried and afraid of what the future holds for our country by all the chaos that is swirling around us. And yet, God is with us. God is with us whether or not our government acts for or against people.
He stands with us while he calls out, “Peace! Be still!” his divine call to chaos. It is the call that reveals that the whole world is in God’s hand. Chaos is an anathema to God. The story of Creation teaches us that God called creation into being and it was good, it was sequential and it was ordered. God never forsakes the world to disorder.
Jesus cares about you and me and all the little children who have been separated from their parents. Jesus is calling the chaotic waters of our government to “Peace! Be still!” No one is to be lost. It is the character and nature of Jesus to not only love, but to save.
Jesus the Christ is sent to “muster” us in this time of emergency in our nation, that no one may be lost.