My wonderful Homestead parishioners, Mark 8:37-38 says A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
The conversations almost always start the same way. “Hey, how are you?” “I’m…ok. How about you?” “We’re fine…”
The question is not new to us. For many of us, it is the standard greeting we have used in casual conversation for as long as we can remember. Our typically nondescript response has almost always been the same. However, lately I have noticed a change in many responses, perhaps a slight hesitation that hints at something other than ‘Okay’ or ‘Fine’.
Whether the hesitation comes from my side of the conversation or the other, a new response is emerging: “Are you sure? That wasn’t too convincing.” We could list all the reasons not to be ‘Okay’ or ‘Fine’, and sometimes we do: sheltering-in-place for months on end, news reports of the virus spreading and climbing death rates, concerns about schools reopening or not reopening, another disconcerting news story, economic fears, and all kinds of personal struggles and concerns.
Our national equilibrium has been upended, and we may feel almost sick as we are tossed about by rough unpredictable waves. We try to regain our balance, individually and collectively, as another wave has us listing again.
If you remember, I preached on this very passage a while back. You may remember the story of the day Jesus and the disciples were in a boat when storm came up quite suddenly (Matthew 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8.) The disciples held on for dear life as the storm raged. Meanwhile Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat, that is until they woke him up with their panicked cries, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” After calming the storm, Jesus rebuked them for their ‘little faith.’
I don’t want to draw too much of a comparison between our circumstances and that story, but as uncomfortable, disorienting and tragic as it is, the storm we are living through today has forced most of us to pay attention. Not only are we literally concerned for our lives and the lives of others, we see that some ideas and institutions may be perishing.
I won’t speak to the measurability of our individual or collective faith, but I sense that America’s true religion has many gods that include, but are not limited to: the stock market, one political party or the other, major league sports, any number of ideologies, and perhaps even the institutional church.
The Bible doesn’t tell us all the lessons that the disciples learned during and after the storm, but I’d suggest these may have been among them and they may have some value for us in this present storm.
God has not abandoned us. We cannot sail through this by ourselves; we need one another. We will be different when the storm finally ends. When the storm is over, we will still have to work together to get to shore, and once we do, there will be more to do. At a minimum, we have got to make some serious changes to our boat before the next storm.
While this current storm rages on, I hope we will keep asking “How are you doing?” However, we may want to take a minute to think before we answer. “Honestly, I am hanging on with a white-knuckled grip.”
In closing, we have an election coming up in the next few days. I would never tell you who to vote for. However, I’d like to suggest to you that some “effectual, fervent” prayers might be in order before you go to the polls. What about asking God for some advice? After you pray, and respond accordingly, then let’s get back to what God has called us to do. What is that, you say? Jesus said in Matthew 13:34, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
I believe this election has brought out the worst in people. I have seen and heard more rancor during this election cycle than any time in my remembrance. I have personally spoken with friends who have lost friends during this time. That grieves my heart, and I know it grieves the heart of God.
So please, I beg you, just follow Jesus’ advice! That’s all I ask. Vote according to what your heart, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, tells you. And then LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR! Even the neighbor whose political beliefs differ from your own.