Tonight we re-tell a story from the gospel according to Mark in which Jesus sleeps in a boat, a storm blows in, and the disciples panic. By way of background, Mark uses the image of a boat as a symbol for the gathered community of faith; crossing to the other shore suggests moving between Jewish and Gentile territories. As you participate in the story, then, you might want to reflect on times when you have seen a faith community attacked: What provoked the attack? And what enabled the community to continue in its course of action (if it did)? Or you might want to reflect on your own relationship with Jesus: Are you a student, content to value his teaching? Or are you a disciple, who seeks to internalise his teaching?
NARRATOR: Here we are, safe on our home shore. Take a look around. What do you see? A bunch of mostly straight white middle class churchgoers. We keep our heads down, work hard, party quietly or not at all. We live in suburban homes; our kids haven’t run off the rails. Nobody lives too differently. Nobody here really shocks us. Oh yes, it’s comfortable here.
JESUS: Hey! Let’s go across to the other side! Come on! Get in the boat!
NARRATOR: What’s on the other side? I wonder …
CONGREGATION: (sing Community of Christ, vv 1-3)
NARRATOR: Oh yes. First Peoples. Muslims. People waving rainbow flags. People in immigration detention. Peacemakers. Children in foster care. People for nuclear disarmament. People with mental illnesses. Labour activists. People who are poor. People who are hungry. People who are suffering … You’ll find all these, and more, on the other side.
JESUS: Where’s my pillow? Ah … excuse me … (lies down and snores)
ANGRY VOICE 1: Call yourselves Christian? Haven’t you read Romans? “It is very biblical to enforce the law! That is repeated a number of times throughout the Bible!’’ (Sarah Huckabee Sanders, 14 June 2018)
DISCIPLE VOICE 1: Jesus, it’s getting rough!
ANGRY VOICE 2: Call yourselves Christian? Haven’t you read Leviticus? You’re heading towards sinners and outcasts! You’re opening the door to all kinds of sin!
DISCIPLE VOICE 2: Jesus, did you hear that?
ANGRY VOICE 3: Call yourselves Christian? Think of the children! Don’t contaminate them! Keep them safe! Keep them pure! Think of the children!
DISCIPLE VOICE 3: Jesus, we’re being swamped!
NARRATOR: The waves are rising … The wind is howling … The boat is creaking … The voices are shrieking …
ANGRY VOICES 1, 2 AND 3: Turn back! Turn back! Stay pure! Stay safe! Stay home!
DISCIPLE VOICE 1: Jesus, I’m scared!
DISCIPLE VOICE 2: Jesus, I’m terrified!
DISCIPLE VOICE 3: Jesus, I’m gonna be sick!
NARRATOR: Did you know? God keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on God, because he trusts in God. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
DISCIPLE VOICE 1: Jesus, help us!
DISCIPLE VOICE 2: Don’t you care for us?
DISCIPLE VOICE 1: Jesus, save us!
DISCIPLE VOICE 3: We’re drowning here!
DISCIPLE VOICE 1: Jesus, fix this!
ALL DISCIPLES: Wake up, Jesus! WAKE UP!!!
JESUS: (sits up) What! (yawns) … Be quiet! Settle down!
Why are you such cowards? Don’t you trust me? Where’s your faith?
DISCIPLE VOICE 1: (softly) Jesus, it’s quiet.
DISCIPLE VOICE 2: (softly) Jesus, even the wind and the sea are calm.
DISCIPLE VOICE 3: (shakily) Jesus … who are you?
CANTOR & CONGREGATION SING: Here I am, Lord …
JESUS: My friends, don’t be afraid. I am here, in the boat with you. And I’ll be there, on the other side. Hold your course. Stay calm. Be still.
NARRATOR: I wonder who else is in the boat?
NARRATOR: I wonder where the boat is heading?
NARRATOR: I wonder who navigates, and how?
NARRATOR: I wonder what storms are out there?
NARRATOR: I wonder who else will come aboard?
NARRATOR: I wonder where safe harbour lies?
(Followed by a time of comments, wonderings, questions and suggestions from the congregation. A few memorable comments: It sounded like swearing every time we said ‘Jesus’! (Yep!) Is ‘the other side’ nearer or further away these days? Why did Jesus allow the storm in the first place? Is it about a literal storm, or anxiety, or the violence and persecution which descend every time a group of people decide to follow Jesus, or all of the above, or something else?! – the elastic nature of stories. Anxiety is catching: is love as catching? 1 John 4:18: Perfect / mature love drives out all fear: What does this tell us about the road of discipleship? I love how the disciples always get it wrong, even when Jesus makes everything bleedingly obvious! Have we nailed it? Or do we get it all wrong? Does it matter? … )
FINAL BLESSING: Go now, trusting God through every storm. Let God’s Word be your compass and, as waves threaten and winds shriek, hold your course. And may Jesus Christ always find a resting place in your boat, may the Holy Spirit blow away all fear, and may God still the storm to a whisper – and guide you safely into harbour. Amen. Ω
NOTES: Written for Sanctuary, 24 June 2018 (BP07) © Alison Sampson, 2018. May be used freely in worship and similar non-commercial environs, appropriately attributed. Script includes some lines and ideas from “The Big Wave”, found in Present on Earth. Worship Resources on the Life of Jesus. (Glasgow: Wild Goose Resource Group, 2002). Recommended songs: “Community of Christ,” verses 1-3 by Shirley Erena Murray © 1992 Hope Publishing Company. Found in Together in Song II; “Here I am, Lord” by Daniel L. Schutte, SJ © 1981 New Dawn Music. Found in Together in Song II; Hymns of Glory, Songs of Praise. Image credit: He, Qi Peace be Still.