Mark 4:35-41: A Sermon for 11-25-18

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 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?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Our story begins with the words “On that day as evening came.” It marks the end of a long day of preaching for Jesus. He had spent the entire day teaching the crowds about the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is like the seed the sower spreads” he told them. “He sows, and then as the days pass the seed sprouts and grows, and the farmer has no idea how. But the harvest will come.” Or he tells them, “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of seeds, but planted in the ground it grows to be the largest of shrubs.” Jesus’ stories about the kingdom of God are mysterious—obtuse even. But one gets a sense that whatever the kingdom of God is—even if one cannot see it now—it is going to come and nothing can stop it.

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Reflections on the Handing-Over of Jesus Christ, the “Aristocratic Itch,” and the Church.

In studying a subject or procuring a skill there is generally a movement from mystery to familiarity, from the unknown to the known. For example, I remember when I first began learning Greek, when all shapes of the alphabet were strange to me and each page of text an unknowable riddle. As I painstakingly studied, the sound of each letter would soon come as second nature and each word would become a system of recognizable parts. As I ran enough text through my fingers, I began to get a feel for the language; it became familiar and known to me. Whereas before I could only discern shadows on the ground, now I could look up and see the cathedral that cast it—in all its architectural grandeur and geometric complexity. Yet, at the point at which one has memorized every nook and cranny, the degree of every angle, the length of every line, the point at which one has run one’s hands over every square inch a thousand times over, at this point the mystery and the enchantment begin to fade into familiarity and mundanity.  It seems that in the process of knowing there is inevitably the risk of disenchantment. (Is it mere coincidence that the West’s struggle with the disenchantment of the world came concomitantly with modernity, the rise of the scientific and rational mind?)

However, the more I delve into the incarnation, the cross and resurrection, the more it eludes familiarity, the stranger it becomes. It resists demystification and disenchantment. It brings one to the beginning of the cosmos, to its end—at the cross one climbs into the dark recesses of the depths of the earth and ascends to the azure heights of the daylight sky.

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Psalm 114 Introduction

Introduction: My Journey with the Psalms

The Psalms have been perhaps my most consistent and steadfast partner throughout my Christian walk. For the past half-decade or so, since my earliest days as a Christian, I have made it a practice to read the Psalms daily and programmatically: twice a day—morning and evening–and through the whole book in a month. Of course, my consistency with this has waxed and waned, and it has never been perfect. Yet, that has never been the point. Rather, the point is that the Psalms have been spiritual nourishment for me, and every time I spend time with them God’s grace and power and love become present and begin to scintillate.

This said, I like to work my way through a book on the Psalms every once in a while in order to deepen and broaden my devotional appreciation. The first I ever read—a while back by now—was a work by N. T. Wright called The Case for the Psalms. It is a short, very accessible, and unique book. In it Wright characterizes the Psalms as poems that transform the reader/pray-er/singer; they reorient the imagination around what God was ultimately up to in Jesus Christ. In other words, they point to the Messiah and his work. As Wright beautifully puts it, “They are God’s gifts to us so that we can be shaped as his gifts to the world.”1 Later I would read another book called The Psalter Reclaimed by Gordon Wenham. It is a wonderful little book comprised of a series of lectures reworked into essays. It is somewhat more academic (and therefore perhaps less interesting to the lay-reader) than Wright’s book, but not overly-technical. Especially interesting is his essay incorporating speech-act theory into an understanding of what exactly is happening when the Psalms are individually or corporately sung and prayed.

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