On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” Mark 4:35
|Alexey Pismenny - Christ Stilling the Storm|
Probably all the sermons on the calming of the storm I have ever encountered focused on reinterpreting this miracle as Jesus solving those troubles which from time to time may arise in everyone’s life – in moments of desperate need we may feel that God is somehow sleeping, that he doesn’t care if we are suffering, but his eventual intervention makes sure that we find our refuge in him. This is a pleasant enough retelling of the gospel, so today I could stop here and leave it at that, but instead I want to focus our attention on the first verse, on Mark 4:35, as Jesus says to his followers, “Let us go across to the other side.” This verse comes at the end of a series of parables about the Kingdom of God that ended last Sunday with the ones about the sower and mustard seed. More importantly, this verse begins a new cycle in which Jesus moves from revealing the Kingdom through words to doing so through actions. As Jesus moves away from the crowds, he begins a journey with his disciples operating miracles along the way. By overcoming the forces of nature in the calming of the storm, and then later on in the gospel, by banishing evil spirits, curing incurable illnesses, and restoring the dead to life, Jesus shows to his disciples what he is capable of and power of the Kingdom of God. This miraculous, unexpected journey begins with a simple command, “Let us go across to the other side.”
On the last two Sundays I have talked to you about two important things for Christians to do; first, spending time with Jesus in the Eucharist, and second, waiting patiently for God – both of which may appear a little static and unchanging. So, this Sunday I want to explore with you the meaning of another, more dynamic task laid in front of us – following Jesus, as we too are called like the disciples to move from statically hearing God’s word, to “crossing over to the other side” to discover the power of the Kingdom of God at work in the world.
Now, I think I can safely assume that many here are already committed, churchgoing Christians, but are we actually ready to follow Jesus into action or are we armchair Christians? Like the disciples in Mark we may be already acquainted with some of his teachings, we may already know a few things about him, but if we want to really know what Jesus is like, what he is capable of, we must learn to follow him where he is at work. It is of little good to us just to observe his movements at a distance, from the pages of a book; if we really want to get to know him we must experience him first-hand, we must put across to the other side with him. We must witness to what he does and to the power of the Kingdom of God, so that our faith may be increased, deepened, and yes, sometimes even tested by what we may encounter along the way. Going across to the other side may mean getting out of our beloved comfort zone, it may mean feeling nervous at the prospect of change, but above all it will surely mean to marvel in awesome wonder at what Jesus does in our lives, in the lives of others, and in the world. From a purely practical point of view it may mean, devoting our resources to this parish that always needs people with various talents; it may mean visiting the housebound who easily get forgotten, supporting local Christian initiatives like our foodbank, participating more regularly in worship such as weekday Mass… In short, it means mucking in the life of a Church that is called to bring calm and wholeness in the midst of a troubled world. By doing do, we will find Jesus in action in the world and we will be filled with great awe like the disciples; by doing so, we will get opportunities to actually get to know both Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
So to recap from the previous Sundays, we are called to spend time with Jesus in Eucharist, and we are called to wait for his intervention with trust; while today the gospel calls us to something more dynamic, to follow him as he transforms the world. Let us pray that we may have readiness and courage to answer generously these three calls.
On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”