I had a chance with family to canoe around Brentwood Bay yesterday morning and early afternoon as a Father’s Day gift from our children. It was a beautiful day! It started out with some cloud cover that cleared off later morning and little wind and waves. We paddled around the Bay first, then into the small bay near Butchart Gardens, and then the length of Todd Inlet, back again, and a little north along the shoreline before returning at lunch time. As I said it was calm, sunny, beautiful. Being out on the water is so great, until you are up against the winds and waves, and it isn’t.
We hadn’t been in canoes together since paddling the Bowron Lakes circuit near Quesnel, BC. We were recalling that trip together and the beautiful days of paddling, but also the one day when the winds and the waves suddenly came up against us and it was a great struggle to paddle and keep the bow into the waves and reach a campsite on shore. Fortunately, our five canoes did, but not the family of a dad and two teenage children who we had met the night before and were behind us. Their canoe capsized and they were in the water until a group behind them reached them and thankfully got them to shore and some from our group went back out and worked to recover their canoe and what was left of their gear. Soaked and shocked and shivering, we shared dry clothes and a fire and food until a park ranger came in a power boat about 2 hours later to take them to a cabin for the night and out the next day. Everyone was so glad they were safe. But it was frightening, and a reminder of how good it is to be on the water, until you are up against the winds and the waves, and it isn’t.
Jesus and his disciples, after teaching a crowd of people that was so large Jesus had to speak to them from a boat just offshore, now in the evening are on the water crossing to the other side. Jesus, “just as he was,” is asleep in the stern on a cushion and all is good in their boat and the other boats with them, until a great windstorm arises and they are up against the winds and the waves, and it isn’t!
And we heard what happens. In the noise and fear and the boat being swamped, they wake Jesus and question if Jesus cares that they are perishing.
Does Jesus care that they are perishing? Jesus has been teaching from the water all day to a great crowd all about God’s care for all people and all creation. Jesus taught in parables like the sower who went out to sow seed, a lamp not under a basket but on a lamp stand to be seen, the mystery of seeds growing and yielding a harvest, and a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds that grows into a shrub where birds can make their nests. Jesus has been teaching them and others about God’s sowing, shining, growing God’s dominion of loving care for all people. But in the boat, against the winds and the waves, and fear of being swamped, they are afraid and question if Jesus cares!
Commentators about the Gospel of Mark note the transition in the Gospel identified by this story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus. There is a crossing over to the other side in the story and in the ministry of Jesus and his followers. There are storms and fear in that crossing, but it is necessary for the disciples to follow Jesus. It will happen again to repeat the significance of this crossing over with Jesus, for all Jesus’ disciples including us, and maybe as a reminder that this work of crossing over with Jesus, and its storms and fears is ongoing, as we learn and grow in God’s ever-expanding care for any and all who are perishing and Jesus’ calling us to care just the same.
It is a stormy and fearful journey for the disciples, and we completely understand that fear! From literal storms on the water that some have experienced, to the deep metaphor of storms, in people’s lives, in this world, in creation, storms that threaten and take lives and the life of the earth.
So many converge on this Sunday, this month. As we have been communicating, today is World Refugee Day. As Sabine noted in an article sent out by email this week, there are now more than 80 million displaced persons across the world with an estimated 34 million having crossed an international border. Many continue to risk their lives attempting passage over the waters in risky and unsafe conditions and storms. The pandemic has further complicated resettlement for refugees with borders mostly closed to international travel and slowing the processing of applications and approvals. The article by Sherry from the Social Justice Committee in Crossroads updates the status of the five people, Merhawi, Samuel, Kibreab, Gift and her child, that we are sponsoring with others, and praying that they are safe, that their applications will be approved, and for their safe passage to a new home in Canada. And both articles give thanks for your support and identify ways to further support other sponsorships and provide ongoing support for refugees across the world through Canadian Lutheran World Relief and other agencies. And to hear the stories of refugees, one of the themes of this World Refugee Day – “Stories Told.”
Thanks to the recommendation from Susan from the Social Justice committee, I have started reading the Giller Prize winning book, How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa, a collection of simple but striking short stories of immigrant experiences of living in a new country that welcomes but doesn’t welcome you. And reading each of these stories is a passage in itself, from seeming ordinary events and calm to storms of emotion and empathy for a lived experience so different and painful and hopeful all at once. To appreciate that different painful experience of the minority, the newcomer, the immigrant, the refugee, and to care, especially as others are perishing mostly within, to recognize the major and micro aggressions of the dominant culture that I am a part of and that are in me, and to be changed, and to work for a culture of greater welcome and acceptance together is the passage of crossing over, on stormy seas, that Jesus invites us to take with and in God’s Spirit of ever-expanding love and care for all.
Tomorrow is National Indigenous Persons Day. The 215 children found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School and the ongoing and reawakened grief for residential school survivors and all Indigenous people and communities on these lands, and we pray all Canadians with them, wearing orange shirts, and the recognition of the need to search for many more children to be found on the grounds of other schools, the slow progress by Governments and churches on the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the passing in the Senate of Bill 15 to recognize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons, more statues coming down or painted red, and more… all part of the stormy seas of the truth and lament of colonialism and racism and pain and death to Indigenous peoples and other people of colour that is not only past, but ongoing, and the need for dismantling so much that remains to reach the seeming distant shore of redress and reconciliation together. And this is precisely the stormy passage Jesus invites us to take with him in God’s Spirit of care for all who are perishing.
And we could add Pride month which we are celebrating and will on Sunday July 4, including lamenting the ongoing prejudice and danger to LGBTQ2SIA+ people and the passage to greater care and safety and acceptance and celebration of diversity together that Jesus invites us to take with him in God’s Spirit of love and compassion for all God’s children.
And so also for the planet and protection of old growth forests and passage to reckoning and the literal storms that are upon us, evidence of our reckless disregard for the wellbeing of the earth and the need to take immediate action in a journey with Jesus in God’s Spirit of care for the earth and all creatures.
And in pandemic storms that continue as we give thanks for every vaccination and more of the world opens up, but acknowledge so many in the world and poorer nations remain unvaccinated, more at risk, unsafe and the passage to caring for all with Jesus and in God’s Spirit that needs to further open in us and in our world for the love and health of all people.
And the personal storms for so many, including some of you, in grief and fears for yourselves and others, and the winds and waves of pain and sadness, work and caring, that can be overwhelming. It is at times and all would be too frightening, we would all perish, but for the promise that Jesus is in this and every boat with us, sure enough of God’s intended safe passage that Jesus sleeps like a baby, until awakened by our fears, to calm them and the winds and the waves, and to invite us to live and act and work together in God’s Spirit of love and care for all people and this world in faith, not fear. On the water yesterday there were signs on the shore that said simply, “Dead slow, no wake.” They reminded me of Jesus’ words today, ‘Peace! Be still!’ …and there was a dead calm. By God’s grace, have faith in these words and go with Jesus. Let it be so…