Closer to God in the storm

Frances writes on next Sunday’s readings :- These readings all explore the idea that our vision of God is too small, too domesticated and prosaic. We need to rethink it and our whole relationship to the divine. Our Old Testament and Gospel passages do this by way of imagery related to the sea. Now, whilst most of us in the West nip off for seaside holidays at some time or other, and may be rightly impressed by a huge storm at sea, as well as delighting in sunny times, we have to remember that none of this was the experience of Israel. Theirs was a land-locked country, with the pagan Phoenicians on the coast. They were the great sea farers and traders of antiquity and Israel feared the sea as something alien and unknown. Pagans in this area worshipped the storm gods Ta-hunta, in the Bronze Age, and Baal in the time of the Old Testament, and were well aware of the power of sea and storm. In the time of Jesus there were of course fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, but that too called for exceptional skills, as the arrival of sudden storms could easily sink a small boat as we see from our Gospel. (Mark 4:35-41).

Our passage from Job (38:1.8-11) is part of God’s great answer to Job’s bewailing of his lot and his suggestion that God has treated him unfairly. Like many of us, his approach to God, whilst respectful, can be winging and petty, blaming God for our difficulties, even suggesting quite wrongly that God causes suffering, when in fact the Creator, the sustainer of creation, is far above such pettiness. In this part of God’s rebuke of Job, the Lord firmly puts our ‘hero’ in his place by reminding him that it is he, God who is precisely creator of the universe and that Job is merely one of the products of this huge creative power. Only when Job recognises this, can he be reconciled to God and rewarded, drawn close to the wealth which is the divine nature.

In our Gospel we meet a similar situation. The disciples have been properly impressed by God’s work, met in the healing miracles of Jesus, his feeding of the hungry and so on; but, they had stories of other healers, prophets like Elijah, and did not really appreciate who they were meeting in Jesus. With Jesus’ stilling of the storm, quite simply with a word, something quiet and quite undramatic, they are suddenly immersed in the awesome power of God. This man, the one they thought they knew, reveals himself as totally other in his power and outreach. This man is not simply within the created order, he transcends it and is in control of it. He is not just one of us only bigger; he is the maker and sustainer of the universe. He is this in his being, his essence, and he has deigned to come and share our human nature.

Our reading from 2 Corinthians (5:14-17) really spells this out. Unfortunately our Jerusalem Bible translation once more completely misses the point: It reads “For anyone who is in Christ there is a new creation.” But the Greek actually says “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation’, something wholly different, as it insists that our baptism so incorporates us into God, into Christ, that we become divine. In Christ each of us is now of a new order, not looking at the change from the outside, as implied by the Jerusalem Bible, but here and now living as a new creation, as members of the changed humanity redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Each of us now has a new relationship to divinity, being now members of the divine family. Paul will often express this in the two different words Greek has for flesh, in sarx we meet the unredeemed flesh, with its capacity for sin, but redeemed by Christ we become soma, bodies, beings with a capacity for God. We have therefore put aside corruption with all its vices and have taken on the limitless possibilities of the divine. Just as the divine Jesus lived a human life in this world, so each of us is now called to live in and through his image, seeing his creation from God’s vision, alive to the infinite possibilities we all have as the redeemed. Now transformed, we can never claim that something is impossible or too difficult, for in God everything good is possible.

 

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