Faith After the Storm

Scripture Focus: Mark 4.37-41
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” 

Reflection: Faith After the Storm
By John Tillman

How tired Christ must have been to sleep during the storm. 

Mark gives us the beautiful eyewitness detail of Christ asleep on a cushion. Jesus had healed and preached all day long. Then he had preached it all again to his disciples, who had heard the stories but, like the crowd, had difficulty understanding.

Jesus was so exhausted that the wildly rocking boat, the crashing waves, and even the boat filling up with water didn’t wake him. Jesus slept on in the midst of this terrible storm, until his shaken disciples shook him awake.

The disciples didn’t seem to wake Jesus expecting him to save them from the storm. They merely woke him to complain about his treatment of them. “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?” The drowning seems a foregone conclusion. There is no direct request, merely bitterness and accusation. 

How often do we pray to Jesus without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints and accusations?

Don’t you care? Why don’t you answer? What’s wrong with you?

After Jesus calms the storm, we expect the disciples’ fears to be as calm as the sea. Instead, they are even more terrified. 

Jesus asleep on the cushion is a punching bag for our emotions. Asleep, he cannot dispute our complaints, our fears, or our version of events. 

Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around. Jesus is not a servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department. Instead, he can demand our service and command our compliance. His power and position cannot be debated or bargained with. His rebuke of the storm may rebuke us as well. “Quiet. Be still.” We may be as terrified by a Jesus who calms storms as we are by the storms themselves.

After the storm, Jesus says, “Do you still have no faith?”

Whatever degree of faith we have after the storm, Jesus is willing to do great things through us, as he did through the disciples. Like the disciples, we must contemplate the fearful question, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Spend some time meditating on this question. Who is this Jesus?

As you do, may the storms of your heart be stilled and calmed by Christ. The winds and waves listen to his rebukes. We can, too.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to  be heard;
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 14 (Listen 3:45
Mark 4  (Listen 5:01)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 15 (Listen 3:36), Mark 5  (Listen 5:21)
Proverbs 16 (Listen 3:15), Mark 6  (Listen 7:23)

Read more about Fear in the Boat
So we will suffer and make our way through together with Christ, looking always to him who is with us in the boat.

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Proverbs’ House of Mirrors

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 13.1-5
1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.
2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, 
but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. 
3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, 
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. 
4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, 
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. 
5 The righteous hate what is false, 
but the wicked make themselves a stench 
and bring shame on themselves. 

Exodus 3.14-15
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ 
“This is my name forever, 
the name you shall call me 
from generation to generation.

Reflection: Proverbs’ House of Mirrors
By John Tillman

We often remember that the Psalms are poetry. (Although we may not remember this enough.) But other parts of the Bible, including Proverbs, are also better interpreted through a poetic lens.

Hebrew poetry rhymes ideas, not sounds. Occasionally, biblical writers use homophones or near-homophones as puns, implying meaning and connections, but they do not arrange them in rhyming patterns. Parallelism is the primary tool in the biblical poetry toolkit.

Perhaps Hebrew poetry’s love of and proficiency at parallelism is a reflection on the name of the God they worshiped. God’s name has parallelism within itself. God tells Moses his name is “I am who I am.” (Exodus 3.15) God’s name is a reflective statement. “I am” is reflected by “who I am. Even his description of the use of his name is reflective. “Forever” is reflected by “from generation to generation.”

Let us reflect on a small section of Proverbs, considering each verse as a reflective couplet and each couplet as reflecting those before it and around it.

Proverbs 13.2: The first image is people eating their words. In this case, “eating one’s words” is not comeuppance. The righteous can enjoy eating their words. Next, we see others’ words produce evil, specifically violence. These people have an appetite for violence and enjoy the taste.

Proverbs 13.3: A new detail appears. Guarded, truthful, careful speech saves lives, while rash, false, violent speech brings ruin.

Proverbs 13.4: The image of the appetite returns. The sluggard’s appetite leads to dissatisfaction. The appetite for violence, mentioned above, needs more and more, while the desires of the righteous bring fulfillment.

Proverbs 13.5: More details about flavors of speech arise. The righteous develop a distaste for dishonesty and deception. The wicked gobble up and spew forth lies and distortions. They smell of what they eat and what they vomit up.

Biblical poetry is like a house of mirrors, with patterns of reflective statements all reflecting on each other. Do we see ourselves reflected in these mirrored statements?

Which son (Proverbs 13.1) do we resemble? The son who heeds? Or the son who mocks? 
What do our words incite? Violence or joy?
Do our words rhyme with God’s? Or do they stink? Would we enjoy eating them?
How do our actions reflect God’s name? Do we distort his image?

Let us not look into scripture’s mirror and forget what we see. (James 1.23-24)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us bless the Lord from this time forth forevermore. — Psalm 115.18

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 13 (Listen 2:45
Mark 3  (Listen 3:41)

Read more about The Promise of Proverbs is Change
It is crucial to ask, “Are we becoming people of wickedness or righteousness?” What we become can change our world.

Read more about The Logic of Proverbs
Foolishness, folly, and violence will be attractive because they seem effective. The violent will inevitably prosper. How will we respond?

The Spirituality of Bird Feeders

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 12:10
10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
     but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Reflection: The Spirituality of Bird Feeders
By Erin Newton

When I wake up in the morning, I can hear that the world around me has not slept at all. The sun peeks through the curtains as the Earth slowly spins in orbit. The songs of the birds call me to the window. I see the squirrels rushing from tree to tree. The last remaining leaves rustle in the cold winter breeze.

As I bring in my groceries, the sun stands tall above my head. I hear the call of crows scaring away a pair of hawks. Even when it snows outside, the footprints of the wild bunnies show me that they were passing through my yard at night. An owl lands just out the window. We sit frozen, locked eye to eye.

Before humanity was told to fill this world with our own creations, we were asked to take care of that which God had already made. The first command was to take care of the more ancient citizens of this planet—Nature.

The wisdom in this proverb echoes the call from the dawn of those first few days in Genesis. It was through wisdom that God made all things. Wisdom here is this: The righteous, those who seek to uphold the nature and will of God, tend to the needs of animals.

In some ways, we do a very poor job fulfilling the first request God ever gave to us. We take land and clear it out. Even when we plant, we remove biodiversity with monoculture ecosystems. We limit food sources for wild creatures. We pave paradise.

Jesus told his disciples to consider the ravens: “They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them.” And how? By letting the ground produce plants that will give their seeds and house insects. (Ravens even clear out decomposing rodents—a helpful feature for those of us with sensitive noses and a weak stomach!)

If our first call was to cultivate, to bring this Earth to its fullest potential, then our righteousness should be reflected in our care for creation. It is not unspiritual work to fill up a bird feeder, adopt a pet, or plant flowers for the bees.

We cannot survive this world without our cohabiting creatures. This world is far too big for one person alone to care for them all. We can divide the work and cultivate this world together.

Music:Feed the Birds,from Mary Poppins.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Wake up, my spirit; awake lute and harp; I myself will waken the dawn. — Psalm 57.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen 3:07
Mark 2  (Listen 3:55)

Read more about Cultivating Is Supernatural
A stronger faith, and a greater crop yield comes when we invest in cultivation. Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural.

Read more about The Cultivating Life
“Cultivation is supernatural,” but the actions of cultivating faith are not ethereal or fanciful. They are the practical, steady doings of the farmer.

In Medias Res

Scripture Focus: Mark 1.1-8
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: 
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, 
who will prepare your way” — 
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, 
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, 
make straight paths for him.’ ” 

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Reflection: In Medias Res
By John Tillman

The Latin literary term, in medias res, means “in the middle of things.” It refers to narratives beginning in the middle of the action. No exposition. No introduction. The action just starts.

Stephen King’s epic series The Dark Tower begins with, “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed…” These nameless men, one running before, one following behind, lead us into the desert and the rest of the story. 

Vince Gilligan’s addictive show, Breaking Bad, opens with a man in his underwear crashing an RV as sirens sound in the desert. Then he steps out into the road holding a pistol to face the consequences of something we don’t fully understand yet.

Mark begins his story in the desert with a mysterious, strangely dressed man. Mark says John the Baptist “appeared” in the wilderness.

John’s backstory is fascinating. He is a miracle child, announced by an angel, born to a barren couple in their twilight years. John first met and responded to Jesus while still in the womb. Mark cuts those scenes. The only hint of backstory is the mention of a prophecy about a mysterious messenger who comes to announce a mighty king. This reference is just one more way Mark tells us we are beginning in the middle.

John appears in the desert, then Jesus appears in the water. In the middle of a line of sinners, he comes to John, submitting to a baptism of repentance.

When John baptized others, they repented from sin, exited the desert of temptation, and followed a righteous God. When John baptized Jesus, heaven was torn open. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus along with the loving approval of God the Father. Then Jesus, the sinless one, entered the desert of temptation to prove he was the righteous king John announced.

We all meet Jesus in medias res, in the middle of our lives, our troubles, our tragedies, our deserts. We might be fleeing something or chasing something. We might have made a wreck of our lives. There may be sirens sounding in the distance.

Jesus goes into the desert and to the cross to face our consequences and win our victory. He faces what we flee. He obtains what we pursue. He repairs what we wreck.

Because of Jesus, we have the chance to be one who goes before him, announcing the coming of the kingdom.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 11 (Listen 3:41
Mark 1  (Listen 5:05)

Read more about King on the Mountain, King on the Cross
Israel fell into sin in the desert. Jesus would resist sin in the desert. Everything that Israel had lost or failed to do, Jesus would accomplish.

Read more about Visionaries Not Vigilantes
God calls Moses, not with a sword in his hand, but a staff. He doesn’t need vigilantes. He needs visionaries.

The Promise of Proverbs is Change

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 10.6-9
6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, 
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. 
7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings, 
but the name of the wicked will rot. 
8 The wise in heart accept commands, 
but a chattering fool comes to ruin. 
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, 
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Reflection: The Promise of Proverbs is Change
By John Tillman

Proverbs transitions to the “Proverbs of Solomon” and the format shifts.

Narrative elements and stories disappear, but two characters still walk the stage. Two-lined quips compare and contrast them. “The wicked experience this…the righteous experience that.”

The wicked plot foolishness. The righteous pursue wisdom. The wicked strut with pride. The righteous walk in humility. The wicked are lazy and demanding. The righteous are industrious and merciful. The wicked squeeze the poor for profit. The righteous leverage profits to aid the poor. The wicked enjoy and celebrate violence. The righteous endure violence and use it only in defense of the weak.

These statements reflect the truth, including the brutal and natural reality that the wicked often prosper and the righteous suffer. However, they reveal an underlying supernatural pattern operating in the world—wrongs will be righted.

Satan and sin operate in the world, often with human help, creating suffering and harm. God is merciful and gracious, offering repeated opportunities time after time, for the wicked to repent, yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished. The day of reckoning will come when evil will be wiped out completely.

Until that day, Proverbs shows us smaller days of reckoning. Even if wickedness seems to be racking up successes, it is only running up a tab. And all bills will come due. The mouth that incites waves of violence will drown in them. (Proverbs 10.6) The schemes of the wicked will ensnare them. They will fall into pits they dug themselves. (Proverbs 26.27; 28.18)Reading these proverbs may remind us of news headlines and scandals involving fallen pastors, leaders, and politicians. This is good. We can and should thank God when the wicked fall. It is also good to ask, “Are we supporting leaders of wickedness or righteousness?” because we can become what we support.

We often apply these sayings to others but resist applying them to ourselves. It is crucial to ask, “Are we becoming people of wickedness or righteousness?” What we become can change our world. We must take the logs out of our own eyes. Seeing clearly, we can help others remove specks from their eyes.

Proverbs does not promise that the righteous will never suffer or that we will see every wicked person fall. It promises the possibility of change. It offers us the tools to abandon foolishness and wickedness, become wise and righteous, and take action, affecting our world for good.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation forever. — Psalm 12.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 10 (Listen 3:34
Psalm 40-41 (Listen 3:57)

Read more about Hate Conflict? Love Truth
We must learn to love the truth more than we love living in a false peace built by deceptive, manipulative leaders.

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