Last Sunday we gathered round the table. There were smiles and laughter and the coffee was hot. We opened in prayer.
Before immediately beginning to check in, there was a reminder of what the homework/lifework had been: in creating a short prayer that could be prayed daily (somewhat like a breath prayer), and then seeing what happened. We also took a moment to remind ourselves that we had been in Galatians 5:22-26 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 — chuckling a little in the recall of how much folks liked considering the possibility of praying for patience! As the homework/lifework had spanned three weeks, the invitation was to share whatever the Holy Spirit might prompt.
While not all shared the specific brief prayer they had prayed, the ones who did share thematically engaged love, the desire for our actions & behaviors to be loving, the hope that God’s love would shine through us. And this created space for quite a bit of conversation; discussion including our individual agency & personhood in being active participants in sharing (God’s) love, questions on the practical how-to & what love (in action) looks like, the realization that on our own we don’t (often, or ever?) love well — that any love we are able to give is only because of God’s love & the grace that it might come through. The conversation was rich, and it also made clear that we (as a group, a community, and even the larger Church) do not have a shared understanding of what love is (and yes, there was also mention of some different types of love specifically naming ‘agape’ love — the divine God love). AND this, this not really knowing perhaps what or how to love is something that I do believe we will engage further because we had a lot of energy around the topic, a lot of unanswered questions, as well as a lot of curiosity — AND, if we are to be known and recognized by our love (see John 13:35) then it would serve us & the Kingdom of God well to be as aware & well-equipped as possible so that we might be able to love well and to grow our loving capacity! Perhaps a quick prayer for us all might be, God please help us love well! (AMEN!).
Then we turned to scripture, Mark 4:35-41:
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 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!”New International Version
The story known as “Jesus calms the storm.” (a story found in not only in Mark 4:35-41, but also in Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25) The conversation we found ourselves in after hearing these verses included deep questions like, who caused the storm? This question is a big question in thinking not only stormy weather in the natural sense, but in all the storms of life; who or what causes them? And how do we understand that? Is the challenging life situation you might find yourself in of your own creating; is it from God; is it evil; is it of the devil? Is the situation a consequence of decisions outside of yourself or within yourself; a function of your (or your family) sin(ning) or of our living in a sinful world? These are not easy questions, and they are questions that we wrestle with both in how to understand our own lives, and the lives of others we see…consider for example how we often find it easier to help or offer love & compassion when we believe the struggles (or the storm) that someone is experiencing is because of decisions or circumstances outside of that person’s own agency – instead of being a fault (or sin) of their own…
And, as is often the case, time ran short while conversation was still to be had! But alas, it came time to hear the homework before praying out (& the prayer for the day was a beautiful poem shared that really spoke of storms & Jesus calming them!). And the homework for this week is a reflective one:
- Think over your life & the storms you have faced & come through. See if there are any patterns that you notice…
As we have begun a new year, it seems it might be a rather encouraging task to remind ourselves of the storms we have faced in life — to bring to mind how often God has told the chaos in our life “Quiet, be still!” Perhaps we might even find ourselves in a storm right now and the remembrance will encourage us!
Looking forward to hearing about the power of God to bring peace in our lives y’all!
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater