The Bible reading for this week is the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Lake of Galilee. It is interesting that the words Jesus uses to calm the storm are the same as the words he uses to drive out demons. With the fall of creation, weather systems were also affected. The fact that Jesus, as a man, had authority over weather systems is a remarkable revelation but perhaps the main purpose of this passage is more symbolic and eternal, rather than a ‘one-off’ physical miracle. The point is that once the disciples knew that Jesus was with them, their fears subsided. As we voyage through life, to know the presence of God in our boat is to quell our fears. In a sense, it is not so much about the height of the waves, but who is standing alongside us. When sorrows inevitably descend upon our lives at some point, take heart, Jesus can stand next to us to help us overcome our worst worries.
The ‘Kingdom of God’ is mentioned no fewer than 126 times in the Gospels. It was one of Jesus’ central themes – perhaps the most vital. What does it mean? In the Bible reading for this week, we get a further glimpse. In the parable of the mustard seed, we learn that the Kingdom of God comes magnificently, unexpectedly and SLOWLY. The disciples looked for a swift and cataclysmic establishment of the Kingdom but Jesus teaches otherwise. The Kingdom of God starts from tiny beginnings and through slow pervasive growth it overtakes what is around it. From the mustard seed alone, it is impossible to ascertain what it will turn into; and yet its final form is a beautiful surprise. Of course, there is much more that Jesus teaches about God’s kingdom but this is enough to ponder upon for the moment because, like the disciples, there is only so much teaching that we can assimilate at one time.
In the village where we live, a group of local residents have organised a BBQ with a large screen to watch one of England’s World Cup games. To me, this is a great gesture of community spirit. However, of course, the modern-day notion of ‘community’ is multi-layered. We may be members of many ‘communities’: work, friends, family, sport, common interests and others besides. Some of the members of our communities may be in other countries of the world and connected by Skype. However, there is another type of community that has not yet been mentioned. This community is more important than any other. I am talking, of course, about our Christian community – the fellowship of believers. In the Bible passage assigned for this week, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the most important and special community is the one that seeks to do God’s will. This week, let us especially cherish and thank God for, our brothers and sisters in Christ – the Christian church.
One of the concerns of many Christians with regard to the modern-day church is its over reliance on man-made laws. Many Church leaders point to Paul’s teaching in Romans chapter 13 where he urges believers to “submit to the authorities”. However, this teaching flies in the face of the, more important, life and teaching of Jesus Himself. Jesus unashamedly broke the rules. This week, the Bible reading from Mark’s Gospel is one such example. Jesus allowed his followers to pick ears of corn on the Sabbath and then Jesus proceeded to heal a man’s hand on the Sabbath. Why? The answer is that the law, in itself, is only part of the solution to society’s ills. The complete solution is love. Jesus lived, died, rose and ascended out of love. Love will always trump legalism. As long as the Church uses legalism as its default position it will not be able to show grace; it will not be able to show love and it will not be fully the bride that Christ calls it to be.