On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
And leaving the crowd behind, they took him
with them in the boat, just as he was. Other
boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat
into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the
cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that
we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to
the sea, “Peace!
Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead
calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have
you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said
to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35 - 41 (NRSV)
I’m a late-comer to the United Methodist Church, having nested with the people of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors only the last 9 years. It’s not a private thing that the UMC ship is in the middle of a storm rivaling what the disciples faced. To some it would seem Jesus is asleep while the boat’s going down.
The difference between the storm back then and the crisis with the Methodist ship now is our storm is not from outside the boat; we have stirred our mess from within.
In case you’re not a Methodist – “our storm” is a 40 year battle over homosexuality; whether or not openly gay and lesbian persons belong in the church. I have friends on both sides of the argument. It would be a great Saturday Night Live skit if it weren’t so heartbreaking to watch the church slugging it out.
On the one side, progressives, (liberals if you will) point to Paul’s teaching that when we’re in Christ there is no difference, and that includes the disenfranchised homosexual community (Colossians 3).
On the other side, the majority (slim majority of conservatives) still control the voting power in official meetings; they also hold (ironically) to Paul’s teaching that homosexuality is “incompatible” with Christianity (Romans 1).
The impasse in which the United Methodist Church finds itself is akin to the cartoon character Pogo’s famous line: We have met the enemy and he is US!
Like the disciples thrashing around in the boat, probably accusing each other of poor preparation, poor seamanship, poor insight and interpretation of the rules of boating, and then turning on Jesus to accuse him of not even caring – we in the United Methodist Church are dismantling the Wesleyan boat one splinter at a time. Most unusual for a church that perennially boasts of its’ commitment to diversity.
I am (as always) stuck somewhere in the middle. Theologically I understand the prohibitions against same-sex relationships. But the compassionate, pastoral bone inside me weeps for the tearing-asunder of human relationships because of the anger this issue raises.
It is maddeningly frustrating to want to say, PEACE…BE STILL, Y’all, knowing neither side is likely to listen. At the same time the whole world is watching and shaking their heads at our duplicity, and hell is laughing like excited jackals waiting for the lions to get done with the carcass. My fear is that, in the end, this once fiercely-hot-for-God frontier church will not be left standing as the mighty ship of Zion; it will be only a memory, marked by bleached bones on a fruitless wasteland of annual reports.
But then, in my saner moments, I hear the voice of Jesus to my own heart, “Peace! Be still!” And my storm ceases; and, like the disciples I am blown away at the force of His power to still the storm in me. Do it again, Lord!
Feel powerless in the storms around you?
Good! Peace! Be still….and know that He is God.