1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16; Psalm 133; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41
In today’s readings, a jealous King Saul attempts to murder his successor, David, in a gruesome way. Jesus appears to be oblivious to a storm on the Sea of Galilee that threatens his followers. The apostle Paul endures hardship and persecution. You may be excused for thinking this is not an encouraging picture of the religious life. But do listen closely when these stories are read during today’s service. Courage in life and constancy in faith are what they are intended to inspire.
Our readings were first set down for people who were not sure whom they could trust. Even as they longed for righteous leaders, the prophet Samuel’s audience was losing faith in worldly kings. The early Corinthian church was in turmoil; there were doubts that an itinerant preacher like Paul could bring them peace and harmony. Mark’s readers saw storm clouds on the horizon that would soon bring persecution. Many were not sure they could trust themselves to keep the faith.
In these times people ask why God allows things to get so messed up. We answer this question not with a definitive explanation but with a response. The Bible contains multitudes. Today Mark reassures us that Jesus is merely asleep; the wind wracked sea is still at his command. Paul gains strength and resolve from his trials. Samuel offers a timely rejoinder that not all those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Commanding obedience is not the same as deserving it.
Life may be tragic but it not futile. As the Spanish existentialist Miguel de Unamuno said: “May God deny you peace but give you glory.”
This reflection was written by Jim Simpson. He is a member of the Grace Cathedral Congregation Council and a graduate of the cathedral’s Education for Ministry program.