Mark 4:35-41 35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" 39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
This time I saw two details missed before: 1. The disciples take Jesus along with them, just as he is. 2. Jesus takes the disciples along with him, just as they are. And in this mutual “just as you are” relationship, love does protect. The first thing Jesus does is to get up and rebuke the storm, protecting the disciples. And notice, the wind does not merely slow down, it becomes completely calm. The picture made complete sense. Love does indeed, protect. First and foremost, love protects; like Jesus protected those disciples fearing for their lives on a tiny fishing boat in a tempestuous sea.
It is to our peril as followers of Jesus today to miss this essential point. It is to the peril of others as well, as the news of families, parents, grandparents and children being separated at the border, and now in other states across our nation, including Maine and New Hampshire reveals a hardness of human heart and callousness toward other human beings, even children, that reaches far beyond the boundaries of any political ideology. What is happening in our nation demands us to ask essential questions about what it means to follow Jesus, and the ethical and moral imperatives that follow from our answer.
Our congregation has celebrated the importance of families in several ways in recent months. May brought “Mother’s Day” and we expressed gratitude for those persons who are “mothers” in our lives, providing nurturing protection in diverse ways. June brought Father’s Day and thanksgiving for those persons whose love provided a sense of protective security in our lives. Just weeks ago, we celebrated a baptism in morning worship and affirmed our baptismal and membership vows also. Remember what we said:
Together we renounced the spiritual forces of wickedness and rejected the evil powers in this world, and committed ourselves to resist evil, injustice and oppress in whatever forms they present themselves in our lives.
We also promised anew to serve Christ in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
The final question we affirmed is our promise to nurture one another in the Christian faith; which sometimes includes responsibility for ones’ words and/or actions. It is very rare for church charges to be brought against a layperson. This kind of attempted disciplinary action is generally reserved for ordained clergy, as I and others well know. However, an exception was made last week when the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama filed such charges against Attorney General Jeff Session, a long-time Sunday school teacher member of their church in response to his and the current administration’s actions regarding separating children from their parents at the border. This was not a political action; it was a moral decision grounded in the life, teaching, example, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Sessions is accused by the 600-member congregation of, “child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination, and ‘dissemination of doctrines contrary to the ethical standards of doctrines of The United Methodist Church.”
This is not the time for escalating polarization based upon political ideologies. Such divisiveness increases the peril not only for children and their families crossing the border, but for every one of us. The xenophobia threatening our nation today results in actions and words I could not have imagined only two years ago. In my own state of Oregon, a woman who worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation was suspended after she allegedly made remarks on Facebook calling for illegal immigrants to be shot at the Mexican border.
The department announced on Thursday that a member of staff had been placed on leave after the post was widely shared on social media.
Lori McAllen, who has since deleted all of her social media accounts, reportedly wrote on Facebook: “I personally think they should shoot them all at the border and call it good… it’ll save us hardworking AMERICANS billions of dollars on our taxes !! ;)”
The offensive post was shared along with her Twitter bio, which read: “I don’t have room in my heart for drama, disrespect or hate.. either love your life or make a change!” (Fox news June 23, 2018 “Oregon DOT Suspended after Facebook Post Calling on Immigrants to be Shot”)
Advocating murder to save tax dollars, while professing no disrespect or hate is mental compartmentalization beyond belief or comprehension. This is one small yet significant example of the kind of spiritual and social confusion and malaise affecting people in our current polarized culture.
The 2300-2600 children left without parents or other family members, along with the 20,000 beds the administration has reserved in private, for-profit prisons to house future children detainees is a much larger but no less mind-boggling example of our current polarized and demoralized culture.
The good news is that in Christ, love protects; and sometimes that means protecting us from our most inhumane thoughts, actions, and temptations by holding up the gospel mirror to save us from the evil powers of this world seeking to lead us astray, away from following Jesus and the gospel. I am grateful to the members of Ashland Place United Methodist Church for holding up this mirror not only for Jeff Sessions, but for our nation, and for fellow United Methodists; to remember whose we are, and to take into our heart and live out through our actions the words and actions of Christ:
3Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. 15And after He had placed His hands on them and blessed them, Jesus went on from there.…
“After he had placed his hands on them…after Jesus blessed them. Love Blesses. Love Protects.
Like Jesus and those disciples on a stormy sea may we take one another just as we are, so the protecting love of Christ continues to live through the words and actions of each of us as individuals in all we say and do; and through the collective words and works of St. Nicholas United Methodist Church today, and in the days, weeks, and years to come.