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Dead Calm (Mark 4:35-41) a Sermon from Rev. Sarah Ciavarri

Grace and peace be yours from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. What will this time be? This Moses Project in your life? In your sense of call? Will this be a calm in the storm of burn out or a hundred thousand details that feel like they have nothing to do with preaching the Gospel? Will this be renewal? A community of laughter and love? That is our hope and prayer. Will this be the place where you can name the unname-able and your healing that God brings begins? Will this be the calm in the storm where

you feel shalom and hope springs eternal once again.

Calm in the storm. We need it. We love it.

This passage gives us a pivotal word to think about, to dwell with, to let roll around in us. Dead calm. What was this dead calm? What did it look like? What did it feel like?

When have you lived in a calm that felt dead? We all have. It is a chalacked, lacquered acquiesced or accommodating that belies the currents of tension underneath . . . or the movement of the Holy Spirit.

  • Like you are selling yourself out in some way and the worst part is it feels like your best choice . . . maybe your only choice.

  • On the car ride home from church when you were a kid, hoping your dad was in a good mood so there would be less conflict in the house. A tense calm.

  • Or someone made a cruel remark, and you didn’t say anything. A placating calm.

  • After a church council meeting, you click out of Zoom, close your computer and wonder how much longer you can do church like this. A grieving calm.

  • You were with someone who has power over you, someone who can impact your future options, and you sucked up. A pandering calm.

  • You read posts on social media from fellow clergy exhorting you to preach about racial justice and creation care and political abuse of power and immigration policies and you feel shame and small because you don’t want to be a chaplain to empire but it is safer and remember what happened the last time you ventured there. An exhausted calm.

  • Or maybe you’ve sat with parishioners, nurses from the nursing home who are burned out from the first round of COVID and the thought another breakout crushes them. They say, “I just can’t do it again.” A defeated calm.

  • Or a farmer’s crop gets eaten by grasshoppers, or a rancher needs to sell off part of their herd because their pastures are so dry and the market is flooded with too many cattle because all of the western half of North America is in the same boat. They say, “What can you do?” A resigned calm.

  • Or you’re just done with people. Too many broken promises, too many volunteers not showing up, too many people behaving badly, too many leaders losing their way and you’re just done. It is too much and you are resigned to just let people live in their own messes. A resentful calm.

And somewhere, deep in your soul, you know this acquiescence, this false calm,

this pretending and

faking and

placating and

just getting through really is

a death calm because it is slowly . . . killing you.

That is the way of the world. To constantly be convinced that this is the best we can hope for and so we should batten down the hatches, and protect our own.

We don’t need to go looking for the things which will break our hearts a thousand times if not just once. Sin, life, the world, will bring them, sometimes with a U-Haul rattling behind.

But in these things that deal death and say all is lost,

you are lost,

you are untethered and adrift,

with nothing to anchor you from being swept up and swept away;

in these things, when sin, death, and the Devil are all around,

instead of a dead dream,

a dead heart,

a dead hope,

a dead call,

a dead relationship,

a dead soul,

might there be a dead . . . calm.

A calm that whispers we don’t know how but who. And our why can become why not? And our 5 loaves and two fish can look like enough. And manna just for today can be plenty. And we don’t need to know how it all ends but we know we need to love well right now and do the next lifegiving thing that glorifies God and maybe God really is doing a new thing. There just might be a river in the desert.

The dead calm the disciples experienced in that wave battered boat was calm. Because Jesus made it. Because this came from the hands of Jesus who healed with those same hands. Was it complete silence, stillness, joyful anticipation, inner knowledge that all was about to change, that they were being made new? That they had been changed, the work was done, and it wasn’t even theirs to do, and now all they needed to do . . . was live into it.

This dead calm is connected to something deeper, more ancient and mysterious. This dead calm says even in pain, there too is Christ, that all our sins are washed away, that daily we die and rise in our baptisms. That God loves you. That Jesus died for you.

The dead calm that says yes again and again to Christ meeting us in the depth of our despair, the pit of our agony, the bottom of the valley of the shadow of death. The dead calm that says, It makes no sense but to the soul.

A calm that boldly looks at death and says, “Nice try. What else ya got?”

The disciples listened to the stillness of the water, with their wet hair plastered to their foreheads, their breath caught in their throats and their hearts ablaze and proclaimed, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" In the presence of Christ, death is redeemed.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, what sweet comfort this sentence gives.” Death, where is thy victory? Where is thy sting?’ “Those who were once dead in trespasses, He made alive (Col. 2:13)). Jesus Christ died and rose again to free you from your sins. So that, there is no fear in death for the Christian.

And until our final day comes, Christ gives us the peace that passes all understanding right now for today. For the living of this moment, to do the good work God has prepared in advance for us to do.

In a world that is a hurricane of hurt, the calm in Christ is our power.


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