The storm erupted suddenly, without warning.
Things had been so peaceful, normal, calm gentle.
Then chaos.

Twelve or so out on a lake they knew so well.
In a boat so familiar, so comfortable, secure.
Glimmers of sun settling into the horizon.
It was so calm the leader of the group had fallen asleep.

Then the boat begins to rock, water rushes over the sides,
fear provokes screams,
calm gives way to terror.

About the same number, a dozen or so, gather as always
on Wednesday night in their historic church in a city with so many churches
it’s called the Holy City.

They come to check-in with one another,
to check-in with God, with the word of God,
to see what that word might be saying to them in this place, on that night.

They were studying a passage from Mark’s gospel,
just a few verses before what we just heard.
The story of the sewer and the seed,
of how the seed is like the word of God,
it is intended to fall on good soil
to bring forth a bountiful harvest.

It’s all pretty routine.  Quiet.  Calm.
Until the stranger whose joined the group stands up.
The boat begins to rock in the waves,
water rushes over the sides —
— shots ring out, too many of them to count.
Bodies fall, blood flows, anguished cries ring out.

The screams become sirens, flashing lights,
a hazy image on a screen,
fear, dismay, outrage, sadness, despair.

But then, curiously, miraculously from within the ravages and rage of the storm
are voices that put things in perspective,
to quell the clamor,
to subdue cries for further violence, for revenge.
Voices that echo the call of the one who said Quiet.
Be Still.  Have faith.

As I spent a bit of my own time in Bible study this week, considering this passage,
I couldn’t possibly ignore the storm that was unfolding in Charleston,
in the news, on TV.
Yet another storm of terror confronting our nation;
another storm of incomprehensible, brutal violence.

And as much as I’d like to come here on a summer Sunday with a nice story,
maybe an amusing contemporary parable that ties up with a neat little bow the wonder of God’s power and grace, that didn’t seem possible, certainly not responsible.

These were people doing what we do.
People who believe essentially what we believe.
People studying the word of God,
words of love and justice and peace and mercy.
But then came the storm.
The storm that left nine people dead.
A community left grieving and wondering.
A storm that provoked yet again more turbulent uncertainties
about race, hate, guns, mental illness.
Prompting in some circles quick explanations and far-to-easy solutions.

Others, maybe too many, pretending not to notice,
ignoring what had happened or not knowing in the first place.
Thinking it was someone else’s storm,
in someone else’s church,
taking the life of someone else’s son or mother or pastor or friend.

But from within the storm came voices that might prove as compelling
as that which stilled the storm.  Voices inspired by that voice.
Voices that spoke goodness in the face of hate,
commanding love in the midst of grief,
urging calm instead of retribution.

On Friday when the man who’d initiated Wednesday night’s deadly storm was
brought before the families of people he’d killed,
they didn’t shake angry fists
or shout hateful slurs, as he had done.
They didn’t add to the storm.

“You took something very precious away from me,” said a daughter who lost her mom.  “I will never talk to her again or hold her again.  But I forgive you.”

“I forgive you. My family forgives you,” said another man who lost a loved-one.

A mother who lost a son, a recent college graduate, said, “We welcomed you to our Bible study with open arms.  You killed some of the most beautiful people that I know.  Every fiber in my body hurts and I’ll never be the same, but may God have mercy on you.”

From the midst of the storm were voices echoing the message of the one the disciples woke from sleep in their moment of turmoil, of fear – in their storm.
Voices of other disciples now echoing words of love, of mercy
– words to take us beyond hate and violence,
to possibly see a different way,
to possibly quell the storm.




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