In the Same Boat

Today's lectionary reading is from Mark 4:35-41 in which Jesus stills the storm on the Sea of Galilee. I've always loved this passage. Take a look at it if you've got a Bible handy. Or open up another window and go to and type it in.

First, the text offers us important insights about Jesus, both in his humanity and his divinity. His humanity is obvious and realistic: he's tired from teaching the crowds and his disciples take him into the boat, "just as he was." I like that! No superhero Jesus here. He's real and human and whipped. He catches some shut-eye in the stern of the boat even as a storm churns in over the lake. He must've been very, very tired as the great windstorm causes waves to almost swamp the boat--and still he remains asleep. The disciples must jostle him awake, confounded as they are by his apparent narcolepsy. "Teacher, don't you care that we're perishing?!" they shout. They're put off by how out of touch he seems, possibly by how self-indulgent his little nap appears at a time like this. "At least share our fear," they seem to imply. The humanity--and the silence, if not the impotence and ineffectiveness--of Jesus cause them to feel overwhelmed and unsafe. Yet, let's not forget: there he is, with them in the boat, sharing their fate. If they go down; he goes down with them. That's got to count for something.

So the humanity of Jesus, along with his apparent disregard and possibly ineffectiveness, causes the disciples great consternation and fear. "What can this guy do to help us?" they wonder. We may feel the same today. Jesus is in our orbit; we acknowledge him in our midst...but he seems asleep...or distracted...inattentive to our cries and to the waves and wind around us. "Lord, don't you care that we're perishing?" we yell. Thank goodness the text continues--and the real humanity of Jesus entwines itself with his breathtaking divinity.

That's the second lesson and perhaps the primary one of our passage. Jesus does indeed wake up; he does in fact care--and he most certainly has the heart and power to help the scared disciples. He rebukes the hostile elements--leaving the disciples in awe. "Who is this," they marvel, "that even the wind and the sea obey him?" This Jesus is divine, God in human flesh, the one who has power over the creation he has made. Don't just consider the very real humanity of Jesus; above all, don't think he doesn't care. He's present in the storm, with them in the boat, and more than able to provide for them in their need. So the real humanity and the powerful divinity of Jesus are clear lessons here. But we're left with a challenge.

"Why are you afraid?" Jesus asks his scared followers. "Have you still no faith?" Having witnessed what I've done, heard my teaching, lived with me, don't you get it yet? Don't you know that I'm with you? Don't you know that when you're with me, ultimately, nothing can harm you? Sure, the wind and waves will come; sure, the boat might even sink--but don't you know I have the power of life and death and that I am able to meet your needs no matter what? Of course I care!

The message is that we're all in the same boat. Jesus shares the storm with us in our humanity. He's subject to the same waves and wind that rock our lives. But, more than that, Jesus also has the power to transform our plight and deliver us. He may seem silent or asleep--but don't be fooled. Even the wind and the sea obey him. Whatever your storm today, do not fear.

A Bad Case of iPhone Lust

Dang. That new iPhone is sexy. I say this having recently been in California where it seemed like everyone had one. Everyone except me. I'm a Verizon guy--and the reason is my whole extended family is on this provider, meaning our family plan allows for limitless free calls between one another. Practical. Not sexy.

I long for an iPhone. Man, those apps...that GPS navigation in real time. The ability to find online answers to questions in mid-conversation. That nice camera. Listening to iTunes. I could go on...

But in the spirit of holiness, I will refrain. If Moses were to chisel the 1oth commandment now, surely its command against covetousness would include "thy neighbor's iPhone." Verily, I wilt be content with my Verizon Motorola phone...for now.

What this sexy explosion of techonology showed me is that we've passed the point of no return technologically: people are wired 24/7 and that gives us new opportunities--as well as new challenges--in communication. I predict (and I'm no prophet, certainly) that within two years most phones will be "smart"--and that accessing the web from our phones will be commonplace. Again, as God's people, as the Church, how will we keep pace? I think this is nothing short of a paradigm shift parallel to Gutenberg's printing press. What think ye?

How Not to Act Old

Well, this summer bug continues, though (hopefully) it's on its way out. It led me once again to the doctor's office earlier this week, where, in the waiting room, I perused a magazine for women in their 40s. Yes, a magazine especially designed for my middle-aged female counterparts. I felt bad. For them..and for me.

In the magazine I came across an excerpt from a popular book making the rounds: Pamela Redmond Satran's "How Not to Act Old." It was both humorous and depressing, practical and disorienting. What it made me realize is that a) I guess I really am getting old; and b) there are specific ways to combat this besides the usual middle-aged male mistakes.

I learned things like: 1) don't wear a watch (younger people never wear watches; they simply consult their cell phones); 2) emails are for old people (young folk always text, IM, or "facebook"--a verb!--their friends); 3) when texting, never use your index finger (hip younger people always use their thumbs); 4) when calling someone on their cell phone (itself a sign that you're old--see #2), never leave a message (young people apparently don't listen to their voicemail, or, if they do, never return your call anyway); 5) instead, dial and hang up without leaving a message (then your younger friend, seeing your number, will call back immediately, thinking that your call presages something either so great or so dire as to merit a call-back).

I write all of this with tongue held firmly in cheek. However, what it does indicate to me is that the rate of change--particularly that inspired by technological advancement, is accelerating right before my eyes. To think that emails have gone passe and with them voicemails and watches--all due to Twitter, social networking sites, and texting, and all of it within the span of literally months, not years--makes my head spin. My parents' generation (let alone mine) are quickly getting left behind. The communication gap is growing exponentially and it makes me wonder if the generational divides (and any consequent communication breakdown) will only widen and worsen. Will we lose the ability to connect meaningfully between age groups? What will be the net effect for families--and church families in particular?

One encouraging note: yesterday, at a birthday picnic in the park for some church friends, my teenage son purposely left his cell phone behind--and I had the joy of watching him play with his parents' buddies and their kids--uninterrupted by texting and other technologies. It can happen. But not without effort.