Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2012
Dominion Chalmers United Church
2 Corinthians 6: 1-13 The Rev. Suzanne E. Sykes
Psalm 9 (VU p.732-733) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark 4: 35-41
Wide Open Hearts
For three summers when I was young my father rented a cruiser to take us down the Trent-
Severn and Rideau Canals. My parents loved boating and they thought their children should
experience a bit of Ontario’s - and Canada’s - unique history and heritage. We did a different
section each year. Those trips were spectacular. I remember them with great fondness. And
some of the parts I remember best are the times when it wasn’t smooth sailing.
As we crossed Georgian Bay on a particularly windy, stormy day, my sister and I were standing
in the bow, using the deck as a springboard. As the boat rose over a 10 foot high swell we
jumped right as it crested, getting a little extra lift and feeling the force of the wind against our
bodies - it felt like flying. I can still hear my mother’s voice, “Donald! Make those girls come
inside!” My father’s nonchalant response? “They have their life jackets on.”
On Friday night at the Jazz Festival, we were treated to great jazz by the Fellowship band.
Their name is no accident - their set was like being in a church service - a great worship service
that followed the cadence, the rhythm of liturgy. The opening piece started quietly then grew
in intensity and volume until the saxes were screaming and you felt sure that something or
someone would break. It drove a few people out of the park. But if you could stay with it and
wait you heard the calm musical answer to that frightful, fearful noise. To me it was a call to
worship. My soul cries out to God - and God answers.
So, if you have sense of the sound of wailing saxophones and a picture of stormy Georgian Bay
in your mind’s eye you can hear and see the problem that the disciples had all those years ago.
Their small boat is being slammed around in the swells, tossed this way and that. The howling
wind is deafening. Waves are crashing over the bow. And where is Jesus? Sound asleep in the
stern. No wonder the disciples were a little perturbed. How can anyone sleep at a time like
When the disciples, quite rightly, point out that it looks like Jesus doesn’t care that they all
might capsize and drown, Jesus response, like my father’s, seems less than sympathetic. In
some ways, “have you no faith” is a little like saying “they’ve got their lifejackets on”.
In each case the speaker seems, at least from the questioners point of view, not to have fully
grasped the seriousness, the truly dangerous nature of the situation. Neither response seems
to come from the same place of concern and worry and genuine fear that the question did. It
just doesn’t seem to match up. It leaves us with what is called in psychology - cognitive
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians creates his own kind of cognitive dissonance. He speaks of
the trouble he has experienced as a distributor of the good news - the gospel. And its quite an
extensive list: endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots,
labours, sleepless nights, hunger.
I think it is reasonable to think that anyone who experienced this as a regular thing would be
entitled to be hesitant, cautious, even afraid. That would be only prudent. Yet what is Paul’s
response? Does it make any sense? Does it seem wise? Is it the response of someone who
has a good grasp of the situation? No, that is not the case at all. Paul greets all threats and
dangers in a spirit of calm welcome - as he says - by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and all the power of God.
Cognitive dissonance. The response does not match up with the real peril in the situations he
frequently finds himself in. So what is Paul’s perspective?
It is the perspective of faith. Faith meaning that since Paul is a member of the kingdom of God
he doesn’t have to sweat the small stuff - and for him, all of these hardships are small stuff. Paul
already lives in the realm of God’s shalom, the reign of God’s peace and justice so he doesn’t
worry about what life throws at him. He frequently claims in his letters that although he is
Jewish by birth and a Roman by citizenship, his true identity is as a subject in God’s realm,
God’s commonwealth of peace and justice and abundance.
From that perspective - the perspective of everlasting goodness and beauty and abundance -
what obstacle can the world throw at him that he cannot meet with grace, patience, genuine
interest and welcome? Being a citizen in God’s kingdom frees Paul to greet the world and
everything and everyone in it with a wide open heart.
We too are citizens in God’s kingdom, God’s paradise. It’s not somewhere we hope to enter
when we die. We live in God’s kingdom now. We became members at our baptism. Like
Paul, we already live in God’s realm. And with Paul, we too are called to greet the world and
everyone and everything in it with grace and patience, genuine interest and above all, wide open
Like my father on that stormy day, we too are called to greet whatever life throws at us with
abandon. I will always be grateful that he did not let fear and worry prevail. He met that storm
head on with exuberance and zest and he taught his daughters to do the same. He encouraged
us to ride it out - literally - like a bucking bronco - and revel in it while it lasted.
It’s what the Fellowship band was telling us musically, on Friday. Persevere through the
auditory dissonance and you will hear the still small voice of God. And it’s what Paul tells the
Corinthians. Don’t worry about what life dishes out, he reminds us. Don’t let that define you.
For we are defined by the love of a gracious God. We are defined by our relationship with
God. We are defined by an open heart that welcomes and invites everyone we meet into this
same relation of abundant life. We are freed to meet what life brings with abandon and zest,
no matter what. We don’t have to be afraid of the storm. We can leap and dance in time to
the wind and the waves with wide open hearts. Amen.