Pentecost +4b – Sunday 24th June 2012
Mark 4: 35-41
My film of the month definitely has to be Men in Black 3. It influenced my Father’s Day sermon, and it coloured my thoughts as I approached this blog. But don’t worry, I won’t give away any of the plot here!
The story of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones has greatly entertained me since the first of the films hit the cinema screens in 1997. Their relationship – like any good double act with one playing the serious deadpan role and the other being the jovial comedian – has kept the plotlines credible and the audience coming back for more. Will Smith is the laid back, easy going, fun-loving Agent J, deeply contrasted with Tommy Lee Jones’ grumpy, serious, cantankerous Agent K.
In the third film of this franchise Agent J travels back in time 30 years and comes across a completely different character. Instead of being ill-tempered Agent K is funny, light hearted, easy to get on with, romantically involved with someone – the antithesis of all that Agent K in 2012 is. So Agent J keeps asking him just one question: What happened to you?
Has anyone asked you that recently? What happened to you? Because as life goes on we pick up additional baggage, we are shaped by experiences that touch us. And we are changed. We are not the people we were 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even 12 months ago. And the big question is – as I ask at weddings – for better or for worse?
Well, that all depends. On the type of person we are. On the type of change in our circumstances. And because that is the great variable in this particular equation let me come to the one constant – God.
How’s that hymn go? Through all the changing scenes of life… never really liked it, but it’s true what it says. God is the unchanging, stable, loving influence who has the capacity to be the anchor in the storm for us. Or as Eugene Peterson puts it, the one who deflates the wind:
Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”
This passage may seem like a walk in the park, but it is actually one of the most difficult in the whole of the Bible to grapple with. For it seems we were born to worry, born to panic, born not to believe in our own strength and capabilities. And to hear Jesus say ‘Don’t you have any faith at all?’ sometimes feels like our experiences are belittled.
The things we go through are not trivial. They are life changing. They are massive. Like a cross channel ferry ploughing across the seas we can look behind us and see the turmoil of the wake that follows us.
As I was typing those words a little box appeared on my computer to let me know that, “AVG recently protected you from several threats”. AVG is my anti-virus software and I was completely unaware that I’d encountered any problems. But there it is, working away in the background, always looking out for me, fighting off Trojans and malware, awake when I’m asleep, alert when I’m deep in thought. Very God-like don’t you think?
To me, this story isn’t about condemnation. It’s about reminding us that God is there for us. That when we lose sight of God because we encounter the death of a loved one, or financial disaster, or illness, or whatever may befall us, and it feels like a massive storm threatening to capsize our boat, God is there, working away in the background, carrying us when we need it. It may seem trite, it may seem convenient, but God is on our side. And just as I have to press a button on my computer to make the message telling me that all is safe disappear, so I have to acknowledge God in my life. Ask, seek, knock. The principles remain the same. He is there.
So the next time someone says – “What happened to you?” – remember Agent J, Agent K and God.