One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”
* * * * *
“Who is this that even the winds and waves obey him?” It’s an epic question and I absolutely love it. You’ve all had that moment, right, where you’ve been bowled over by someone doing something amazing and you’re left shaking your head, “Who is that woman?” “Who is that guy?” Or maybe your spouse or your child or your colleague does something out of the ordinary – they load the dishwasher or empty the recycling bin or they turn their report in on time and you’re like, “Who is this person and what have you done with my husband?” I heard a speaker say once, “If a co-worker thanks you for getting something done on time,” it is not a compliment. That’s expected. “Wow!” belongs to Batman and those over the top moments that leave us marveling at some thing or someone’s abilities, achievements or simply amazement at a gift, talent or moment of authority over Creation. There is also that “Who is this?” moment when you get a text from someone who is not in your contacts. Do you know what I’m saying? Someone texts you, doesn’t identify themselves and all you’ve got is an area code and a prayer. What do you do? You either respond back with a generic enough response like a fishing line in hopes of a response that will give you a greater identifier. But that’s risky, right? Because what happens, they respond with new info but you’ve still got no clue. But now you’re in it thick and you can’t act like you don’t know who it is at this point. So you carry on an ongoing bubble conversation with that mystery person. And this is just dangerous. Much better to start from the onset, if even risking the offense of the other party that they are not named in your list of contacts, “Who ‘dis?”
“Who is this that even the winds and waves obey him?” Who is this that even the created order takes instruction from this human being in a boat? We get the amazement of the disciples, right? The disciples know he’s a gifted leader. They get that his Ted Talks were getting more views than any other speaker of the day. They get that he had this uncanny ability to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em. And remember, Jesus had not completed a 5k just yet – he would soon feed 5,000 men plus that many more women and children. And it wasn’t until Jesus set that PR with that amazing 5k finish that when asked, “Who is this guy?” Peter finally declares, “You are the Christ.” But in the boat? In the storm? He’s just Jesus to the disciples who said weird things like, “Love your enemies,” and served as the commissioner of their Fantasy Football League. “Who is this that even the winds and waves obey him?” Wouldn’t it be amazing to have those moments of awe with Jesus as a way of working up to our declaration of who he is? We have generally started at the end – death, burial, resurrection – boom, cool. “Who’s this?” We’ve already claimed, “He’s Jesus Christ.” It flows out of our mouths easily enough that we’ve basically accepted that Christ is Jesus’ last name. We’ve got to be careful with names in this way.
And I am fascinated with names. For whatever reason, I’ve been amused by the last names of the Tulsa University trio of quarterbacks this year. Their last names? President, Skipper, and Boomer. Am I the only one enamored by this? And Chad President was actually named by the Bleacher Report to the team of Best Names for the American Athletic Conference last year. And with the first name Chad – living through the hanging chad incident in the Bush versus Gore presidential campaign – can you imagine? But I digress. Christ was not the last name of Jesus – it was a title that tapped into a force that existed with God from the beginning of time and holds with God the end of time as well. This foundational force which some call “The Cosmic Christ,” is what we imagine today in the second installment of our Creationtide sermon series – a fresh look at the season of Creation and how we engage the Creator of the universe. How do we experience the Christ that always was? “Whose,” as Bonaventure says, “center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And from Luke – “Whose very voice can tame the wind and waves.” All of creation is sacred and necessary for our coming to understand God which is why we should value everything. Meister Eckhart said it well: “If humankind could have known God without the world, God would never have created the world.” So we have something to learn about the Creator through the creation.
The Cosmic Christ is manifest in Jesus – a point where matter and Spirit culminated in the same place, but the nature of Christ is foundational. This is biblical. Ephesians 1. Colossians 1. The Prologue of John’s Gospel (John 1), Hebrews 1, the first epistle of John, chapter 1 – it’s all there and always at the beginning of each of these accounts that “Christ, before the foundations of the world” found us to be “blameless before him in love.” That was Ephesians. Whoa. The Prologue in John – “In the beginning was the Word.” That word, the Cosmic Christ, was with God and part of creating all things. “Not one thing came into being,” John says, “without him.” All things. Such a strong, all-inclusive thing to say. And Jesus spent so much of his time trying to tell us this very thing. That this energy of God – this creative reality of God and Spirit is in it all and yet in Jesus – became love in the flesh so we could get a grip on the Cosmic Christ. Jesus became in the flesh what we always needed to grasp but could not and sometimes, still can’t. Jesus poured this idea into his followers over and over. “Be in me,” he says, “as I am in the Father.” “As we are one, you should be one too.” “As you do to the least of these, you do to me.” “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” “I am in all things” and therefore all of creation is filled with the glory of God.
And if, since the foundations of the world, the Christ has been part of it all, how can we not trust the power of the Christ, at work with God and Spirit, to hold the world together – even the wind and waves. And we have to get some space away from the struggles and details of our daily life to capture such a view. Try telling our brothers and sisters in Wilmington, North Carolina that the Cosmic Christ controls and the wind and waves and see if you don’t get thumped up the side of your head. It’s simply devastating. There’s pain in this life, and struggle and strife to be sure… but get the cosmic view… that if the original incarnation was some 13.8 billion years ago, and Earth some 4-5 billion years ago… and the timeline of humanity’s arrival – to link our calendar to the timeline of all things means we’ve just shown up – we popped onto the scene at the last nanosecond of December 31st. We’ve just arrived. Creation has been singing this song for a long time now and humanity has just begun to learn the song and join in. It can make us feel a little small; a little insignificant; a little bit like, what Kevin reminded us of last week, that it’s not all about us. And that’s frustrating because we long for a little power, don’t we?
Baptist pastor and professor, Tony Campolo, was driving home after work one day on the Philadelphia expressway when he heard a loud pop under his car. He had blown a tire and he knew it. It was rush hour traffic so there could not have been a less optimal time for this but he did his best to work his way over to the far right of the expressway. While mostly on the shoulder, his car stuck out some in the far-right lane which meant everyone was having to get over to the left. It was a hot and muggy day and he knew this was going to be a terrible task. He left the radio on so he could listen to something while he worked and he pulled the spare tire out of the trunk to get to work on replacing the flat. As he listened to the radio, the traffic reporter came on the air and was reporting from a helicopter above the major roadways of Philadelphia. The reporter said that traffic was backed up going both ways on the expressway. It was just a shutdown. Bumper to bumper. And Tony thought, “Oh my, what’s happening – is there some sort of catastrophe, some major car pile-up? Was the President in town?” (not TU quarterback Chad President – just to be clear). Tony stands up from his tire jack, stands on his tippy toes and stares down the traffic both ways. “Man, must be a real mess,” he says. Later, as the reporter shares a bit more, Tony hears him announce, “As I fly over the expressway, I can see that there’s a brown sedan in the far-right lane of the expressway with someone changing a flat tire. I believe that is what has shut the whole expressway down – brought thousands of commuters to a standstill.” And Tony said, “That’s me! I’ve done that. Right now, children are missing their parents and lovers are not meeting and business deals are not happening, all is falling apart because of me.” You might think he’d feel bad but he found this strange feeling within him. To be honest, it was a moment of rush, of power, of control, of … “Who is this that even the Philadelphia traffic obey him?” Even though this was a negative thing, Tony admitted, that it just felt good to have this level of control and command over anything. Which… has been something that has gotten humanity in trouble on a regular basis.
We long to have some control, some say, some power – if not over wind and wave, at least a bit of self-control to make our lives a bit more level, balanced, manageable. A guy I went to high school with posted on Face Book this week that he was four-weeks smoke free. No cigarettes and he’d been smoking for decades now. He posted to encourage others saying, “Anything is possible. If I can quit, you can quit.” I’m proud of his effort. What I really loved, though, was when he wrote: “Things are going so well that my Cleveland Browns aren’t even losing anymore! We’re tying folks now! Anything is possible!” We do have some control, don’t we? We do have some say? In the moment in the boat, the storm, Jesus and the disciples, the disciples didn’t believe they had anything they could do about it. They didn’t believe that the same Christ could be at work in them. They didn’t trust that the image of God that was within them could come alive in any meaningful way. Jesus rebukes the waves but he also rebukes his boatmates. “Why can’t you trust me?” Jesus says. Whew! That’s a dagger, isn’t it? And we want to trust. We intend to trust. We tell others to trust when it’s their storm. But when it’s our storm? When it’s our diagnosis? When it’s our relationship? When it’s our kid? When it’s our hurricane? It’s harder to trust, isn’t it.
But this omnipresent Christ… from the foundations of the world until now… at work in and through all things… is not historically bound. The resurrection of Jesus brought us a way of saying that his presence was beyond any limit of physical space and time. Jesus didn’t come to create an elite country club with an arbitrary list of requirements for who’s in and who’s out. Jesus came to reveal something that has always been true everywhere – for everyone – and for all time. Love, made manifest in God, come to the flesh in Jesus… now present in us… so that no matter the storm, we have a peace that surpasses our rational understanding of why we have such peace at all. In so doing, we take our place in all of creation – respecting it all, blessing its beauty, and building the value of all created things. In this way, we quit looking for scapegoats. We confess our own complicity in the destruction or devaluing of people in whom Christ dwells, in creation in which the foundations of all things are being held, for which we are called to appreciate and care for. This does not resolve all pain, calm every wave, or save us from moments of despair, but it does remind us that, as Paul’s school says, “Before the world was made, God chose us, chose us in Christ.” (Eph 1:4). All was resolved from the beginning. This is the Original Blessing of Genesis 1. In all things, life, death, and everything in between, we are not separated from our Creator nor the Christ that holds us in and through the pain and resurrects our lives – sometimes on earth and ultimately in the heavens. For me, this doesn’t ease the suffering of children or the loss of a loved one in an accident or by cancer but it helps me trust the Christ present in the first nanosecond of the universe 13.8 billion years ago and in this very nanosecond where we struggle with maintaining our diets and wondering if our actions today can create a better nanosecond for world ahead of us.
I don’t have the answer to the ultimate vast and mysterious questions about how Christ moves among us. And I more readily relate to the disciples of the boat, panicked about their own life matters who ask, even in his very presence, “Who is this guy?” But I know this. They stuck with him. They watched. They tried themselves. They failed. But they learned. And Jesus told them they could do it. He didn’t even tell them how… he just said, “Go.” They could figure out how. They could move the created order forward into a more beautiful expression of the kingdom of God. It’s why what you do matters even if you feel like you’re not in control of the wind or the waves. Did you see how many humans rushed toward the east coast ahead of Hurricane Florence? They couldn’t stop the wind and waves from doing what they would but they could be hands and feet on the ground to be a healer in the aftermath.
You can’t save your child from all pain but you can hold it with them. You can’t end all racism or sexism or resolve every phobia of your choice but the Christ in you can bring calm to even those waves that are bringing devastating destruction into the world. “Why can’t you trust me?” Jesus must be asking us. “Why can’t you trust me to work within you?” “Why can’t you trust me to be present in you, through you, to bring love to the front of things.” And you’ve got that power within you. It’s redemptive. You’re never too far gone. It’s never over. It’s always possible. It’s why I love the biblical story of the Woman at the Well. She’s had a hard go at things. Relationships haven’t been her strong suit and her neighborhood has labeled her because of her past and she’s kind of accepted and built her days around that label. Why fight it? But she met Jesus who told her, Christ is in the water, that she could start again. Her first thought? “Who is this man who knows everything I’ve ever done and believes in my potential still?” And she returns to her village, never the same, inviting others to be their best selves, marveling at the gift of Christ to empower even them.
Who is this man that even the wind and wave obey him? The Cosmic Christ, you say? The very Spirit of God who from the foundation of all things was there, in-it-to-win-it, entered in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth and now present to us to see resurrection-life popping up all around us? Whew. That’s a lot. And it is. And the disciples thought so too. But it changed them. Will it change you? It’s a season of change. The calendar says autumn finds us this week. Pumpkin Spice everything will soon take over the world. I saw that Oscar Mayer is even getting in on the craze:
Pumpkin Spice Bologna. I’m not overly concerned about you missing out on that. What I don’t want us to miss in this season of Creationtide is that the work of Christ has always been and shall always be… AND continually invites us into the effort. So, don’t downplay your role. Claim it. Own it. Trust it. And see how Christ, in you, brings creation to life in a whole new way.
* * * * *
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FGObtu-EMI Richard Rohr has done much work on the concept of The Cosmic Christ. His work at the above link incapsulates his efforts and was helpful for my own understanding in the shaping of this message.
 https://tonycampolo.org/store/all-books/choose-love-not-power/. From Tony Campolo’s book shared at this link. I heard the story told by Rev. Dr. Glen Miles, Senior Minister at First Community Church in Columbus, Ohio. http://glenmiles.org/