Supernatural – Mark 4:35-41 Pastor Trudy Franzen
Have you ever seen this thing on the internet called “Google Earth?” If you haven’t, you have to check it out. You can put your address in, and up will pop a picture of your house from space. Yep.
I remember the first time we showed Google Earth to Gary’s grandfather. He would be getting close to 100 years old, if he were still with us. He was amazed! Imagine all of the change in his lifetime. You could call such a thing “Supernatural.” When Gary’s grandpa was a boy, it just wasn’t natural to think that a picture could be taken of his house from space. He would have never guessed that would be possible.
What is “Supernatural?” Literally, it is that which is above, or beyond the natural. Things that just cannot be explained by the natural world. Now, of course, satellites in outer space can totally be explained, but not to a boy that has never seen such a thing in all his life. To him, this might seem to be a supernatural power.
The truth is, God has always revealed Godself in supernatural ways, like the burning bush and the calming of the sea, for millennia. Those two things are just as Supernatural to us today as they were thousands of years ago. Yet, many things can now be explained. I am sure that in time, perhaps a very long time, the burning bush and the calming of the sea will make “natural” sense to us. For now, they are still “supernatural.”
God also makes Godself known to us in ordinary ways. God chooses the natural and the supernatural to make God’s presence known. All we have to do is by like Moses and stop and look.
Now, we humans live to be about 90-100 years now days, if we are very lucky. The Earth is full of creatures who live longer lives and those who live shorter lives. A Mayfly lives just one day, and its whole life is spent with the intent on making more Mayflies. A house fly, 3 weeks. Some whales, sharks, and clams have been known to live over 200 years!
It is all about perspective. Now, we all more or less understand the phases of the moon, right? We may not pay much attention, but we know that the moon gets waxes and wanes, and sometimes it is full and sometimes it is just a crescent. And it doesn’t disturb or worry us, because we know it reliably does that naturally.
Imagine you are a whale and you have sentience, or consciousness. You are aware of the moon’s cycles. Probably not all that “Supernatural,” right? You understand it, too to some extent.
But what if you were a house fly? You only have three weeks on this Earth. You only see three weeks of a four week cycle of the moon. Others might tell you about that other week, but you have to see it for yourself to believe it maybe. It is hard for you to see how there are cycles beyond your own life cycle.
That is somewhat true of us humans, though we are able to vicariously learn from others and compile information even though we have not personally experienced phenomena.
But follow the metaphor and think about this. Say, God’s life span is eternal, at the very least several thousand years.
That’s a little bit like a house fly and his three weeks looking at us, who live for 90 years. That means we live over 1,500 times as long as a house fly. We might as well be eternal, right? I mean, you just cannot fathom 1,500 times anything if you have a pee brain like mine.
I did some math, and find that would be like God being over 140,000 years old, to our 90.
Now, I am not saying this to say that God is finite or mortal. Not at all. Just comparing. Seeing that the three week experience of a house fly to our 90 years is a little like our 90 years to God’s 140,000 plus. Just because of our own individual life experience, we can understand just a fraction of what is actually “natural.”
However, even though it is difficult for us, we can see that there are patterns and cycles that span the centuries. We can use our imagination to fill in the gaps.
In fact, many people are fascinated with this, because patterns and cycles, like the phases of the moon, are rather comforting. It can be a comfort to us that life isn’t just a series of random chaos, even though it often feels like that. Life isn’t completely out of the realm of our understanding. But it will always be a challenge.
Theologian and therapist Alexander Shaia has come up with a spiritual cycle or phase, like the phases of the moon, that I have found to be rather interesting and helpful. He bases his idea on the four Gospels themselves.
Shaia suggests that we all have cycle we go though, spiritually. We go through these things both individually and collectively as community. The first phase is Change. We have great changes sometimes and experience great transitions. What was no longer is anymore, and no matter what we do, we can no longer go back. There is no “back” to go to. Change is the Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel of Mark is all about danger, trouble, trauma and suffering. We all experience those things in life. Thankfully, this experience is sometimes brief. After we get through the change and the suffering, we’re so glad to be out of there that we experience great joy, beauty and optimism. That’s the Gospel of John.
And finally, when we are ready, we step out into service and help others. That’s the Gospel of Luke.
Right now in the Lutheran church, we’re in the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of suffering. The Gospel of the Stormy Sea. And it doesn’t take us long to just look around. We see it, we hear it, we feel it in our bones sometimes. We’d rather avoid it. But like we can trust that the moon will wax and wane, we can also trust that God will bring us through whatever cycles we are in. Suffering will eventually end and give way to new hope and new horizons.
Shaia writes, “As our faith grows, so does our courage, and we choose to walk directly in the chaos and pray. We will learn the deepest, most important lessons in the tempests of our own stormy seas, and emerge ready to engage in proper action—action born not of ego, but of the Christ within.” May it be so. Amen.