Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Mark 4:35-41

You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Sometimes when the truth appears most elusive, it can come to us in the most unexpected ways. In what the late Karen Favreau called “ridiculous packaging.”

One of my knitting buddies – the people I would never have met and befriended except through being a knitter – shared a video on Facebook. James Corden, the host of The Late Late Show, has a regular act called Carpool Karaoke, in which a celebrity joins him and they sing along with the radio. Once it was Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit show Hamilton. I think once it was Carrie Underwood. Well, I enjoy a good episode of Carpool Karaoke, and they’re usually just a few minutes long, so I clicked on it.

Into the car got none other than Sir Paul McCartney, looking dapper at age 75. And this was no four-minute clip. For more than 20 minutes, I enjoyed watching Paul and James tool around Liverpool, singing Beatles songs and having Paul act as a nostalgic tour guide. He showed James the home where he grew up and reminisced about playing his guitar and singing in the tiny bathroom, because the acoustics are always better.

It was a lovely segment, very sweet. And as it ended, they wrapped up with my favorite Beatles song, “Blackbird.” It’s not necessarily one of their top hits. It’s no “Hey Jude.” But the message of this deceptively simple little tune is one we all need to hear.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise. Take these sunken eyes and learn to see: all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free. Blackbird fly, into the light of the dark black night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.[1]

For those keeping score at home, we come at last to the readings for today. There is a message for us in today’s Gospel reading, and not only the truth we have all heard that Christ is present for us in the storms of our lives. That is absolutely true. And when we set the Gospel reading alongside the other readings for the day, we find that all our lives, we were only waiting for this moment to arise.

In Second Corinthians, Paul writes, “We urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.’ ”

Now is the acceptable time.

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.

What does this mean for our men in the boat? For these men, some of whom were professional fishermen who knew to respect the sea and respect the storm. And in their question to Jesus, we hear real hurt and betrayal.

Do you not care that we are perishing?

It’s not a rhetorical question. It is desperation born of panic.

There is a truism in ministry, especially appropriate when a pastor is new to a congregation. It is: “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Right now, the disciples don’t care how much Jesus knows. They need to know how much Jesus cares.

And Jesus’ answer does not appear to reassure them. To be fair, the first thing he does is get rid of the storm. But then he turns to his disciples, his students, and says, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Now, it turns out, is the acceptable time. Now, it turns out, is the day of salvation. Though they had no way of knowing it, the men in the boat were always waiting for this moment to arise. Blackbird, fly. Into the light of the dark black night.

Because the hard truth is that when we are at our most desperate, when we are at our most hopeless, when all is lost, we do tend to call out to God. And these are not the elegant, well-composed prayers that roll so smoothly off the tongue. These do not follow any prescribed formula. These are what Anne Lamott calls the “beggy prayers.” Help. Help. HELP. Don’t you care that we’re dying?

And Jesus’ answer to them – “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” doesn’t really mean Why are you afraid. It means, Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. It means, All your life, you were always waiting for this moment to arise. Blackbird, fly. Into the light of the dark black night.

Last week we heard that the Kingdom of God is all around us, all the time, if we have eyes to see it. This week we are discovering that there is so much more to this story than knowing that Jesus is with us in the storm. We’re discovering that sometimes Jesus caring that we’re dying looks a lot like Jesus saying, Fly.

It doesn’t matter that my wings, or your wings, are broken. It doesn’t matter that it’s the dead of night, pitch black, 4 o’clock in the morning dark.

Sometimes, it seems, that what looks a lot like Jesus not caring is Jesus insisting that now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation, now you and I have all that we require to fly.

God is always, always, always with us. In unlikely places. In ridiculous packaging. God is present in the storm – and after God has calmed the storm, God is with us to remind us that even when our wings are broken and it’s impossibly dark, now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. We can fly. We can act. We can keep going. All our lives, we were only waiting for this moment to arise. Amen.

[1] Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney

Blackbird lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Downtown Music Publishing