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The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
by R.U. Smith
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist 
Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada. 
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.  Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
“What manner of man is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4.41b)

The miracle of this Sunday’s Gospel manifests the source of divine power and the secret of Lordship. The irresistible force of a storm at sea reveals the mighty power of creation, while the overmastering word that brings calm points to the rule of providence strongly and sweetly ordering all things.

The miracle takes place in an instant, but its purpose was not just to astonish. Its purpose was to strengthen faith: faith in the person who worked the miracle. The disciples were moved to wonder and cried out, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” And so we should learn from the disciples to ask the right question about Christ’s miracle. We too should be moved to wonder and inquire, “What manner of man is this?” We too should wonder at the source of his power and the secret of his Lordship.

Nowadays, I suppose we think that such lordship and power over nature is something that comes from science. For us technology seems the key to power and authority. We may not yet be able to control the weather, but we can smash atoms, harness electrons, and master the invisible forces of nature.

Now all of this is pretty heady stuff, and I’m certain the disciples would regard the mastery we do have over nature to be an amazing thing. Well it is true that science has given us a mastery of the elements, but I wonder if we are any more advanced in the mastery of ourselves? For all our wizardry and skill, I wonder if we are any wiser in securing peace, or in protecting ourselves and our world from being poisoned by our own inventions and waste?

Year by year the gap grows wider between our power to control nature and our powerlessness to control ourselves. Despite all our technical advances we are more and more coming to resemble the dinosaurs whose great power and appetites left them unable to survive in a world they seemed to rule as kings.

With such thoughts in mind, perhaps we have good reason to look elsewhere for the true source of lordship and power over creation and ourselves. Perhaps instead of always looking to future scientific progress to save us, maybe for a moment we might look back, back to the beginning, to the very beginning of creation. Perhaps there we shall find the clue we seek.

As we begin the Book of Genesis, we come across another storm, a cosmic storm that engulfed the entire universe. The newborn creation was then a watery chaos without form and utterly empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. But above it all there moved the mind of its maker. The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the stormy waters. And then in the midst of this cosmic storm God spoke: his mind uttered a creative word, his Spirit breathed order upon the elements and there was peace.

And God’s creative thought continued until it reached the crown of all creation in the making of man, whom God placed in creation to have dominion over it. Man was to rule and watch over creation, not as God, but as God’s viceroy. And man was to watch over himself, keeping himself under obedience to his creator.

It is here that we find the clue we have been seeking. Adam’s lordship over creation came from his obedience to his Lord and Maker. The key to all power and mastery of ourselves, and of the creation around us comes from harmony and agreement with the divine will.

Harmony and agreement in all things through obedience to God’s will is the first and fundamental law of all creation. But it was a law that man learned by forgetting it. God’s service was from the beginning perfect freedom: all things obeyed the one who obeyed God. But man turned from that will, and exchanged freedom for slavery. He exchanged the original harmony of creation for conflict and war. Man became a source of conflict and death to himself, and to creation, for creation lost her appointed viceroy and keeper in the fall of man. She too fell into bondage and labour, waiting, as St. Paul tells us, for the new birth of true sons of God; (Romans 8. 19-22) waiting for sons who had learned the secret of lordship through obedience.

This is the secret that the true Son of God came to teach the sons of Adam. In Christ we are shown a life lived in obedience to God, and in his obedience we see the original harmony and order of creation restored. Christ’s calming of the storm fulfills and reveals the fundamental law of creation: that all nature obeys the one who is in perfect harmony with the mind and spirit of God.

In Christ the spirit of man and the Spirit of God meet and move as one: he speaks and the wind and sea obey as in the beginning. As wonderful as the miracle of Christ’s mastery of the elements is, it is meant to reveal to us a greater miracle still. The miracle that Christ does is meant to reveal the miracle that Christ himself is. He is the obedient one; he is man restored to the glory of his first place in creation, and he is God in the form of a servant, humbling himself to reconcile the world to its creator.

Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. (Jude 24-25)