Posted By Beckie Sweet on Aug 21, 2022 | 0 comments

August 21, 2022 ~ Discipleship by the Sea

Rev. Beckie Sweet


Creating, Saving, Abiding God, take our hearts, our desires, our lives, and transform them to make us stronger, more faithful followers of yours.  We want to grow in our relationship with you, but we need to trust you more for that to happen.  So, help us on this journey.  Help us to connect to you more.  We need you, God, oh how we need you.  Amen.

The year was 2011, and Bishop Marcus Matthews appointed five new superintendents to serve in the Upper New York Conference.  He met with us for sessions of orientation and training and asked us to consider setting one overarching priority in order to achieve a broad-based transformation for the cause of Christ among the churches and communities of the districts to which we were assigned.

Now, I had spent most summers of my life within the bounds of the Northern Flow District, where I had been assigned to serve, and was fairly well acquainted with both the secular and sacred cultures of a large part of that geographical area.  The year-round residents there are “fiercely independent!”  Perhaps it was due to the need to be self-sufficient during the harsh winters when ⅔ of the population had left the area.  But, I had also lived among the “coal mining culture” of northeastern PA, and among these cultures had seen and experienced a common trait.  A lack of trust.  That lack of trust permeated all relationships, within and outside of our faith tradition.  And lacking trust, many churches were incapable of engaging in, or sustaining, transformative ministries in the name of Christ for the long haul of discipleship.

But, I needed to do some research, and gain some expertise if I was going to become a LEADER in an area where we were going to intentionally work on building up trusting relationships.  So, the first thing I did was to purchase a book by Martin Marty entitled Building Cultures of Trust[1].  You may have heard of Rev. Dr. Marty.  He is a Lutheran religious scholar, who authored a book during every year of his active career, and also was senior editor of the Christian Century magazine.

Martin Marty was disturbed by humanity’s lack of progress in the area of TRUST.  He contends that we (humanity in general) don’t trust anyone or anything, including politicians, government, religious institutions, science, corporations, banks, courts, community leaders, even neighbors.  Summarizing his theory he asks, “If trust is in short supply, how then can our society survive, let alone function?  If trust is diminished, where is the faith?”  He goes on, “Although a certain degree of suspicion is healthy, lest we allow ourselves to be scammed and defrauded, we’ve moved far beyond healthy skepticism, which makes building cultures of trust difficult.”  Marty proposes that building trust begins with the individual, which has to do with a person’s character, resolve, integrity, and ability to change.  However, trust doesn’t stop with the individual.  Trust must involve social constructs (groups, governing structures, etc.) which provide for conditions where the task of building trust can occur and even thrive.

As I read the fast paced narratives of the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel, I could imagine in each of the stories, Jesus saying to the disciples and crowds, “Trust me.”  In other words, “believe in me,” “have faith in me.”  Let me set the context for you.  Prior to today’s text, Jesus had sent the disciples out two-by-two to preach the good news and had given them authority to cast out demons.  While the disciples were on their missionary journey, Jesus received word that John the Baptist, his cousin and forerunner, had been senselessly beheaded.

We pick up the story with the return of the disciples, tired, hungry, and yet all excited and ready to tell Jesus all about their ministry adventures.  Jesus invites the weary disciples to take a retreat, but the crowds pressed in upon them.  Now when we mention a crowd, the size of that crowd is much larger than what we are used to seeing.  The count was some 5,000 men ~ plus women and children!  There were likely well over 10,000 persons clamoring to hear Jesus’ teaching, to witness his miracles, to touch him and be healed!

So, after what was likely a couple of hours of teaching and conversation, EVERYONE was hungry.  Jesus delegates the feeding of this enormous crowd to the disciples, who were already tired, hungry, and likely grieving, too.  So, they had become cranky!!  Searching for food for this crowd, they thought, was not in their job description.  After all, they could preach, they could heal!  But once again, Jesus gifts the disciples with all that they need to accomplish the ministry of feeding those who were hungry, and even to realize abundance left over.

But the disciples need a break.  So, Jesus sends them out in a boat while he bids farewell to the crowd and enters an evening of prayer.  Once again, a storm blows into the sea.  So, when Jesus approaches the boat, walking on the water, the bleary-eyed disciples cannot make out his identity and are frightened.   And Jesus’ presence and words then calm their fears, and the sea.

Through this series of events, Jesus is saying to the disciples and the crowd:

Trust me, I will teach you the ways of God.

Trust me, I will have compassion for you.

Trust me, I will feed you and provide for your needs.

Trust me, I will come to you in the midst of the storm,

Join you in that boat, and bring calm

to your weary soul.


Trust, as Martin Marty continues his development, involves risk…it requires risk!  My new friends in the Northern Flow District were not only “fiercely independent,” they were also risk-adverse.  They were the ones who had taught me in my youth, if someone says to you:

“I will take care of you.  Trust me.”

“I won’t hurt you.  Trust me.”

Do not trust that person!

Sadly, the faith community too often is caught up in that same conversation.  Of course, we know that none of us are perfect.  So, we need to be intentional about journeying beside Jesus, and building up our spiritual fortitude for taking risks in such a way that individual spirituality and communal faith is deepened.  For many, trust is interwoven into the fabric of faith, believing, respect, commitment, and even covenant-making. defines the noun, TRUST as: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety etc…of a person or thing. And the verb, TRUST means to have confidence; hope; to believe.

I cannot think of many more important ventures in our world today than to listen to Jesus’ promises, and to take the risk of Trusting in God, so that we can begin to trust ourselves and one another.   In this time of rapidly changing world relationships, and trying to recover from the deadly Covid-19 CoronaVirus, in this season of political posturing, in these days of keeping the family of faith connected in new ways, friends, we need to TRUST God, and to intentionally develop trustworthy human relationships as well.  May we place our trust in Christ, and discern the right time to extend that trust to one another.

Creating, Saving, Abiding God, take our hearts, our desires, our lives, and transform them to make us stronger, more faithful followers of yours.  We want to grow in our relationship with you, but we need to trust you more for that to happen.  So, help us on this journey.  Help us to connect to you more.  We need you, God, oh how we need you.  Amen.

[1] Marty, Martin E., Building Cultures of Trust, Eerdmans, c 2010.

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