(for the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, June 21, 2015)
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (Mark 4:35-41, NRSV).
Jesus’ suggestion, ‘Let us go across the other side’, seems so innocent.
And sensible. It’s getting late. Arranging for the night needs to happen. Four seasoned fishermen. A boat. A waiting fleet. Clear skies. Feet scampering across unbending decks. Voices drifting from one boat to another.
Safety in experience. Safety in numbers. Safety in craftsmanship.
On the Sea of Galilee, however, the term ‘safe’ is relative.
And half-way through this Jesus-initiated journey, the variables are winning. Waves carelessly toss these unanchored islands. Up. Down. Up. Down. Howling wind. Beating rain. Breaking waves threatening to break boats.
And every man unwillingly locked in his own world of isolating chaos. Every sense barred with the unnerving exception of raw fear.
The Sea of Galilee and the Sea of life have alarming similarities. We pray through retirement decisions, move ahead, and find a variable market leaves us short. Smooth sailing seems a thing of the past. We faithfully serve our children until one impetuous peer-led decision leaves us clambering into an ambulance beside their strapped and wheeled bed. We go to university, gain a dream education, and line up for unemployment benefits.
Other possibilities exist: a rocky marriage; an upcoming test; a frantic day; a looming deadline. Storms are often present.
And like the disciples, when they hit our well prepared boats we are inclined to search again for the one who called. It is never as dignified and considered as our enthusiastic response to the clear shore-anchored invitation. Destroying tornados change the pace of our God-hunt. Time is precious. Speed essential.
And so we wake and accuse. Offended by the lack of empathy we shake and question God: ‘…do you not care that we are perishing?’
Jesus never answered the disciple’s fear-fuelled question – at least with mere words. He was more action oriented: He stands on the rolling deck. He rebukes creation.
And the resulting calm is as unnerving as the storm itself.
And now Jesus is the one asking the questions: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ He expected more.
I am not presumptuous enough to claim to know or understand your storms. I don’t know your pain or understand your disillusionment.
But I do pray that they will draw you to Jesus. That your fears will miraculously morph into ‘great awe’. That God-accusation would graciously give way to God-wonder.
Whatever it is that you are going through may the depths of your heart come to echo the disciple’s astonishment: ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’