Today we’re in a boat on lake Galilee.
We’ve set sail for the other side, and all looks fine. We’ve done this so often, it’s just routine; just like starting any new day at school or work. We set our course; we know what to expect; we’ll be fine.
But suddenly we’re not; suddenly everything’s different; everything is terrifying. A fearful storm has suddenly blown up, and we feel frightened and cut off. No-one can hear our cries for help; we’re far from safety. How can God let this happen to us? Is God asleep somewhere; does God care?
For each of us, the storm is different. Our storm may come as a sudden, frightening pain in the night; or the day our doctor tells us our life can’t be the way we planned it any more.
For lots of us, our storm comes suddenly when the job we thought we had is no more.
For some children and adults, the storm strikes us when someone we thought cared for us—someone we thought would stick by us—suddenly doesn’t any more, they hurt us or go away. Or maybe someone we imagined was going to live all our life with us suddenly dies.
But why call these things storms? What’s this storm in the Gospel got to do with our lives?
Over the past weeks, we’ve used analogies to help us understand complex ideas more easily. We said the harmony we find in music is like the Trinity; we said that the Holy Spirit is the breath of God.
So this storm can be an analogy for the sorts of things can threaten my life or yours, just like this storm threatened Jesus and his friends. … When our storms strike us, we feel alone and vulnerable. We feel like God’s gone away, or gone to sleep. And we ask the question that Jesus’ disciples asked him as they woke him up. Don’t you care? We’re all going to die!
Of course, we’ve heard the story. He does wake up, and he tells the wind and the sea to calm down. Then he asks them why they were afraid; do they have any faith at all? But they don’t seem to hear this. They’re wondering about something else. “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?!” I think anybody would ask that question; and there’s really only one answer. Only God can tell the wind and the sea what to do. Jesus is God.
But he’s also human—completely human. Let’s just go back into the story a bit. Jesus, asleep in the back of the boat, was so tired that even this great storm didn’t wake him. People had been crowding around him for days. One day he didn’t even have time to eat. And while he was teaching all those people, there were others standing around telling anybody who’d listen that he was evil. And his family was nagging him to come back home and get real. He’s been fighting an up-hill battle. No wonder he’s so tired.
So we have in our boat the one who can command the wind and the sea; and we know only God can do that. But that same person in our boat is so exhausted, he escapes crowds and then sleeps through a storm that terrifies experienced sailors. And that’s a human being.
In our boat with us is the God who can command the weather; in our boat with us is our teacher Jesus, who gets tired, just like anybody else. And they’re one and the same person!
For me that’s the other miracle in this story; God and you and I are all in the same boat. (clear idiom? If you’re in trouble, God’s there too.). God is in the boat, because that exhausted teacher is asleep in the boat with us; because Jesus chooses to be with us; to be one of us. We tend to think of this as the story of Jesus calming the storm. But maybe we could think of it as the miraculous story of how God shares our storms with us; how God chooses to be in the same boat as we are. If we can see this, our life’s storms become very different.
There’s a wonderful painting of this story by Rembrandt. I think he’s painted the exact moment of Jesus’ command to the wind and waves. Jesus is sitting in the back of the boat with a few of his disciples looking at him. It’s a still point in a wild scene. The water around the back of the boat seems calmer than it is everywhere else. The sail nearest to Jesus has relaxed a bit. But at the front of the boat, the storm is still blowing with full force; one sail is drum tight, the other is torn—standing straight out in the wind with a broken rope whipping around above it. And the sailors there are hanging on for grim death; they look terrified.
What this painting says—what this story says—is this. Jesus came to be with us in the storms of our lives. Know that, and look for him. Jesus knows these storms personally. Tell him how your storms affect you; he will hear and understand. Sometimes God calms the storm,
Sometimes God lets the storm rage, and calms the child. Amen