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 windstorm 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?” (NRSV)
Grace to you in peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
I grew up in Iowa, and storms were a common occurrence. And I hated them. I especially hated them at night. At the first rumble of thunder in the distance, I was downstairs curled up on the couch. I did NOT want to be upstairs when the roof was blown off. I think I had watched a few too many episodes of The Wizard of Oz.
Storms are unpredictable, wild, turbulent. They are an apt metaphor for times when we don’t know what to expect, when the future is undefined, for the time in a congregation’s life when you don’t know how long it will be until the settled pastor is called and how will that go and how will the congregation bear up? It seems like danger is near. It feels like the change is too much. I hate to leave you in that situation. It is a stormy time for me too. Will the seeds that I have sown here bear fruit? Will I fit in at the new congregation as well as I did here? Will I make the mistake of calling them your names? And you, from St Columba, are on stormy seas of your own in such a small boat. The future seems very uncertain for all of us.
And it doesn’t matter whether it is in the life of an individual or the life of a congregation, the times of change seem wild and turbulent. But don’t get lulled into thinking that it is only in the times we can see change coming. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow or what tomorrow will bring… even when we think we know what to expect.
And yet, I know, we are all in good hands. We are all in the hands of the savior who raised his hand and stilled the sea. There is a little word that is very important. It “seems” like very uncertain times. But in Jesus’s hands, the future is not uncertain at all. We know that no matter what happens, we are not alone. No matter what happens, God’s got this, as those on the call committee and transition team have heard Pastor Terry Tuvy-Allen say. But from our vantage point, there is a lot to be afraid of. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ that run through our minds. In that way, we are so much like the disciples in this morning’s gospel story. Out on the lake, in the storm at night, they can’t see what is about to hit them until it does!
They accuse Jesus of not caring for them. The storm is raging and they are afraid and angry. They don’t want to be out here on the lake, in the first place, and the really don’t want to be going to the other side!
To be fair, they are tired. It has been a long day of being with the crowds and then Jesus wants them to go THERE? I imagine their ‘job’ during these days was not only to listen to Jesus but to do some crowd control, answer questions, get people that needed something from Jesus a little closer so Jesus could get to them… stuff like that. That’s exhausting.
And then they had to sail the boat.
Now that was not hard for them, many of them were fishermen. They were used to being on the lake at night, but Jesus wants to go to the other side. That doesn’t sound so unusual to us, but it really isn’t all that common and especially once you know the geography. The other side is where the outsiders live. There is NO REASON for a good Jew to go to the other side.
And yet, Jesus is always calling us to go to the other side, to face the unknown, to welcome the stranger, to enlarge our hearts. The ‘other side’ was definitely outside the disciple’s comfort zone. And that is always where God is calling us to go… OUT. Out the doors, out the driveway and into the city of Santee. And it might be stormy getting there. We won’t be able to see where we are going sometimes. We might accuse God of not caring for us.
But the thing is: God does care for us.
Just as Jesus cared for the disciples.
He knew they weren’t perishing. The boat never sank. The roof was never blown off of my house.
Jesus was with them and all was in God’s hands. At his command the winds and seas calmed. But that unsettled the disciples even more. The NRSV says they were filled with great awe, but the Greek word is ‘phobos.’ It is the root word of ‘phobia.’ They were not in awe. They were AFRAID. “Who is this, that even the winds and seas obey him?”
They knew Jesus. They knew what he was teaching. They knew what he liked for breakfast. But they had NO IDEA of what he was capable of.
And really, we don’t either. When we get nervous about the future… it is because we forget what Jesus is capable of… or we think he is asleep and won’t really be there for us. Take your pick. I am going to be bold to say, we think Jesus only did that kind of thing during his life; in the Bible stories. We don’t expect him to do great things for us. Our faith is too small. Just earlier that day.. we heard it last week… Jesus said if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Do we not try great things because our faith is to small? Do we think Jesus is asleep in the boat and doesn’t care?
Maybe it is time to try great things. Maybe it is time to remind each other that Jesus cares, and is capable, even in his sleep.
Jesus is capable of taking care of you… in the storm, in the night, on the other side, here in Santee. Believe it. You are in good hands.
Please join me in prayer.
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.