Genesis 2: 4b – 9, Revelation ch. 4, Luke 8: 22-25
Today’s gospel reading is possibly one that is very familiar to many of us.
It is probably one we can relate to in both a physical, emotional and spiritual way. And it may be very tempting for me to relate this reading to the storms we have had over this last week. Tempting – but I’m not going to! Though if any of you are a roofer, please speak to me after the service! But aside from recent weather, many of us can still relate to the Gospel reading. There are a few things you should know about me. One is that I have several crippling fears. One is feet – which always makes for an interesting Maundy Thursday! Another is heights and another is water. It might seem strange that someone born and bred on Canvey Island, a place surrounded by water, and laying below sea level, should fear water rather than embrace it. I blame it on a near drowning episode when I was around 6 years old. But having seen the River Thames in the midst of a storm and having researched the terrible flood of 1953 I also have great respect for its power to destroy and cause great fear. So when we hear that the disciples were terrified when the storm hit them whilst fishing on the Sea of Galilee I can totally appreciate how they were feeling. And it must have been a truly bad storm. Because some of these were men who had spent most of their lives fishing on it. Some of them would have experienced storms and bad seas on previous occasions. But this one was different. I’ve been privileged to have sailed on the Sea of Galilee 3 times. Overcoming my fear of water in order to embrace the place where Jesus had been. Each time the water was as calm and flat as glass… Hardly a ripple. But if a storm had blown up, which apparently it does without warning on the Sea of Galilee, I know I would have been as frightened as those disciples. Terrified. Petrified! The disciples were afraid they will capsize and drown. But Jesus was with them in the boat that day and he slept peacefully through it all. In their fear the disciples wake Jesus with shouts of those who fear for their lives. “Master, we are perishing” they say. Jesus quiets the storm with a word of rebuke. Then he immediately asks the disciples why they haven’t trusted in God during this crisis.
The disciples were both afraid and amazed. They realise that Jesus has God’s power over the wind and the water. And this makes me wonder if we pay enough attention to God’s power. Do we put our trust in Him for everything? Or do we think we can do everything for ourselves. Well at least until we are so fearful, so in dire straits that we turn to him in desperation? We all find ourselves in times of metaphorical stormy weather.
Times of illness – our own or our loved ones. Times of despair, grief and mourning. Times of fear and hopelessness about a situation out of our control. Do we only remember to trust in God and pray when we are fearful, upset and angry? And if we do pray regularly, whether for ourselves or for others, are we complacent that God will answer us in the way we want him to? Do we remember to give him thanks when our prayers are answered? Or do we get angry and upset when our prayers are not answered in the way we want or in the time we want? Do we completely put our trust in God that he will answer our prayers in the way he knows to be best, at the time he thinks to be best? We should – we say it every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer “thy will be done on earth as in heaven”. I think today’s Gospel reading has much to tell us about trusting God and our prayer life. What had begun as a smooth, untroubled crossing of the Sea of Galilee, quickly turned into a raging storm where even the skills of the seafaring fishermen disciples were of no help. Where, out of options, in desperation, fear and anger – anger because they can’t believe that Jesus has let the situation get this bad…… they think their last and only chance, is to throw themselves upon Jesus’ mercy. It’s interesting to note that in Luke’s version of this event that we heard today he the disciples’ heartfelt plea is ‘Master! Master! We are perishing!’. In Mark’s Gospel though it is said more bluntly – ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ If we look at this Gospel story, but with Mark’s words, we can find many stories of desperate people who in their anger and frustration are forced to rely on that last and only chance to cry to God, which they find flings them back into God’s arms. There is for example, The Prodigal Son who at his darkest and lowest point realises that there’s nothing else for it but to throw himself on his father’s mercy. There’s the terrified father of his violently and dangerously possessed son, who frustrated by the disciples’ inability to cure him, finally shouts his own prayer of frustration ‘Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!’ There’s the woman who breaks in on the Pharisees meal. She is on her knees because of her state of life and helplessness. So desperate in in such a dark place has no words – but instead of words she ministers to the feet of Jesus in her grief and tears. I’m sure most, if not all of us, have found ourselves in the darkest, stormiest of places in our lives at some point. Maybe, we can relate then to why the disciples in the boat with Jesus that day acted the way they did.
I confess that there are times when I have found it hard to pray. Times when I’ve even made excuses of being too busy serving God in other ways – ways I think very important. But there is nothing more important than prayer.
Nothing more important than trusting God. That whether we pray or not he is in that bad situation with us.
He does care about our suffering, our fear, our despair, our grief. Prayer calls us in to God’s presence and in to relationship with Him. And relationship is two way – our prayer time with God is two way. So when we pray, we should be ready to hear God’s response – even if it isn’t what we want to hear. We should trust that He knows what is best for us. Especially when that prayer is at a time of despair and stormy darkness. I think God’s heart is warmed whenever we pray. He loves to hear us, to speak with us. Even if it is only when we cry out for help. Because in the shouting, the anger, the fear, the tears……there can be deep, intense, and heartfelt relationship with God. The disciples might not have had the faith at that time to believe that despite the storm, they would be alright in the presence of Jesus. They would come to have that faith, but at the beginning of their journey with him they didn’t quite fully know and trust in him. Just like us in our faith journey’s which are ongoing until the day we are received in to the eternal kingdom of God. And at least their prayer of anger and terror should tell us that our prayer, even if it is shouted in desperation, fear and anger, will be heard and touch God’s heart. And to know and believe that, well then we can trust him and hear him speak to our hearts and lives. To calm the storms of life and light the darkness we may find ourselves in. Amen