Mark 4:35-41; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
How do you feel about water? We’ve certainly seen a fair amount of it fall from the sky over the past few days! If you’re a gardener then I am sure this has made you very happy, if you prefer basking in the sunshine then not so much!
Water is of course fundamental to life. Without water our planet would not exist – or at least not in the form that it does. Not only is water life giving in so many ways, it is the backdrop of many scenes of natural beauty. Waterfalls, rivers, lakes and of course the sea itself are all part of the wonder of creation.
Yet water can also bring fear when its power is unleashed as our Gospel reading very clearly illustrates. We hear how Jesus and the disciples set off across the Sea of Galilee in what I can only imagine was a bit of a ramshackle vessel! An exhausted Jesus, quickly falls soundly asleep – this is one of those depictions of Jesus that I really love for the sheer humanness that we see here. We’ve all experienced those times of fatigue when the only remedy is to rest and Jesus was as much in need of rest as anyone else.
However his nap brought much to the disquiet of his disciples who were extremely disturbed by the sudden onslaught of a violent storm.
I guess you can understand it really – as men who lived by and through the fortunes of the sea it is only natural that they were concerned about the possible effects of the weather. After all they were probably all too aware of the devastation that could be wrought by its power, they may well have lost boats and even family and friends in such dreadful conditions.
They are clearly distressed as they call out to Jesus in verse 38 “…..don’t you care if we drown?” They just can’t understand how Jesus can continue to sleep on, despite the chaos around Him.
Yet when He does wake up He quickly restores order by His command of the sea and the wind “Quiet! Be Still!” Once more peace and tranquillity surround Him and His followers. The disciples are stunned! “Who is this?” They ask each other “that even the wind and the waves obey Him” This is one of the early signs of revelation that indicates just exactly the extent of Jesus’s power but at this point the disciples simply don’t get it! So Jesus gently rebukes His disciples “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The disciples, when confronted by their fears during the storm, did not have sufficient belief in Jesus’s presence with them to be reassured that all would be well, that they would survive what felt like a fearful experience. Despite being His followers, having witnessed many amazing miracles and having listened to His teaching, the disciples still did not fully understand who Jesus really was and what that meant not just for them but for all humanity.
Sometimes we too struggle to be reassured that God is with us in times of distress and trouble. We may have been Christians for many years…or for not very long at all. We may full accept the Gospel message and indeed rejoice in it ….or we may still have many questions about Scripture that we struggle to understand. Regardless of where we are in our Christian journey there will be times in our lives when we too will call out to God…..don’t you care? I am sure that many have called out to God over these past fifteen months or so – don’t you care? Don’t you care that the world is being ravaged by a pandemic? Don’t you care that thousands, maybe millions of people are dying and millions more are suffering following the loss of their livelihoods? Don’t you care that our lives have been turned upside down and we live is a state of fear and anxiety?
It may feel like God has also been asleep during this chaotic season.
But of course he hasn’t – we just haven’t realised that he has been right there alongside us, experiencing the constant buffeting of the effects that the pandemic has brought just like Jesus experienced the buffeting of the waves on the Sea of Galilee.
If we turn to our epistle Paul reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah when he quotes these words
‘In the time of my favour I heard you and in the day of salvation I helped you” Just like the early church in Corinth, we too live in the days of salvation, that time between Jesus’s resurrection and His second coming and throughout this period of grace God continues to strengthen and support us.
Paul describes the hardships of living in God’s service – this is no easy ride, there is no exemption from the hardships of life, yet there is such love to be found through the grace of God that lifts us from doubt and uncertainty to the joy and peace that a true and meaningful relationship with our heavenly Father brings.
We will have to bear the brunt of storms that we are feel we can’t withstand. We will have to face up to fears long buried and learn how to deal with them. And at times like these we may feel that God has abandoned us, that in the same way that the disciples felt on the boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, our faith in God as our strength and our refuge just isn’t sufficient. When events in our lives make everything feel really bleak and just too difficult we may struggle to understand where God is, we may feel very distant from Him.
But hard as it may be to believe sometimes, we have not been abandoned and we never will be. It may feel to us that God is failing to respond to our cries for help but He is always there. He does hear us and in hearing us He strengthens us even if perhaps we don’t realise it at the time.
I recall a conversation with a fellow priest who told me about a conversation he had with his spiritual director when he was feeling beleaguered by the pressures of life. My colleague was reminded that in order to share in the good news of Easter Sunday we have to also experience the pain of Good Friday. When we are suffering pain, when life seems just too difficult, when the storms that surround us are causing us too much anxiety, when it feels as though God just isn’t listening to our cries for help we need to remember that of course He is there, He is always there, a constant presence in what may seem like our broken lives. And through our faith in Him, peace will be restored, the storms will subside, we will know joy once again. It can be hard at times, of that there is no doubt, but through our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour we can be assured that God holds us close at all times and like the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee, He will surely bring us safely to shore.