Pastor Dan Hoffman
Whenever we find ourselves in the midst of the storm all we see is the wind and the waves. All we know is the Chaos, All we have is the FEAR that has hold of Us….
Rembrandt depicted this scene well in his 1633 painting, He depicts the disciples variously: Desperately grasping the lines. Fervently trimming the sails. Holding to the mast for dear life. Randomly Running about the deck. And the artist shows himself as the 13th disciple, in the back of the boat, vomiting over the rail.
We all know the feeling, and the reality because our lives have all weathered one storm or another…..When a loved one is dying. When we hear the doctor’s diagnosis, CANCER, HEART DISEASE, PARKINSON’S, KIDNEY FAILURE….. When the chances of life bring forth UNEMPLOYMENT, FIRE, FLOOD, and DEVSATATIONS of every kind….When we find ourselves RETIRED without a plan, unexpectantly WIDOWED , broke, homeless, ADRIFT, ALONE………
The storms we face in life are many and varied, but in every one we share a common experience…….OUR BOAT is SO SMALLL…….and the SEA is SO GREAT!
The thing about this story that we often miss, is that according to Mark’s Gospel, what the disciples are doing, is exactly what Jesus has called them to do……They are practicing their new vocation “FISHING FOR MEN” …… These are skilled sailors. Their boats are well worn tools of their trade. What is DIFFERENT is they have left their home waters and wandered across the sea of Galilee. They are doing what they have done every day of their working lives, but today they are doing just that but in new waters, unfamiliar waters, strange territory……AND they have sailed into those unfamiliar waters BECAUSE of their faith in Jesus, the one who has called them to this new vocation…THE ONE WHO IS JUST NOW SLEEPING! Taking a nap in the back of the boat…
COME ON JESUS….DON’T YOU SEE, Don’t YOU CARE, WE ARE PERISHING, and YOU ARE SLEEPING! The disciples are WRONG on both accounts…..THEY ARE NOT PERISHING………BECAUSE JESUS whether asleep or awake, is LORD of all!
When Jesus rouses from his nap, he asks the pointed question, WHY ARE YOU AFRAID? For the disciples, the answer might be obvious, Waves, wind, water flooding into the boat, sails flapping, NO CONTROL, BOAT SINKING! For JESUS, the chaos of a broken, death bound creation could and WOULD be reclaimed with a single WORD…… In the beginning when all there was, was chaos God SPOKE, and a wind swept over the face of the waters…..and the world came into being……..(Gen 1:1-2 para) In the storm on lake Galilee, Jesus REBUKES the WIND and THE SEA……Jesus speaks the word, ……PEACE, …..BE STILL, ……. BE WHAT I YOUR LORD COMMAND YOU TO BE! And they were filled with fear and awe, and they asked one another WHO IS THIS, that even wind and sea obey him?
In the midst of every storm we have ever, or ever will experience, THAT IS THE QUESTION TO ASK……When the waves are tall, when the flames consume, when the WINDS tear down, when death draws near, when GRIEF overwhelms, when our lives are out of control, and chaos seems to reign……….
WHO IS THIS JESUS? That the wind and waves OBEY HIM……. THAT HIS WORD OF PEACE……COMMANDS and STANDS. We all know the RIGHT answers to that question. This Jesus is the Son of God. This Jesus is the CHRIST. This Jesus is BORN, CRUCIFIED, RISEN……FOR US. This Jesus is LORD…….of ALL. This Jesus is ETERNAL KING OF ALL CREATION………………
The thing about the storm, is that it literally calls us, challenges us, forces us to take every one of those TRUTHS and move them from our heads and instead take them to heart……because in the end FAITH, is always a matter of the heart…….IN fact one of the better translations of our word BELIEF……should read……..HEART KNOWING as if we have ways of BRAIN knowing AND HEART knowing… Both necessary, helpful, and needed. Yet TWO VERY DIFFERENT ways of knowing the world we inhabit, and the life God gives us.
When Jesus has stilled the storm, he asks his disciples, two connected questions. WHY are you afraid? Have you no FAITH? Those are the questions we all need to ask ourselves, not just once, but OFTEN. Not just in the calm of the storm’s passing, but even in the midst of the storms furry. WHY ARE WE AFRAID? FEAR is the enemy, the undoer of faith? DOUBTS can and will strengthen faith! Questions of uncertainty will DEEPEN our faith! FEAR will destroy faith, BECAUSE FEAR gives the storm all the power, and GOD NONE! FEAR pushes God to the margins. FEAR diminishes all HOPE, FEAR dismisses GOOD NEWS and DENIES that chaos can ever know PEACE.
IF You are a living, breathing, thinking, experiencing, HUMAN BEING YOU KNOW FEAR, and the power it CAN EXERT OVER YOU………. AND YET YOU can also know the PEACE, that God’s word in JESUS can and will bring to YOU!
When Jesus asks “Have you STILL NO FAITH?” He is not DECLARING that we have no faith. He is challenging us to examine, take stock of the faith that we do have and if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, NEARLY INVISIBLE, ALMOST UNDETECTABLE………………….. YET WHEN THAT MINISCULE FAITH is set on JESUS! The storm does not stand a chance……..The WINDS are done for…………The waves will calm. THE CHAOS will give way to PEACE, LASTING PEACE…… ETERNAL PEACE, …..LIFE GIVING PEACE, FAITH SUSTAINING PEACE……………
But let’s be honest if, not with each other, then at least with ourselves. When the storm rages, and the FEAR rises up, the one thing our faith seems to wonder…. Is what the disciples ask when they find Jesus asleep…..”JESUS TEACHER, DON’T YOU CARE…..WE ARE PERISHING?” In the panic of the moment we fail to see the reality as it is from Jesus perspective, THE VERY PERSPECTIVE our faith invites us to INHABIT EVERY MOMENT and DAY of our lives.
IF you know anything about boats you would know that every boat, regardless of its size, shape or design has a place in the boat that is called the “PITCH POINT” or what a landlubber might call the “STILL POINT.” It is simply that place on the boat where in the wind and waves, the ship will move the very least. It has nothing to do with magic, it is simply a matter of naval architecture, meeting with the laws of gravity. On cruise ships you can find the pitch point by locating the most expensive cabins…..or on a yacht it is where the owners cabin is located,…..On smaller boats it is near the rear where steering station is found……In this fishing boat on the lake of Galilee, the pitch point/STILL POINT is where Jesus is napping.
IN THE MIDST OF THE STORMS that our FEARS tell us will DESTROY US, JESUS is already in the place of PEACE………..and what does he do in this storm? He brings that very PEACE To BEAR on the whole storm, on the whole of creation……………
So there is Bad news and there is good news…….The bad news is that the storms will continue to rage…… God does not promise us a life free of fear, worry, dread, or grief……..
THE GOOD NEWS IS HOWEVER EVEN MORE PROFOUND and LIFE CHANGING when we begin to take this story to heart. While the storms continue to rage, JESUS INVITES US INTO THAT STILL POINT, JESUS Declares PEACE, THAT PEACE IS WHAT STANDS, and REMAINS FOREVER!
So in the end, after hearing the story and contemplating what it means for us as disciples, us as CHURCH, us as human people of faith in a fear filled world…..
We are left with a single question: Are we still willing to go fishing with Jesus? Fishing in unfamiliar territory, fishing for men and women, children and youth who know only fear, and know NO PEACE!
Are we willing to go Fishing for the sake of the Kingdom of God?