5 Pentecost Proper 7 Yr B June 24 2018 Audio
Tom and Willie, Rick and I, were canoeing and camping in Minnesota’s boundary waters. It wasn’t perfect weather, hot and sticky most of the time. Not unlike the kind of weather we’ve had recently, the kind of sky that you expect to rain down on you. Now rain is rain, you just get wet, but rain accompanied by wind is another matter entirely. As we looked toward the sky, we made a quick decision to bug out, pack up and outrun the storm we sensed was coming. We loaded up our canoes, me in the stern, Willie in the bow, Tom and Rick in the other canoe. We took to the water, and paddled into that wind like our lives depended on it. The water crashed over us, the wind pushed at us, I feared we may not find our way, and I believed for a time that that might be it. I remember clearly praying out loud, because I believe, Jesus transforms our fear into courage.
Jesus has spent the day teaching and tending to the needs of yet another large crowd gathered by the seashore, and the long hours of a hot humid day are coming to a close. Settling into the quiet of the evening as the disciples row toward the opposite side of the Galilee, we can imagine the gentle waves rocking the exhausted Jesus into a deep slumber. He falls fast and soundly asleep, seemingly oblivious to the catastrophe that is about to unfold around him. They watch the wind and the rain come at them across the lake. The waves beat into the boat filling it with water, nearly turning them over. Now, many of Jesus’ followers are fisher people, they’ve felt the wind and the rain before. This storm must have been a dousy given their terror. I’m right in the boat with them, feeling the chaos of that wind. Frightened beyond belief that I’d be at the bottom of that lake in no time.
The disciples are really just getting to know Jesus. I wonder if they assume that they deserve rewards for following Jesus. They clearly expect Jesus to protect them from this storm; they clearly expect Jesus to protect them from suffering. They have yet to meet the resurrected Jesus, like you and I have. In this boat, being tossed on the sea and filled with water, they don’t know what Jesus can and will do. For them, all in the same boat, the immediate future is terrifying; all they want is for Jesus to save them from that storm.
When the disciples awaken Jesus, they say “what are you doing Jesus, don’t you care that we are about to die in this storm?” And they accuse Jesus of being indifferent to their plight; and Jesus chides the disciples for their fear and lack of faith.
So they hold tight to the sides of the boat. But Jesus wakes up, and Jesus does something, Jesus transforms their fear into courage, and Jesus calms those waters.
A couple in their thirties rushed to the emergency room after receiving news that their teenage daughter had been injured while playing on a tire swing. The child arrived with a critical head injury sustained when the tree holding the swing fell on her. On his knees, the father prayed for God to heal his daughter from the crushing brain injury. A devout Christian, he asked, “Where are you, God? Do you not care that our child is about to perish?”
I know you’ve asked a similar question. Where are you God? Do you not care that your people suffer? Where are you God? Do you not care that so many are dying from opioid addiction? Where are you God? Do you not care that so many return from war with wounds of the head, and the heart, and the body? Where are you God? Do you not care that the powerful people have the authority to separate children from their parents? Where are you God?
We, like the disciples, pray that God will relieve us of our suffering, and reward us for doing well. We pray that God will somehow get us out of this boat alive, all the while knowing that none of us do. This world in which we live rocks our boat, the waves crash over us, it begins to feel like chaos. But in the chaos, Jesus transforms our fear into courage.
Who is this Jesus who was in the boat with them? This is Jesus who transforms our fear into courage. This is Jesus who cast out demons, this is Jesus who heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, this is Jesus who cleanses a leper, this is Jesus who heals a paralytic and a man with a withered hand, this is Jesus who feeds people. All of these stories show us how Jesus cares for us, God’s beloveds.
And this is Jesus who calms the storm. Just see him do it. Jesus had been sound asleep in the back of the boat; head on a pillow no less. The boat is rocking and swaying and filling with water. Just hear him do it, “Peace, be still!” Did you see that? Did you hear that? “Peace, be still!” Not like Moses when he raised his staff to part the waters. No, “Peace, be still!” In the middle of that chaos, that wind blowing, that water raging, Jesus, says, “Peace, be still!”
Jesus shows up and calms the storm. There are many storms, there is much suffering. Jesus doesn’t remove any of that, but Jesus shows up and cares for those he loves. Jesus doesn’t take away the pain, the sadness, the heartache. But Jesus transforms the disciples fear into courage. They can get to the other side of that lake; they can do what they must. Jesus transforms our fear into courage, so that we may also follow Jesus.
What I would have given to have Jesus in my boat with me that day. I was afraid, that day in that canoe, in that storm. My prayer calmed my fear, and gave me courage to go on. We did get to the shore that day, wet, tired, grateful.
The doctors came to that couple, whose daughter lay in that hospital bed, to say they had done everything within their power – she was not going to survive – and now was their chance to say good-bye. With faith-filled strength, they let go of their expectation that God would “fix” their daughter, that God would spare them from the heartbreaking chaos. Instead, they stepped into it and gathered her broken body in their arms, surrounded her with their love, and spoke the words she needed to hear: “Go to Jesus. He is waiting for you. Peace, be still.” For this family, Jesus transformed their fear into courage.
The good news is not that Jesus rescues us from our difficulty, or suffering, or pain. We know that because we know about Jesus’ journey to the cross. We know that because it is for love that Jesus hung on that cross. The good news is that Jesus does not leave us in the storm. The good news is “Peace, be still.” You see, it’s not so much the water that needs to hear “Peace, be still.” It’s you, and it’s me, it’s the disciples, it is this mom and dad and child. It is that promise of peace that calms our fears, and gives us courage to go on or to let go. It is the reality of God’s love that calms our fears, and gives us courage to step up and speak out. It is the truth that love wins that calms our fears, and gives us courage to embrace even what is hard.
Do not be afraid, have courage.
Story from Feasting on the Gospels