Last week I made my annual getaway to the Chesapeake Bay. Several others and myself chartered a 32 foot sailboat and spent 5 days on the bay. I look forward to this event every year since it gives me the opportunity to escape the pressures of ministry.
In this story in Mark, Jesus made a getaway too. He was feeling the pressures of the crowd on the shore and the only way to escape them was to board a boat along with the disciples and head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. During the voyage they encounter a great storm. Storms are a normal occurrence there and the disciples would know what to do. But, this time it was different. When the storm arose they panicked.
Its not unusual to encounter storms in the Chesapeake Bay either. There have been times when we had to find a small cove to escape high winds. I remember one time when the rain was so heavy you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. You lose all sense of reference and unless you have GPS you have no idea of your location. Running aground is also a great, potential danger.
When the disciples encountered the storm they found Jesus, asleep in the stern. They awaken him and he stilled the storm and calmed the seas. This absolutely amazed them. “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
But, why is that so amazing? Shouldn’t Jesus be able to sleep during a storm? Doesn’t he have the faith to maintain his cool during a crisis? Do you think that God panics every time there is a crisis in the world? If God does panic we are all in trouble.
Several years ago my friends and I encountered a storm on the Chesapeake that was horrific. The sky became black and a wall of water drenched us. It was impossible to know where we were. I was a little nervous, but thankfully a friend was in charge of the boat instead of me. Although it was a little scary I had full confidence in my friend to get us safely through the storm. As I reflect back on that incident I believe I was more afraid of what might have happened had I been the one in charge.
The disciples were afraid and it appeared that they were troubled by Jesus’ indifference. It couldn’t have been the storm since they were experienced sailors. Neither was it the indifference of Jesus that worried them. They were frightened of the awesome power of Jesus to make things calm.
At first, it appeared that Jesus was indifferent to their plight. “Do you not care if we perish?” Jesus stilled the storm which proved that he cared, but they were still afraid. The fact that he stilled the storm was simply overwhelming. It defied logic. It was beyond comprehension. It was beyond their control, but Jesus was still in charge.
“Why are you afraid, have you no faith?”
Jesus was with the disciples, yet they lacked faith? Would you be afraid during a crisis if Jesus was sleeping nearby? I think not. What they were afraid of is faith itself. They were awed by the power of God.
To have faith in God is scary business. It is also risky. It means we have to trust in the power of God instead of our own ability. It means we have to take risks we are not always willing to take.
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There are time when all of us find ourselves in deep water. I remember the time that the IRS wanted to do an audit on my taxes. This was the first time I was ever confronted with a government agency. It was deeply troubling and I was terribly anxious. I received a few tips from friends who told me to take every possible piece of paperwork and expect to pay some money.
I arrived at the IRS agency with all my materials and the person who reviewed my case was very pleasant. She was extremely thorough and conscientious. My records were in good order and that was a real plus. The woman even complimented me on my record keeping. I had made several errors and in the final result had to pay some additional taxes. But, in the long run the audit proved to be very helpful. The auditor was very informative and the session gave me tips on how to do my taxes in the future.
What started out as a terrifying experience ended up being rather simple. It was time consuming but not difficult. At first I felt like I was on a sinking ship, but afterwards I felt confident and even grateful. I resolved that in those deep waters that God was with me.
There was another time that I found myself in deep water. It was early in my ministry. In fact, I had only been a pastor at a local church for 3 days. I received a phone call that a member of my parish had died. I had not even moved into the parsonage yet. It turned out that the family had a good friend who was a retired minister and told me that the two of us would share the funeral. He was extremely kind and helpful and I virtually shadowed him during the entire event. From then on I felt prepared to do funeral services on my own. Ironically, a second member of the church died the next week. Only this time, I officiated alone.
Again I learned that through yet another storm, God was with me. We don’t always recognize God and like the disciples we often think that God is asleep. But, God is with us and is there for us to tap into God’s amazing power.
To have faith in the power of God means to believe that we can be transformed. It means that people can be redeemed. It means that God can do for us what is impossible for us to do ourselves. It means change is inevitable and that terrifies us. It means we commit ourselves to faithfulness which requires a change in the way we normally live our lives.
Change is extremely difficult and fills us with fear. What will happen? How will we manage in the future? How can we trust in a God who works beyond our wildest imaginations?
One time a mother walked in on her 6 year old son who was sobbing. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “I’ve just figured out how to tie my shoes.” “Well, honey, that’s wonderful. You’re growing up. But why are you crying?” “Because,” he said, “now I’ll have to do it every day for the rest of my life.”
Change is difficult for us all. Everyone will have some rough times ahead, storms that will challenge you, throw you off course and even scare the living daylight out of you. Just like the disciples, God does not promise us a peaceful voyage. God does promise, however that God will always be present.