Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel for this evening the disciples cry out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They attempted to cross the Sea of Galilee in a violent storm that threatens to overturn their boat and put their lives at risk.
Their question stands at the intersection of fear and love. A question that reveals that love is what is desperately sought after, desperately wanted, and yet a question that is fueled by fear.
It has been said that “there are two basic motivating forces in life: fear and love.” When we are afraid, we pull back. We see smaller. When we love, we open to all that life has to offer. We see expansively.
Our Gospel reading this morning is one that many of us are familiar with. In it, we see the disciples struggling at an intersection. Jesus has just finished speaking to the multitudes about his parables of the Kingdom of God. Now he suggests he and his disciples sail by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
This is more than just a change of location. Jesus has preached the Kingdom of God to the home crowd on the safe side of the Sea. Now, Jesus makes his first crossing toward a dangerous and possibly inappropriate, destination. Yes, Jesus has spoken of the Kingdom of God and now Jesus will demonstrate that Kingdom through this journey across the Sea of Galilee. T. But, Jesus does not go alone on this journey. He asks his disciples to board the boat and make this Kingdom crossing with him.
Let’s pause for just a moment. The disciples board the boat. That, in and of itself, is remarkable. Faithful. The Gospel does not say, “Jesus then told the disciples his plans and they agreed that these were good and worthy and right.” No. Jesus simply says, “Let us Go,” and they go. They did not know his whole plan, just the next step that Jesus asked them to take. Get on the boat and cross the border that lies between what you know, where your comfort is, and that which is unknown and even threatening to you. They responded with faith, not fear.
But, it is not long after the journey begins that the boat is threatened, and with it the lives of those on board, by a raging storm and ferocious winds. There on the water the disciples confront a chaos that leaves them frightened and without much hope for survival. Our story suggests that only after they have done everything that they know how to do, as fishermen, as people familiar with the sea, that they, fearing disaster, finally look to Jesus, who is asleep.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” the disciples say.
Yes, this is a story have heard before. But, more than that, this is a story many of us have lived. Who among us has not feared the wind and the waves that threaten our own fragile vessels? As human beings, we cross seas of uncertainty all the time, whether we like it or not, navigating waters that raise questions about who we believe we are, what we believe about the world, and, finally, who we believe God to be. This is what it means to be alive. And, as Christians who follow a Risen Lord, we profess a faith that calls us to get in the boat – to act in faith even where chaos looms, even where fear would have us do differently.
The disciples fear the storm, they fear their own destruction, and that, in and of itself, seems reasonable. The water is churning. The waves are growing larger. The wind has picked up to such a degree that they can barely stay on their own feet or hear one another’s shouts over the violence of its roar. They are doing all they know to do, and the boat is taking on water. It is first at their heels, and then at their ankles, and it appears that, at any moment, the vessel will be lost to the hunger of the sea. They are, quite literally, sinking and what are they to do and, by the way, why in the world is Jesus sleeping?
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you not care? Do you not hear our prayers? Do you not truly love us after all?
But, here’s the thing, for the disciples then and for us now. While fear might lead us to believe we are alone, faith knows differently. The disciples not only have each other in that boat, they also have Jesus, literally, in the boat with them. And, their boat wasn’t even the only boat crossing the Sea. Scripture tells us that other boats were with them. Now, we don’t know what was happening with those other boats, experiencing the same storm. Maybe because, when chaos strikes and the winds pick up, we tend to forget that the world is bigger than us. Our fears can lead to a distorted of perception of life. Life grows smaller. The world. Our capabilities. Our resources. Even our perception of God. Diminishes.
All the while Jesus sleeps. Yes. Maybe Jesus is confident all will be well. Perhaps the disciples didn’t actually need Jesus to be awake. Only to be present. Which he was and still is. Look what happened when Jesus wakes up. He stretches his arms out over the tumultuous waves and says to the sea, “Peace! Be Still.” And immediately there was dead calm.
And, this was not what the disciples were expecting. That much is obvious from their reaction – they were filled with awe. How then, did they suppose he would respond had he been awake? Did they expect him to roll up his sleeves and help to manage the boat? To offer words of comfort? They certainly had an idea how Jesus would act. But, in their fear, they underestimated the power and grace of God. They questioned the presence and care of Jesus. Things were not going, as they expected. And, so, in their fear, they became suspicious and demanding. And, they made Jesus appear smaller.
Before the storm breaks, the disciples think they have Jesus pegged. They think they know what to expect of him. But they’re wrong. He is powerful, yes. But he is also far more restrained, mysterious, unpredictable, and hidden than they imagined.”
Fear is not the enemy. Where our fear leads us, that is cause for concern. Jesus never says that there is nothing to be afraid of. Instead he asks, “Why are you afraid?” To answer this question requires deep vulnerability and profound trust. We place within the light that which sickens us when kept in the dark. It is to offer to God our deepest desire – to be loved – beside our greatest fear – that we are not enough. To offer our fear to Jesus transform us. We have a different perspective. We see our power as the Body of Christ in the world and imagines a new and unpredicted way with infinite possibilities, as we face our fears and uncertainties.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.