Sunday, 25 January 2015

Through the storm

Image from The Jesus Film
Jesus calms a storm.

Luke 8:22-25
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

In our all age worship this morning we looked at the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.
The 'Sea' of Galilee was really a lake - Israel's largest freshwater lake to be precise, stretching about 33 miles round and the second lowest lying lake in the world, after the Dead Sea, at more than 200m below sea level.
This fact, coupled with its being surrounded by hills, makes it prone to sudden violent storms.
In 4 concise verses, Luke retells a Markan story, also present in Matthew, of the disciples putting out to 'sea' and encountering one such storm.
Jesus has been teaching and they are all tired. They are heading to the opposite shore where they might have respite from the crowds, when a violent squall blows up.
The disciples were seasoned fishermen; this is likely not the first storm they have weathered, but it's a particularly bad one.
Jesus, worn out from teaching the crowds, has fallen into a deep sleep (on a cushion, notes Mark, in a touching detail you could not make up).
It's not until the waves are actually breaking into the boat that the disciples call out for Jesus to wake up and do something about it.
It a great summing up of prayer...Jesus do something about it. 
How does it feel to pray about something for a long time, with apparently nothing changing.
Jesus, can't you do something about it?

The questions we discussed were around the storms that we have faced and come through. How had faith helped? What else helped? (talking, reassessing what we really do believe; other people, hugs, tea, exercise, perspective).
Was it the case that the disciples were just 'lucky' to have Jesus there to get up and intervene for them, while we have to content ourselves with 'knowing' his presence in some non interventionist way? Or does it actually make all the difference that he does accompany us in the storms of today?
One of my favourite questions was 'did the disciples pass or fail?'
We know that Jesus, after stilling the wind and waves, wasn't exactly delighted with their panicked response.

Lake Galilee becalmed. Image by Shuttershock.

They assume he doesn't care, for a start (how often, if I'm honest, have I wondered the same, when some intractable problem wears me down and praying doesn't seem to do anything...)
But Jesus takes one look at their panic and says 'why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?'
Because fear has no place when Jesus is in the boat.

It was beginning to dawn on the disciples, that this Jesus, who was so obviously human that he got tired and fell asleep, was also something more...
Could he also be divine, commanding nature, as did the Creator at the dawn of time?
The obedience of even nature to the command of Jesus leaves the disciples asking exactly the right kind of question - a question at the heart of all Christian spiritual encounter.
Who really is this man?

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