31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 11, 2018
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Once upon a time, there was a boy, a girl, a man, a woman gliding through life in their own lovely boat. Sometimes there was a strong wave or two that beat against the side of the boat, a bout of the flu, a difficult co-worker, an unexpected March snowstorm. Generally though, life was smooth sailing. So smooth that maybe sometimes, the boy, the girl, the man, the woman, overlooked the brilliant sunrises, the glorious sunsets, the wondrous sight of dolphins off the starboard side, because they were so focused on the destination ahead.
And then one day, seemingly out of nowhere came the most enormous storm. The sky turned gray and dark, almost in an instant. The waves began to increase in size and the lovely little boat was tossed and turned in the chaos. And the boy, the girl, the man, the woman felt their boat being completely swamped by the news of being laid off after twenty years with the company, by the cancer diagnosis, by the unknown, unable to be diagnosed disease, by their partner in life saying “I’m done. I’m leaving.”, by the unexpected and always unwelcome words, “I’m sorry. There wasn’t anything more we could do for your loved one. We are sorry for your loss.”
The gray sky becomes pitch black. The wind howls to match the cry of the heart. The lovely little boat seems totally unable to handle the skyscraper size waves that are threatening to drown the boat and its occupant. Chaos, total chaos, is everywhere, and the boy, the girl, the man, the woman cries out to anyone who will listen, “Why me? Help me!”
And when they do not hear any response, when they cannot hear any response because the wind, the chaos, the fear is too loud, they cry out again, “Don’t you care that I am perishing?!”
“Don’t you care that I am perishing?!” “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)
Do you know that person? Have you been that person? Are you that person now? Is your boat being rocked so hard that terror and chaos feel like they are going to overwhelm and drown you? Have you ever cried out for help and felt like you only got indifference in return?
That’s how the disciples were feeling. They are out on the Sea of Galilee, a huge lake, and “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” (Mark 4:37). At least four of the disciples had previously been professional fishermen. This was not their first time out on the Sea of Galilee. This was not their first time in a storm.
I imagine when the wind first picked up they responded by saying, “We’ve got this. Based on our skills and experience, we know what to do.” As the wind grew, as the waves increased, it became a mantra “We’ve got this. We know what to do.” “We’ve got this. We know what to do.”
And it held the fear and panic at bay – this thought that they were the ones in control. That they could maintain control over the storm, the chaos, the darkness.
Denial has a place in our bag of emotional responses. Sometimes, denial is exactly what we need to keep our minds from going full reptilian brain, the fight or flight mode. Sometimes, denial is the only thing that keeps us moving forward, doing what needs to be done in the moment.
There came a time though for the disciples when that dam of denial sprang a leak, and fear began to come pouring through. So they did what many do in that situation, they cried out to God, to Jesus to save them.
And before they could get the words out, Jesus was there with a triumphant, “I’ve come to save the day” with his cape blowing out behind him and his fists on his hips in power pose, and all was well.
Oh wait. That’s just what we wish would happen when the chaos threatens to overwhelm us. We desperately want, God, Jesus, anyone, to come and save us. It’s certainly what the disciples wanted.
And what did they get? Jesus asleep in the stern, on a cushion!
Clearly, the disciples were never taught, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset. Don’t forget to say thank you.” Because they don’t get upset. They go ballistic! They wake Jesus up and say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38)
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Don’t you understand that I am drowning? Don’t you get that I am desperate? Don’t you care?
When we are thrust into the storm of chaos, when we lose our health, our income, our home, a loved one, when we cannot do things the way we have always done them, it is absolutely reasonable to be anxious, to be afraid. We are human. Fear is almost always going to be our response to change and loss.
And naturally we want company in our fear and anxiety. We want company for our fear and anxiety. We think that someone only understands when they are just as upset as we are. We do not appreciate people who are calm and in control. Actually, we, kind of, resent people who are calm and in control. It feels like they don’t fully understand the direness of the situation. It feels like they aren’t taking us or our circumstances seriously. It feels like they don’t care. The disciples felt like Jesus did not care.
So they shake him awake. They try to pass their hot potato of anxiety on to him, to make him responsible for their fear and anxiety.
Jesus doesn’t get worked up though; Jesus doesn’t even respond back to them. Jesus simply says to the wind, says to the sea, says to the chaos, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)
Peace. Be still. And the wind ceases and all is calm. All is calm.
Would that it was so easy for us. Would that when the storms of life arise that Jesus would be in our boat saying “Peace. Be still.”
Jesus is in our boat. Jesus is with us, each and every step of this life’s journey, on placid waters and in the great windstorm. Jesus is with us.
Don’t mistake his calm for being asleep in the back of the boat. Don’t mistake his confident trust in the power of God’s spirit as not caring. Don’t mistake his quiet faith as indifference.
Jesus is with us, each and every step of this life’s journey. Jesus is with us.
If you have never had your boat rocked so strongly that you thought it might tip you right out, thanks be to God.
If you have, when you do, you might think that you are alone in the boat, left to fend in the storm by yourself. You might think God, Jesus, are asleep, uncaring, indifferent to what you are going through. That’s the reptilian brain talking though, talking and not thinking because it cannot think. It can only react.
Jesus is with us, each and every step of this life’s journey, on placid waters and in the great windstorms. Jesus is with us – even when you cannot see him, even you cannot feel him, even when you cannot hear him. Jesus is there – calmly saying to the darkness, to the chaos, to the storm, “Peace. Be still.”