Be Still!

The Disciples asked, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” And the answer is, it is God, the creator and the ruler of all the world, the heavens above and the sea below. This is the God we have come to know through the Son and come to worship and give praise here every week.

If all of this is true, why are our lives as messed up and as dysfunctional as everyone else’s?” A fair question in light of the testimony we hear so often by people who claim that since they found Jesus. . . all of their problems have been washed away. And somehow, even we Episcopalians have bought into the concept of handing all of our worries over to Jesus ,as if, through the miracle of prayer we will live stress free lives. In fact, while in Boston my spiritual director would advise me to visualize myself throwing stones into the Charles River. With each stone, I was to place one of my worries and allow the river to take that worry to God.

I have to admit; I liked the concept, but I had two problems with it. One, I like to worry and so as I have said before, I would throw the stone into the river and then imagine myself diving in after it. Second, even if I left the stone in the river, the concern really didn’t go away. If it was a financial issue, money did not suddenly float down from heaven. If it was a family health issue, healing usually did not take place in the moment. And, the concern remains.

So does worrying make us bad Christians? Does worrying indicate a lack of faith? I don’t think either of these assertions is true. What the worries and fears of our lives indicate is. . .we are human. It indicates we care for the world, for our families and those around us, that we are engaged in the realities of human life, and accept that no life is without struggle.

Worry and fear indicate that we are no different than the disciples. After all, as this morning’s Gospel tells us, even with Jesus in the boat, they feared the tempest that overcame them on that evening, when Jesus instructed them to bring him to the other side of the lake.

In fact, they had a lot of things to worry about when they crossed the Sea of Galilee that night. Even though the Sea of Galilee is only 8 miles at its widest, crossing by boat in those days was not easy. Fishing boats were powered either by wind or human energy. A trek across the lake could take several hours. . .all depending on the winds and the ever changing currents. Because it took so long to cross, it was quite possible to start one’s trek in sunny weather and find yourself in the middle of a gale by the time you reached the middle as happened to the disciples that day. (How many of us have found ourselves stuck outside when a cloudburst suddenly let’s loose.) If the issue of wind and weather were not enough to worry about, crossing the Galilee meant crossing into unknown and possibly unfriendly territory as the sea forms the border between Israel and Syria.

Like you and me, the disciples took every day risks, and like you and me allowed Jesus to push them outside their comfort zone. And, like you and me, expected Jesus to protect them from the storms of life. And like you and me, they too discovered, having Jesus in the boat does not prevent them. . .from experiencing the storms of life.

What they discovered that night, however was truly amazing, no matter what tempests the sea could throw at them, Jesus could still stand and contain it. Perhaps this is why it seems as if Jesus waits until the last possible moment to quell the storm. It was his way of showing the disciples that no matter how dire things maybe, God is still able to still the chaos that surrounds us.

Time and time again, symbols of God’s presence and hope often emerge from the rubble of Chaos. On 9/11, after the twin towers fell and all the buildings that remained standing in the immediate area were damaged, across the street a simple, wood framed church built in the 18th century, remained standing, totally unscathed by the devastation. Around the corner, where piles of office papers landed and carpeting the church cemetery, Trinity Wall Street remained unscathed as well. And finally, as the rubble of 9/11 was being cleared, a cross emerged in the twisted rubble. All three stand today as silent witness to the world, that the darkness of evil cannot extinguish the light of God.

Seven years ago, after the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina subsided, a Louisiana cemetery was left devastated. As most of the headstones lay on the ground and tomb after tomb crumbled, one statue remained standing . . . that of Jesus . . . with arms out stretched, as if saying “peace, be still.”

Whether we are Christians, Jews, Moslems or Atheists, rich or poor, we will experience strife as part of our time on earth. With faith or without it, God gives us no free pass from struggle, and, as is said in Monopoly, no one is given the free pass, to pass Go and collect $200 without first making our way around the game board of life. And this means we will have reason to worry and at times, to fear what tomorrow may bring. The good news for us, however, is, no matter what storms life may bring our way, we believe in a God who is greater than the worst of it. A God, who ultimately has the ability to order the chaos back into its place and to restore peace to our worried and fearful hearts.
Amen.

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