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Peace when the storm clouds gather

Jesus sleepin in the boat

4th Sunday after Trinity Mark 4 35-end

It had been a long hard day; they had worked all the hours that God had given and probably some more.
I am sure we all know how that feels; there must have been days, if not now, certainly in our working lives when it was expected that we go the extra mile.
That line in the contract that says ‘and anything else your line manager requires.’
You know how it goes.
We just need someone to check the figures.
We just need someone to cover for Jack who is off sick.
We just need someone to come in an hour early or work an hour late,and I am sure there must have been times when you thought OK I understand you need someone - but not me – I’m TIRED.

We can just imagine how tired Jesus must have been. Day in and day out he was teaching in Parables, feeding 5000, healing the sick at every turn, casting out demons, fending off the Pharisees and Sadducees and then some. Jesus was God incarnate, fully divine but he was also fully human as well and he was exhausted.

He did not complain to his line manager, he kept working all the time the people came until he was shattered, exhausted beyond telling – he must have been for we read that he slept through a storm. The boat was being tossed about like a cork – they had no engine and the sails would not be any use as it was such a storm that it rocked the experienced sailors in the boat with him – they were in a panic.

How heartening it is to know that God understands what it is to be, totally exhausted. Thank God Jesus was made like us in every respect, that we have a high priest who can sympathise with our weakness he does understand how we feel.

But the disciples in the boat did not appreciate the fact that he was tired and just needed to be left alone to sleep;
The disciples were in panic mode – it might have sounded something like:
‘We just need someone to slacken off these ropes.
We just need someone to hold the tiller.
We just need someone to bail out the water.
We just need someone to do something.’
As another huge wave crashes over the deck, someone shouts
‘We are going to drown Jesus – don’t you care?’

If you can drag your mind back to the time in the late 1970s when the daily news programmes on British television showed images of streets which were not cleaned, rubbish which was not collected, trains and buses which did not run. There seemed to be trouble everywhere. Everybody seemed to be on strike, even the dead were not being buried. The period was described as the "Winter of Discontent". The Prime Minister, James Callaghan, returning from a trip abroad, was met at the airport by dozens of journalists who asked him one simple question: "What are you going to do about the crisis?"

Trying to play down the situation, the Prime Minister reportedly responded: "Crisis? What crisis?" This underestimation of the gravity of the situation very soon afterwards cost Mr Callaghan his job. At first sight it looks as though Jesus, like Jim Callaghan, has a similarly cavalier and almost irresponsible attitude to the danger he and the disciples faced as the first thing Jesus said to them when at last they managed to wake him was a question ‘Why are you afraid?’ In other words he was saying; ‘You don’t need to be afraid if I am in your boat, if you have taken me on board and welcomed me into your life, I am your captain, in charge of your soul.

They must have felt a bit sheepish standing there in the pouring rain, desperate for Jesus to do something – and then he said to them ‘Have you no faith?’ He was implying that you don’t just need someone to do something for you; What you need is FAITH.
Faith in someone who is greater.
Faith in someone who knows you better than you know yourselves.
Faith in someone who loves you, whatever.
Faith in someone who holds your lives in his hands.

I don’t think the disciples would have drowned out there on the lake, for they were part of a greater story. There were still some chapters to write. But they did need a lesson in FAITH –to believe in Jesus, to trust him to help them deal with the STUFF that life throws at them.

As a Church and as individuals, we face many storms; many things that seem to threaten to overwhelm us. As a Church, we face problems over the falling numbers in our parishes, the lack of people committing themselves to the ministry, the lack of consensus on many moral and doctrinal issues, even a lack of confidence in the Church's relevance in the modern world. As individuals, we can feel swamped by depression, anger, hurts, resentments, failed relationships, jealousy, powerlessness and a sense of hopelessness. I am sure we can each add our own difficulties to this list.

When life is as calm as a millpond it is easy to forget about Jesus. We easily can ignore the fact that he is sitting in the stern of your boat. We often get carried away paddling our own canoe until the wind gets up and the waves build and the stuff of life piles up and begins to come at us like a storm.

Then we find ourselves – just like the disciples shouting to Jesus, ‘wake up, where are you? God help me I am going under, I am drowning here, I need some help’ It is in the storms that we remember just how much we depend on God, and just how much we need him to sort it out for us.

In the boat, Jesus is very calm, their tired friend stands up and calms the storm, and they heard his voice when he spoke to the storm. They saw him raise his hand to still the waves and they experienced the calm after the storm. That is the point of this incident. It is to remind us that God is not ‘up there’ floating on some distant cloud, God is in your boat.

When we are working, sleeping, laughing, weeping, whatever state we are in He every bit as present now in the person of the Holy Spirit as he was then in the person of Jesus. He is still speaking peace. Speaking Peace to the storms of life that trouble us and overwhelm us with anxiety. Peace to our hearts when we are afraid and when the storm clouds gather, as they will, for it is a fact of life. We will all encounter clouds at some point. Clouds of loneliness, pain, fear, problems, guilt or exhaustion, the list is endless; When the storm breaks – as it surely will one day, the storm of crisis, tragedy, of loss, may we know the peace of Jesus in our hearts.

My prayer his morning is that we will all know and experience Jesus in our boat, and have the reassurance that we are not alone, we will not drown and that there will be calm after the storm. All we have to do is hand over the tiller and have faith.

Peace at sea
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