35 When evening had come, [Jesus said to the disciples,] “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and the disciples woke him up and said to him, “Rabbi, Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 Jesus said to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And the disciples were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
Storms rage around and within us.
It’s hard to find a place to hold on.
Draw near to us again this morning.
Remind us that you are in these storms with us.
Quiet the storms. Send us peace.
There’s a story that I’ve told very few people about the time when I heard what I think was God’s voice the clearest in my life. I’ll save the story for another time, but what I will say is that it was, like, almost the middle of the night, and I was by myself, and everything was perfectly quiet.
It was in that absolute stillness that I believe I came the closest so far in my life to hearing God most clearly. Which tracks with Elijah’s experience on Mt. Horeb, you’ll recall…when God is not in the wind or the earthquake or in the fire, but rather in the sound of sheer silence.
But it doesn’t track, in some other ways we say God is revealed…in the way we say that God is revealed in the midst of devastation and hurting, right? That if you want to see God, go to the places of suffering. Look for God in the faces of the outcast and the downtrodden and the tossed aside. And that’s also true, too, I find, right? I do find God in those places and in those people…but rarely are those places quiet places…holy, absolutely…but rarely quiet.
So which is it? Is God revealed in the midst of hurt and anger and suffering and devastation—rarely quiet places? Or is God felt clearly in the stillness and silence…once everything else has fallen away?
Both, I think.
I think we truly experience God in the clamor of disaster and tragedy. And I think we also need to cultivate quiet spaces in our lives where we can truly listen for God. And I don’t think these 2 things are mutually exclusive. I think we need both. Sometimes I think we need to be able to find the one within the other.
If you’ve been keeping score at home, this past week marked 15 months since a pandemic brought our world to a grinding halt. And if the shutdown was jarringly abrupt, the restart has been anything but. Resuming life, we’re finding out, comes in fits, and starts. Different people are in different places with regards to just how comfortable they are with this idea of re-entry and getting back on with it. We didn’t really have a choice when things shut down. There are a lot of different feelings about just how quickly people are ready to move forward in the midst of this pandemic.
We’re not necessarily all on the same page about how and how quickly we go forward from here.
Different speeds. Different comfortabilities.
We need to be willing to give one another a lot of grace in this.
Patience…which is not our strong suit…is the order of the day. Certainly patience with each other.
It’s been a stormy 15 months.
“Rabbi…Teacher…don’t you even care that we are perishing…?!?”
How many times have you said that over the past more than a year?
When we’re the ones in the midst of those storms, and nothing seems to be working, and there seems to be nothing we can do about it, it can feel as if the one we say can do something about it doesn’t care. At best, is unaware. At worst, is apathetic.
But in Jesus’ defense, I mean, have you ever tried to sleep on a cushion in the cabin of a boat?
I mean, it’s not really that difficult. Especially if you’ve been out on the water all day. I’m thinking about a time last summer when we were out on the lake with my family, and Ollie and his cousins passed out in the cabin and the wind was hawking so the water was extremely choppy and we’re just bouncing up and down and up and down on the water, seemingly hitting every. single. wave., and the kids are in the cabin and catching like 2-feet of air each time, but they stayed dead asleep.
I guess if you’re worn out enough…
Funny enough, I can’t say the same thing about myself trying to fall asleep on a cruise ship in rough waters. Talk about sea-sick…
“Rabbi, don’t you even care that we’re perishing??”
“Well honestly, I might not have even known…but now that you mention it…”
And then Jesus does what we expect Jesus to do. Jesus rebukes the storm. Which even that is a little too kind of a construction. The Greek is much more emphatic. Jesus curses the storm. He tells the wind to go kick sand. “Peace! Be still!” your translation says. More accurately, Jesus says, “Be muzzled.” “Sit down. And shut up.” Jesus tells the storm.
It’s the language of exorcism. The same sort of forcefulness of language Jesus uses with demons and spirits in the Gospel of Mark.
What we’d expect Jesus to do.
Because of course, Jesus cares that the disciples are terrified. Of course, Jesus cares that they feel like they’re going to die. Of course, Jesus cares that we’re perishing.
Do we care that there are some among our neighbors who are caught up in some pretty vicious storms of their own right now? Do we care that there are some among our neighbors who feel like they might not make it through the particular storm they’re battling? Do we care that, in some cases, we have the ability to help calm some of those storms that our neighbors and siblings are experiencing…or at least to help them navigate the waters a little better?
We’re all in the same boat.
You’ve heard this said, I’m sure, by more than a handful of well-meaning people, particularly in distressing or challenging situations. I think it’s meant to kind of drum up a sense of togetherness in the midst of life’s storms, to point out how, in some ways, we’re all going through some of the same challenges.
I think it’s well-meaning, and I think the intent to prompt a response of togetherness is a good one, but I’m just not sure it’s true.
I heard a good take on this well-meaning phrase recently, particularly in the context of a collective trauma or challenge, like a pandemic.
“We’re not all in the same boat,” it goes. “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re in very different boats.” Wow. True, I think. Some of us have yachts or 25-footers or even fishing boats. Others are trying to make it in a rescue life raft or a couple of pieces of cardboard and some duct tape.
We’re all in the same storm.
But we’re in very different boats.
And it has been a stormy 15 months.
As we’ve been working our way through 2nd Corinthians the past few weeks, and using St. Paul’s letter to talk about how togetherness and living and loving and serving for the sake of our neighbors really is our only way out of our collective struggles, our reading from this morning from chapter 6 feels a little bit like a form letter. It feels somewhat disconnected from the overarching theme.
But I think Paul is still speaking to this sense of togetherness here. ““We aren’t putting any obstacles in anyone’s way…As God’s servants, we have commended ourselves to you…We have spoken plainly to you; our heart is wide open to you.” All the hardships and troubles Paul and his companions endured—the beatings, imprisonments, hunger, sleepless nights—all they did, they endured for the sake of the Corinthian community. Living and serving in the interest of others…enduring difficulty and hardship for the sake of others…is a central Christian tenet. We are called to bear one another’s burdens, to shoulder on another’s loads, even when they’re heavy.
Together…really is our only way out of this.
There have been some intense storms over the past 15 months. Not just a global pandemic…but an ongoing struggle for racial justice and equity, deep political divisions, vehement disagreements among family members, medical struggles… It’s June and Pride month, and the fight for LGBTQIA2+ justice continues… These are some choppy seas.
We need one another.
We are given to rescue one another.
Literally, to save one another.
To hold one another through these storms.
It may feel as if these storms will never stop.
I don’t think that’s true. I think storms do end. But I also think storms persist. As soon as one is gone, another one starts churning. Think of hurricane season, right? Another one is likely on its way.
Which is why it’s important to cultivate and lean into those moments of stillness when they come.
Those are the sustaining moments.
Jesus does calm storms. Or rather, Jesus is with us in our boat, and weathers these storms with us.
It’s a hard thing to trust, but it’s true.
Being without a musician is tough as we’re trying to regather, and as I said, we’re working on it. But there’s a hymn in our new hymnal, All Creation Sings, that has a Taize-like feel to it and comes from the Holden Prayer around the Cross resource. It’s called Peace, Be Still and it’s really quite simple, and I wonder if you’d sing quietly with me, with your masks on, please.
I’ll sing it through once, and you can join in if you feel comfortable, and we’ll just sing it through a few times.
It goes like this:
Peace, be still.
Peace, be still.
The storm rages.
Peace, be still.