Letter to parishioners, 18 June 2021

Friday, 18 June 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In this week’s Gospel reading (Mark 4.35-41) we find the disciples asking Jesus an almost unbelievable question: … do you not care that we are perishing? The context of this question is the well-known passage in which we hear of Jesus sleeping in the stern of a boat as a great storm rages around him. The disciples’ question is asked as they wake Jesus in the hope that he might save them. Like us, they seek the right words but, in their panic, they fail terribly.

From childhood through to old age we like to think that we are cared for. We like the warmth of that feeling, the feeling that someone is looking out for us. Then, usually with very little warning, it all goes wrong. Just as the unexpected storms of life blow up around us, buffeting us from side to side, creating confusion and evoking fear and perhaps terror, the feeling of being cared for vanishes. Suddenly we feel alone and we may well ask those who are nearest and dearest to us: do you not care? From the safety of the peaceful havens we create for ourselves, we can easily see the injustice of this question. But, out there on the storm-tossed waters, with the waves crashing over us, all sense of justice and logic abandons us. The certainty that we are loved and cared for turns into an equally strong certainty that no-one cares at all. But, of course, that is not true. Jesus does care for us, no matter how high and threatening the waves may be.

It would be easy to turn the lesson of Jesus’ ever-present care and love into a message of consolation as our lives continue to be dominated by the Covid pandemic. However, that would be to belittle the true message of this moment in the gospel narrative. Today’s short passage from Mark’s gospel is not about finding a way to cope with the irritations of lockdown, isolation and vaccination. Similarly, it is not about the doom-laden predictions for the future of the Church in our diocese and country. That also belittles the message of this important passage from scripture.

The true message is that Jesus is always with us, through good times and bad. Whether we are overflowing with joy and satisfaction and, therefore, not feeling that we need to think about Jesus much, he is still there, walking with us and caring for us. Sometimes people tell me that they do not believe in God. My response to that statement, which is often phrased as a slightly threatening challenge, is simple: Never mind, God still believes in you! The account of Jesus calming the storm encapsulates that message perfectly.

We are all made in the image of God. We all deserve respect and care from each other. Jesus takes that principle one stage further by commanding us to love and serve one another. Jesus’ whole earthly life was about his love and care for us. We rewarded that with a sham trial and cruel execution, but that was not the end of the story. Jesus conquered the death we inflicted upon him, he forgave us our sinful behaviour, and he sent the Holy Spirit into our midst in order that we might never forget his love and care for us all.

Let us take the message of this short passage to heart. Let us never be the ones asking if God cares for us, but let us be the ones showing everyone else of our certainty of that love and care. Let us also hear Jesus’ words to that raging storm: Peace! Be still! and let us take that peace with us as we continue our pilgrimage through this life.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen