… they woke him up and said to him: ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
From petulant childhood through to mature adulthood … when things are not going our way … we question the capacity and willingness of others to care for us.
We like to be cared for … to be held tight, both literally and figuratively … when things are not going well. We have a sense of entitlement to that care from our parents, our siblings and our partners.
We know that … at the heart of our faith … there is God’s love and care for us, as manifested in the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All of this makes it extraordinary that … when the going was particularly tough … the disciples should ask Jesus this question: … do you not care that we are perishing?
Before considering this further, let me add some context to this account of Jesus’ calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is a very large inland lake – very large indeed! Where it is situated means that winds can blow up very suddenly, making the waters perilous to those who are crossing them in boats.
The weather on the Sea of Galilee is so unpredictable, and becomes so violent that there are warning signs in the car parks all around the edge of the water … signs warning of the danger of damage to vehicles parked there.
Furthermore, the perilous winds and storms on the Sea of Galilee can blow up without any warning whatsoever. Travelling by boat on the Sea of Galilee can be life-threatening. This is the situation being described in today’s gospel reading.
After much teaching and healing Jesus and the disciples decided to journey across the lake to the other side. We can only presume that the weather was calm and there was no imminent danger as they set off. But … then comes the storm!
As we are told in our reading: A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
This is so like the situation in which we find ourselves as we journey through this life. We set ourselves goals … as individuals, as families, as communities of all sorts … and then the unforeseen storms arise.
It would be easy for me to focus on the situation that has dominated our lives for more than a year, but that would be to place a limit on the message contained in today’s gospel.
The message today is not about pandemics, and how we cope with them … the message is about how we cope with every aspect of our lives, both personal and corporate.
I would also say that the message we should be reflecting upon today is not about Diocesan Plans and Church governance … the message we are hearing today is about how we cope with every aspect of our lives … as individuals and as members of different communities.
Everyone who is hearing me speak this morning has had to face unexpected storms in their lives … no one has been exempt from that, no matter how wealthy or well-connected they may consider themselves to be.
Those crises have brought about times when we have felt despair and hopelessness … we may even have wondered whether life would ever be worth living again.
In those moments we have been alongside the disciples in that boat on the Sea of Galilee, in the midst of the raging storm.
In those moments we have, almost certainly, wondered why someone is not caring for us … we may even have joined the disciples in asking Jesus: do you not care that we are perishing?
There is a well known poem that speaks of our lives in terms of a walk across a sandy beach.
Where we have trod, the poem speaks of two sets of footprints …
our own and those of Jesus …
the one who does care for us …
The narrator observes that at the most difficult moments in his life he sees only one set of footprints. The narrator presumes that at those moments he was left to walk alone. But … the reply comes that at those moments Jesus carried him and that the sole set of footprints were, in fact, his.
Like the disciples in today’s gospel reading, our lives are dogged by challenging moments … moments that we may well see as life-threatening.
It is at those moments that we need to cling on to the lifebelt of faith.
Jesus asked his disciples: Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?
That is the position we often find ourselves in. We play our part in living out the life of faith … but how deep does that faith go?
Do we hear Jesus rebuking the storms and commanding: Peace! Be still!? Or do we just set all that ‘faith stuff’ to one side while we try to sort things out for ourselves?
Possibly more to the point … do we wait until we are at crisis point before calling on the Lord for help, or do we keep up a constant dialogue with the one who is walking with us at all times?
Do we continue to be those who only really ask for God’s ‘interference’ in our lives when the going gets tough … or do we pray faithfully through the times of stillness and calm as well?
At the end of this morning’s gospel reading the disciples asked a second question: Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
We cannot pretend that we do not know the answer to that question!
Jesus, the Christ, is our risen and ascended Lord and Saviour.
When we join the disciples in asking either of the questions that frame Mark’s account of Jesus calming the storm we are demonstrating the weakness of our own faith. We are setting out the need for us to work harder at developing our awareness of his constant presence with us … through good times and bad.
Let us pray for the faith that is even the size of a mustard seed.
Let us pray that we might come to know the true love and care that Jesus offers us all of the time.
Let us turn our first reaction to worldly calamity into one of faithful prayer … rather than utter despair.
Let us thank God that storms do, indeed, obey him, and that it is his will that we should come through every storm knowing that he has carried us safely to the other side.