How are you on water? Can you swim? Do you get seasick on the Isle of Wight ferry when the sea is as flat as a millpond? Or are you the water-skiing para-gliding adventure-type that revels in all things water, dangerous and sea?
My future son-in-law is a diving instructor, and always encourages me, on my occasional seaside breaks, to go swimming. (In November, in Southsea? I mean honestly. The sea there provides at least three easy ways to die, so far as I am concerned, and that’s on a good weather day!)
It is not always obvious from the Bible, but Jewish folks historically hate the sea. It holds fear from them, and they are not an ocean-going people. The depths hold unknown terrors, and are best avoided for both spiritual and safety reasons. It is this (for example) which gives added poignancy to the book of Jonah – and indeed that narrative echoes the shipwreck of Paul in Acts.
Which might explain why the disciples panic in the boat, with Jesus asleep, as in today’s passage. As my friend and colleague Martin may have said in his sermon today – the real loss of faith was not in Jesus. They did, after all, wake Him up to save them – that is an act of faith. The real loss of faith may have been in themselves – seasoned sailors, terrified by the seemingly supernaturally dangerous gale threatening to drown them every moment.
But they have Jesus! As every Sunday School child knows. Yes, they do. And from the safety of the pew, that’s great. But out there, in real life, there are dangers aplenty to keep us on our toes, as this week’s storms prove. And be honest – our first reaction to imminent danger may not always be prayer – or turning to Christ – but something more prosaic – like panic!
In the words of the fearsome Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan…” (even in our case, a faith plan) “…until they get punched in the mouth.”
As I write this, the wind is howling once again outside, and we are faced with the challenge of faith once again, as ever: panic – or prayer? And in the case of prayer – well, a nice calm faithful prayer would be great – but I’ll settle for a panicky one!
I suppose danger is relative. If we lived in Eastern Ukraine, we might feel that the current problems of the English, with the weather, and Covid, and bitter political issues, and royalty controversies, are small beer indeed, compared to the threat they face.
And not just Ukraine – Yemen, South Sudan, and a host of other battle-zones come to mind.
In the face of danger, panic – or pray?
Well, pray! We trust in a God who not only hears us but is with us in all these things. We pray for peace, we pray for safety, we do what we can, and we trust in God.
I cannot say what the outcomes will be. But I can say – and I hope you can too – that in my experience, with Jesus in the boat…you guessed it…
So, let’s pray in faith, trust in God, help each other this coming week – and smile at those storms.