In the same boat

In the same boat

Creation Sunday

Readings: Genesis 2. 4b-9, 15-25; Psalm 65; Revelation 4; Luke 8. 22-25 (view all)

Perhaps because my brother and sister are quite a bit younger than me, I spent a lot of my childhood playing sports and games with my mum and dad. Tennis with my mum in the summer, and cricket or sometimes football with my dad. It’s fair to say that most of the time I was able to get the better of my dad, but there’s one sport in which he was vastly superior, that was sailing.

When he was at school, Dad used to spend Wednesday afternoons on the boating lake, and so he was very well practiced. We only went sailing once together on holiday — each of us in a little one-man sailing boat.

While Dad was happily speeding back and forth across the lake, I was literally learning the ropes as I went, and while I managed to get some speed up once or twice, I also capsized at least a couple of times, and ended up having to be pulled out of the water, cold and wet!

Amongst our readings for Creation Sunday, this morning’s gospel tells the famous story of Jesus and his disciples in the boat on the lake. How might this episode in the life of Jesus and his disciples be a metaphor for our lives today? And how might we learn to trust God in stormy times? 

Our OT reading from Genesis reminds us that as humans, we are hard-wired to enjoy God’s good creation, and made for loving relationships with one another. And yet, along with the good times in life, it’s true for all of us that there are also plenty of difficulties and struggles along the way. 

Today’s well-known gospel story is very often used as a parable for the ups and downs of life — the storms that we face, the times when things feel out of control, when it all becomes too much for us. 

It may be a conflict at work with a colleague, or uncertainty around our job with all the worries about money that brings. Or a situation at home — a strained relationship with a family member or partner, or someone we love who is battling ongoing illness.

It’s easy, in the midst of life’s storms, to feel overwhelmed by what’s around us. Things may even get so bad that we feel abandoned by God, at the mercy of the wind and the waves, alone. 

And yet, in our gospel reading, Jesus’ disciples are not abandoned. He is right there in the boat with them.

And though to them he is asleep, and they might think he is blissfully unaware of the storm around them — he is just as in control as when he wakes up and rebukes the wind and the waves.

The wonder of the Christian message is this: that God is not located somewhere outside of the world, outside of our struggles, looking in. Instead Jesus locates himself in the centre of our world, and at the centre of our lives, so that whatever we go through he is in the same boat with us, alongside us, in everything we go through.

He’s the one whom the Psalm tells us,

‘Set fast the mountains… still[s] the raging of the seas, the roaring of the waves and the clamour of the peoples’, who ‘provide[s] for the earth’.

And yet he’s also the friend who is right there in the boat with us.

The one in whom the whole universe is held together, has not fallen asleep at the wheel, but is right there alongside us in all we’re going through.

Unlike in the passage, it may well not be the case that all our problems are miraculously solved, but as our prayer draws us deeper into an awareness of God’s presence, we may well find ourselves, at least for a moment, in the eye of the storm. As we allow ourselves to acknowledge Jesus’ presence with us, we can know God’s calm and peace — with a sense of our brother Jesus with his arm around us, alongside us.

I wonder: Will we have faith, turning to Jesus in stormy times, when we’re struggling to see a way through? Will we offer God’s peace to others around us, comforting and supporting them through difficult times? 

How can we, as God’s Church, be people of peace for those in our community who are experiencing the worst of the storms of life?

My very brief attempt at sailing taught me that the feeling of being on the edge of control can be one of the most exhilarating, but also one of the most terrifying in life.

There’s such an incredible feeling as the wind fills the sails and accelerates you forwards — and yet at the same time a sense of fear as you realise your increasing chances of overbalancing and capsizing have rapidly increased.

In many ways the life of faith is very much like that, full of trials and challenges — but Jesus calls us to push out on the water, to be brave, trusting that he is right there with us the whole way.

As we come to the Lord’s table today, may we know God’s peace in our hearts, and the presence of Jesus alongside us, empowering us to face the storms of life together.