This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41b)
The dress was ruined. Any repair would scar the slinky shape of the long black skirt The party was tonight. She held the dress out to her mother – “What am I going to do? I’ve nothing else to wear”.
She went to school in despair, she wouldn’t go tonight. She couldn’t bear to see everyone else in their new glamorous dresses.
At home her mother worked on the garment. The ragged tear was no more. The black skirt was laced with panels of bright coloured silk which would shimmer in the lights of a ballroom. Her daughter would wear, not a shop-bought dress, but a hand-crafted ball gown with the unexpected and unlooked for beauty of being the only one.
The disciples are tired. It’s been another long, hot day dealing with the crowds of people who flock to hear Jesus teach, who ask him to heal them or who are just curious about this man who has the whole region talking about him.
It’s been another long, hot day listening to Jesus talk knowing that however hard they concentrate, at the end of the day they’ll probably find they’ve missed the point and he’ll have to explain it all to them again.
The disciples are tired but they need to sail the boat across the water before they can rest. Jesus, physically and emotionally spent is asleep. Well, that’s as it should be and anyway there’s not much he could do to help – he’s not a fisherman, at home on the sea.
Suddenly one of Galilee’s storms blows up. It’s the last thing they need tonight but they’ve dealt with such storms before and they’ll get through. But this one is more violent and longer lasting than most. It hurls the boat from side to side, up and down until in the midst of their frenetic struggles to keep afloat, never mind in control, the fear dawns in their minds that they’re not going to make it this time, they’re going down.
Jesus is still asleep. How in the name of God can he still be asleep? Exhaustion and fear breed anger that in the middle of this disaster he’s doing nothing. Using up precious energy they yell above the noise of the wind and the waves “Wake up. Don’t you care what’s happening to us? Do something”.
They have no thought about what they expect, no ideas about what he could do, just rage and terror in their desperation.
The moment lasts for ever yet it’s over before they realise what he’s doing. Silence: noisier than the storm. Calm: more destabilising than the gale. Awe and wonder greater than the fear of drowning.
Who is this? They thought their lives were ending. Now they face their future knowing that here is one who can control the forces of nature. Nothing will be the same again.
And, sure enough, he tells them they’ve missed the point again. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”.
Who is this?
We can go about our daily lives, happy to let Jesus sleep on the edges of our consciousness. Most of the time we can manage by ourselves. When the first signs of trouble appear we set about coping. We’ve faced troubles before, we know the score and we use our reserves of energy to deal with this one, whatever it is. By the time the troubles have spiralled out of control and we’re on the point of collapse we’ve gone beyond turning to God with a polite “Please Lord would you mind helping me?” Fear, stress and anger find voice in the call. “Wake up, God. Don’t you care what’s happening to me? Do something”.
We might find ourselves, like the disciples, faced with a response that takes our breath away and presents us with another problem to cope with. Who is this God of ours?
This is a God who isn’t content with short term emergency remedies. This is a God who goes right to the heart of the problem and deals with the root causes of our difficulties, failings and miseries. This is a God who gives us eternal life when all we asked for was a little help to get through the next day or week. He may not still our storm in an instant. It may take him weeks, months, maybe years but then he’s working on a different timescale and his purpose is perfection.
Are we ready to wake up that sort of God?
1) The disciples are facing a storm that is outside their normal experience and it terrifies them. In desperate fear, and with some anger, they wake Jesus, accusing him of not caring about what’s happening.
2) Jesus’ response to their cries far exceeds anything they might have expected and reveals to them more of his power as the Son of God.
3) God’s answer to our prayers may turn out to be far greater than anything we desired or deserved but its purpose will always be to reveal more of himself to us and to bring us ever closer to him.
In faith that the living God hears us when we call to him and that he cares about the needs of his world let us pray for his help and strength now, on this day of salvation.
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ facing the turbulence of persecution and oppression. We pray that they will find the hope and strength they need to keep firm in their faith.
Let us pray for all people facing the turbulence of war and terrorism. We pray that the forces of angry violence may be restrained by the rebuke of those calling for a calm and peaceful resolution of differences.
Let us pray for those facing the turbulence of fear, pain and illness. We pray that above the raging voice of suffering in all its forms the calming voice of the one who heals may be heard and obeyed.
Let us pray for ourselves in the times when we face drowning in the turbulence of doubt. We pray that our faith may grow in strength so that we can proclaim to others the power of Jesus to overcome the darkness of this world.
Heavenly Father, hear our prayers offered to you today out of the turbulence of this your fractured world. Renew our faith and grant us again a vision of the world as you meant it to be when you laid its foundations at the dawn of time. Hear our prayers, offered to you in the name of your son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.