Job 38:1-11: Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”


The disciples in the boat with Jesus make some serious assumptions as the waves toss them about.  


They assume that they are perishing.  And they assume God doesn’t care that they are.


I don’t blame the disciples for their assumptions, as they mirror my own when I have felt tossed by a storm in my life, unable to see a way forward.


When life has overwhelmed me I, too, have had moments I was sure I would not make it through, and I was sure God was asleep at the wheel.


God, I am perishing!  Do you not care?


We are led to believe that fear is the absence of faith, and that sufficient faith results in the absence of fear.  

Maybe that’s true.  If it is, I have yet to reach a sufficient faith to be able to confirm it myself.  


Faith and fear seem to be in constant dialogue in my mind and heart, like Job in the whirlwind.


David Lose suggests that perhaps it isn’t that faith removes all fear, but that it makes it possible to live through the fear.  Maybe the difference faith makes is the difference between feeling certain we will perish as a result of the storm we are in, and not knowing how things will turn out in the end, but that they will turn out.  


As Julian of Norwich wrote of Jesus speaking to her in the midst of her own storm, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”


Maybe the difference is simply the awareness, in the midst of our storms, that we are not perishing.  That God does care. That God is there.


The disciples in the boat know that Jesus is there, but it is when they call out to him to do something that the storm ceases to threaten them.


God was there all the time.  But it wasn’t until the disciples called on God, called on Jesus, that the reality of God’s presence, the assurance of God’s care became known by them.


Maybe you know something of being caught in a storm you were sure was going to overwhelm you, maybe even cause you to perish.


Perhaps you are in such a storm right now.


A loved one’s illness.  A battle with addiction.  Aging parents you don’t know how to care for.  Your own body not behaving as it used to.


There certainly seems to be a storm tossing the boat we are in together as a country and as a world. Whether it’s the strife at our border, the spiraling gun violence, or the melting ice caps, there are forces on every side tossing us about, causing many of us to lift our voices and ask God, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”


And we wait for God to do some divine intervention and stop the chaos like the waves of the sea.  But when the waves keep coming, we are convinced it means God isn’t there. God doesn’t care. And we are perishing.


The part of the Gospel passage that has been translated “be still” is actually, in Greek, closer to “Be silent” or “Be muzzled.”  In the Greek, it isn’t that Jesus causes the waves to cease, but to stop telling the disciples to be afraid.


The disciples are in the boat, going across the sea to begin ministry with a new, unknown people -- going to be among Gentiles for the first time.  

They are leaving the crowds gathered in admiration for an unknown people where they will encounter an unknown reception.  Of course they are afraid. Of course they are unsure. Of course they are overwhelmed and feeling as though the boat they are in is sinking. And they are ready to give up, convinced there is nothing to be done.  The storm is too great.


Until they remember that Jesus is with them.  And, remembering he is there, they call on him.  And, calling on him, the words of presence and assurance drown out the sounds that threaten to overwhelm.  God is with them in their fear. God is with them in the storm.


So they do not give up.  And they make it to the other side. They do not perish as they were certain they would.


The difference in translation between “be still” and “be silent” is often the difference between what I ask God for in the midst of a storm in my life, and what God is already offering me.  I want the waves to be still. God offers a way through the waves, silencing the voices that tell me I am alone in the storm, that I am perishing, that there’s nothing I can do, no one on whom I can call and that God doesn’t care.


Last week, I was overwhelmed by the news coming from the border, like many of you.  I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel like I could effect any real change by myself.


On Sunday afternoon, I joined some St. Paul’s parishioners and about 300 other people of faith for a vigil at the Immigration Detention Center.  


As we walked by the Suffolk County Corrections Facility, we couldn’t see in the windows, as they are tinted so passersby can’t see in, but those inside can see out.


That is, until we were up on a footbridge, almost at eye level and directly across from the incarcerated.  Suddenly the mirrored reflection of the windows gave way to the figures of dozens of men who were looking back at us, waving.  Soon, small signs began to appear from the other side of the bars. “Thank you.” “God bless you.”


And in that moment the voices that were telling me there was nothing I could do, that there was no way to effect change and that God had fallen asleep at the wheel gave way to a sense of profound connection and shared humanity with these men I didn’t know, whose faces I could barely make out.  The waves weren’t stopped, but they sure were silenced.


In that moment, God was there.  We were not alone. And though there is still so much work to be done, we are not perishing.


In whatever storm we find ourselves, no matter how battered the boat, or how strong the waves, God is there.  

‘In our fear, we can call on God to show up and silence the voices of fear that try to convince us that we are alone in the storm, that there’s nothing to be done, that we are perishing, and that God doesn’t care that we are.


God is with us.  If we can remember that, lean on that, demand that, trust that, soon enough we will discover we have made it to the other side facing new challenges we never thought possible.


In whatever storm you find yourself, call on God.  Hold on to one another.


No matter what the waves are telling you, you are not perishing.  Keep rowing through the storm with whatever strength you have. Don’t listen to the waves;  listen to the God who loves you.


We must keep rowing. Because only then can we reach the other side.  Only then, with God at our side can we proclaim, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”



© 2018 The Reverend Jeffrey W. Mello

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