Jesus has come with the same chaos ordering agenda as his Father. He is helping his followers and, indeed the world, become a new creation.
Up a creek without a paddle.
Lost at sea
These are terms and expressions that connote the feeling of vulnerability that water travel gone awry can bring.
If you have ever been boating when the motor goes out, you might know this.
If you’ve ever tried canoeing into the wind, you might understand.
Even if you’ve seen a movie where the mast has broken off the boat and the heroes are stuck in the middle of the ocean, you understand.
How in heaven’s name am I going to get out of this?
Sara and I really like canoeing. I grew up in the Scouts and have traveled down many an Iowa river. Sara and I like to say we fell in love in a canoe on the Maquoketa River.
I remember a few summers ago Sara and I were visiting Lake Side Lab and decided to take a canoe out. The lab sits on little Miller’s Bay. Sara and I had fun paddling around the peaceful inlet. But as we pushed out into Miller’s Bay proper, our little canoe got pushed around by the wind further and further South. No matter how hard we paddled it was no use. Regardless of how much experience we had, we were only going backwards. We blew all the way to Terrace Park.
It is not a great leap to see life in these watery frustrations.
Life is intense. Sometimes it’s like a leisurely canoe trip.
But sometimes it’s like what the apostles are experiencing in today’s gospel.
Sometimes it’s downright terrifying.
Some of you know what it’s like to get a bill that you won’t have the money next year let alone next month to pay.
Some of you know that breathless feeling of receiving a cancer diagnosis.
Some of you know that numb feeling when someone you love dies way too young.
How in heaven’s name am I going to get through this?
After the shock. After that punch to the gut. After seeing windstorm come up and feeling the boat going down, there is a common turn.
God, do you not know that this sucks?
Do you not understand that I am about to break?
Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?
Perhaps we think that God just sits up in heaven, indifferent to our problems both great and small.
And then, we might ask:
What’s with the wind in the first place? What’s with the storm? What’s with the poverty, the cancer, the death? Why does God even have these as things on the table?
We are not the first people to have these questions. And while it is perfectly fine to have them and even good to ask them we will hurt ourselves if we expect an easy answer.
If we want God to make perfect sense, we inevitably have a God who is too small. When God is small enough to fit into our boxes, we don’t really have God any more.
So, there is a tension.
God is good.
And there is human suffering.
These things are both true.
This tension is realized in Jesus.
Jesus is God made known but not completely.
In Jesus we know just enough.
In Jesus we know whose side God is on.
He’s on our side, against the chaos and against the storm.
When the storm comes up Jesus says “peace.”
We’ve talked about shalom before but it never hurts to remember that it means more than just what we think of as peace.
“Shalom” is taken from the root word shalam, which means, “to be safe in mind, body, or estate.” It speaks of completeness, fullness.
Jesus is not trying to compete with chaos, he’s trying to complete chaos.
Chaos is the raw material God uses in creation.
This takes us back to the beginning, when the world was just chaos.
When the holy spirit hovered over the water.
And God calmed the water and called forth the land.
So, when we see Jesus says peace to the storm, he is ordering it.
Jesus has come with the same chaos ordering agenda as his Father had in the beginning.
This shows us two things:
First, we are assured that Jesus is not playing with us.
This is not a test. Jesus is against the storm, not using the storm.
He is on our side against it.
He is helping his followers and, indeed the world, become a new creation.
We who would call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ are called into this ministry as well.
While we may be led to calm waters at some points in our lives, we are not to make our dwelling there. We are called to be with Jesus on the frontlines of the continued creation of the world. We are still becoming what God desires us to be.
The next time you are confronted with the helpless feeling of being stuck and scared, I can’t fix it for you. I can only offer you some advice:
1) God is not testing you. This sucks and it’s okay to tell God it sucks. The apostles did. Job did. The prophets did. Jesus did. Any time you talk to God, “this sucks” is fine prayer.
2) Breath and know that God is good and Jesus is with you.
3) We worship a God who cries. One thing we know is that God knows pain. God knows our suffering.
4) Know your church will be there. There are likely people here who have stared down the same storm you have. And if they haven’t they know enough about storms to be in your boat with you.
Life is not about avoiding the storm. We will all face them.
It’s at these times we must stop and recognize who is in our boat with us.
Be not afraid.