“Wade in the Water; wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water.” These words take on a whole new meaning when you see pictures of the Colorado floods.
Have you seen some of those pictures? So much water—everywhere! Life-giving water…in all the places it shouldn’t be. Life-giving water…seeping, flowing, crashing into houses, ruining them. Life-giving water…taking lives. The tragic irony of it…the immense scale of it…the feelings of helplessness it evokes… There’s something about floods that overwhelms,paralyzes, terrifies.
That’s where the disciples are in today’s Gospel story. It’s early in Jesus’ ministry; he’s been preaching around the countryside to beat the band. People come from everywhere to hear him speak. At one of his stops, Jesus is told that his mother and siblings are there to see him. Rather than greet them, Jesus turns to the crowd and says: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
After all this preaching and teaching and dealing with awkward family dynamics, Jesus is pooped. That might be why, rather than traveling around the northern end of the Sea of Galilee by foot–and having to teach along the way– he and the disciples take the boat. Out on the open sea—that’s probably the only place he could get a little peace and quiet. Somewhere in that boat, the tired rabbi fell asleep.
What a peaceful time it must have been! Jesus asleep in the hold; Peter and James quietly discussing things he’d been teaching. Andrew and Nathaniel passing around bread and water. A nice rest in the midst of what quickly was becoming a tumultuous schedule.
Except, tumults aren’t only to be found on shore, are they? Sometimes, tumults happen off shore. Sometimes, the tempest comes just when we’re starting to relax. Sometimes, the storm disrupts our comfort and—before we know it—our lives are in danger. That’s what happens to the disciples in the boat. One minute, they’re having a nice, quiet trip across the lake; the next, the sea is raging and they’re scared for their lives.
Our journey—“our,” referring to everyone on the planet—our journey is similar to that of the disciples. We’ve been sailing along. And what a pleasant ride we’ve had! Plenty of food; plenty of clean water; predictable seasons; sufficiently thick polar ice caps; rain forests with enough trees to breathe for the entire planet. We’ve been sailing along in relative comfort, reflecting quietly on the accomplishments of recent centuries, taking stock of what we’ve learned, heading toward a new shore, a new era of discovery and adventure…
…then, without warning, it seems, the storm hits: ice caps melting at a rate faster than expected; mass extinctions occurring at an alarming pace; clean water sources rapidly dwindling; carbon saturation in the atmosphere reaching the point of no return. Like the disciples, our pleasant journey suddenly has turned terrifying. Also like the disciples, we don’t just think we’re in danger. We actuallyare in danger.
So, what do we do? In the midst of this storm of environmental crisis, wading through water that’s everywhere except where it’s supposed to be, in danger of losing everything we once held dear–What do we do?
When the disciples found themselves terrified in the storm, they didn’t hesitate: they wokeup Jesus. “Master! We’re perishing!” In response to their desperate cries, Jesus rises, rebukes the storm, and there is calm. There’s also a mini-lecture: “Where is your faith?” their savior asks.
The disciples don’t seem to hear the lecture, or at least don’t take it in. They’re still too stunned by what they’ve just seen. “Afraid and amazed,” we’re told, “they said one to another: ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’” That’s something, isn’t it? They ask Jesus to save them, then they’re “amazed” when he does. Oh, those silly disciples! Not brave enough to deal with the storm by themselves; not faithful enough to believe it when Jesus deals with it for them. Those… silly… disciples ….
Huh. The disciples might have been silly, but they weren’t stupid, were they? They had the messiah, the son of God right there on the boat with them! And they didn’t hesitate to call on him. They weren’t proud. They weren’t guilt-ridden. They weren’t afraid to confess their need. They were in danger. They were scared. They wanted to live. And they knew they wouldn’t be able to live without Jesus’ intervention, so they woke him up.
That option is open to us, too, you know. In this tumultuous storm of environmental decline, we, too, can wake up Jesus—or maybe it would be better to say “wake up TO Jesus.” Because Jesus isn’t asleep; but we’ve neglected him so long that we’ve gone to sleep to his presence in our lives. Come on! You might say. Isn’t that something Baptists and Pentecostals do? We educated, progressive Christians—we don’t call on the name of Jesus, do we? We don’t look at the frightening circumstances of our lives and ask Jesus to save us, do we?
Why not? Why not call on Jesus to save us from this tumult? Why not trust the one in whom and through whom and with whom God created all that is? Why not ask the person who reminds us that God loves the material world so much, that God chose to become part of it? Why else would Godcome to us as a human being, except to experience fully the goodness and beauty and joy of creation?Yes! Why not call on Jesus to save us from this storm? (David sings “Lord of the Troubled Sea.)”
Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2013
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, 23and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. 24They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’