In so many ways this story is a metaphor for our own life’s journey. When we are young, we are easily frightened. It takes a long time for us to overcome our childhood fears of monsters in the dark and goblins under the bed. A wise parent comforts their child, and reassures them, not that there is nothing to be afraid of – for indeed there are many things of which we may need to be rightly afraid – but rather that fear does not have the last word. Some things that frighten us are real, and some are not, and learning to distinguish the two can take a lifetime. Most of us are afraid of many things, of disapproval, failure, illness, loss of meaning, death. No wonder that ‘do not be afraid’ is the most common verse in the whole of scripture!
Sometimes when the storms of life are close about us, we cry out to God just like the disciples, ‘don’t you care about us.’ For as Job knew, God can be infuriatingly silent just when we seem to need God most. Yet it is often out of the very chaos of our pain and need that God creates the precious gift of faith, of trust in the One beyond all this, who can bring calm and order. It can be exactly when we are most afraid, that faith comes; it can be exactly in the midst of our greatest chaos that we find true calm.
As I was preparing for this sermon, I had a dream in which I was very afraid, but another character was very calm. And when I woke and reflected, I remembered that in dreams, every character represents some aspect of ourselves – and this can include inanimate objects as well. This set me to thinking about this story of the storm, and what it would be like if we read and prayed and experienced it more like a dream. What if everything in this story, is in some sense an aspect of ourselves? So we are the disciples – that is straightforward enough and where we usually put ourselves, crying out and struggling for faith; and also, let’s give them credit, knowing that we need to do that! But we are also Jesus – asleep on the cushion and calming the waves. There is that in us that knows how to relax amid the chaos, to let go and trust. There is that in us that is powerful, to rebuke and disperse all that would harm us – and we can trust ourselves with that.
If this was a dream, we would also be the boat. There was a means of transport in my dream also, and I recognised it as a picture for my own ego – that which holds me together and lets me function in the world, but which is also incredibly fragile and ultimately unimportant. And we would be the cushion too– that which offers us support and comfort. It can be good to ponder how we offer ourselves support and comfort. And we would be the storm – the whole magnificent drama of thunder and lightning and pouring rain and tempestuous waves. When did you last brew up a storm, for yourself and others? And can we see that for what it is – just a storm; something that comes now and then to the surface of the lake. The lake of course is ourselves as well– whether stormy or calm.
I invite you in the next week, to sit with this story of the calming of the storm, and to imagine yourself as each of these characters and see what each has to tell you about yourself and about God – and I really look forward to some interesting conversations over tea next week – the artists and poets among you can paint and write. And may God speak to each of us about our fears and our faith; about the chaos out of which God continues to create and about the calm that is God’s gift to each and all. In the name of God, comforter and creator. Amen
by Penny Jones for Pentecost 5, Sunday 24 June 2018