Get in the Boat...Do Not Be Afraid

Sometimes plans change.  

While we have been excited to continue the "Bigger Table" series, the impact of coronavirus on our community has compelled us to do some teaching on the source of our hope.  I'd like to call this spontaneous series "Living Peace."  

On Sunday March 15, Pastor Aaron reminded us that this pandemic is an opportunity to practice what we believe: that Church is not a building or a is a people, living in Christ, everywhere.

Luke 8:22-25 records a memorable, multi-layered story that reveals so much about Jesus and those people living with Christ.   Give it a read and then consider these few details.

The Sea of Galilee isn't as wide as an ocean, but it is in the middle of a weather convergence zone, and violent storms can arise very quickly.  At least some of Jesus' disciples had spent their lifetimes on the water as fishermen; surely they knew how to handle a boat.  But this squall was so violent that they worried they would drown!  Surely this storm awakened terrifying memories of scripture -- the chaotic waters before creation, the drowning of Pharaoh's army, the self-sacrifice of Jonah!  The sea was a common symbol for chaos, darkness, and death.  Today, that same stormy sea is an apt metaphor for some of what our world is experiencing -- hospitals without beds, sick and dying patients, empty groceries, nose-diving stocks, empty school.  So many infrastructures that we don't even notice when they're working, and which contribute to the illusion that we are "rugged individuals," able to "make it on our own."  Really?  How powerful do most of us feel right now?  

The disciples knew what powerless felt like in that storm.  But they would soon discover the one who had real power.  He was lying on the floor of the boat, asleep.  Asleep!  Imagine how they would have felt.  Similar to how we feel in scary times, right?  "Does God even care?"  "What is God doing?"  "Why is this happening to us?  US?!"  But imagine how confident Jesus must have been in the goodness of God despite the horrifying storm, that he was able to rest in its midst!  

Jesus did calm the storm.  But he knew the storm wasn't the problem.  He knew these people would face far worse storms to come.  So he knew that the greater problem on the boat that evening was their fear itself.  So he asks, "Where is your faith?"  I think Luke was playing with words when he described Jesus as having "rebuked" the wind and waves, and then actually rebuking the disciples, too.  

Some people don't like the idea that Jesus would show mercy and then immediately scold.  But these were Jesus' disciples, or learners, or even trainees.  It was his role to coach them in their weakness toward greater strength.  And when they ask "Who is this?  He commands even the wind and water" what they had yet to discover we now have the benefit of knowing -- that Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, the Word of God, through whom chaotic waters are spoken into order (Greek, cosmos).  This Jesus is the one who told them, "Get in the boat."  And he's telling us, too.  

We're in the boat together.  That is good news, especially when social distancing threatens to make us feel isolated.  But we're not.  Everyone we know is going through a similar experience, and that fact alone can help us feel stronger.  

There will be a storm.  God forbid we ever make the mistake of believing that following Jesus meant a life without storms!  Quite the contrary.  But a life with Jesus does spare us from something far more terrifying -- braving the storm without God by our side.  But because of Jesus we know God is with us, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God is even within us.  And this is why he says:

Do not be afraid.   It is a frequently repeated command in scripture, from angels and Jesus too.  Maybe it's one of the hardest commands to follow, actually.  But it's a command because fear is both unnecessary and unhelpful.  Here are four ways we can turn our fear into faith:

1)  Practice Gratitude.  And this also means learning humility.  We have the opportunity every day to list the amazing things that are going right and thank God for those things.  
2) Worship.  This is really the antidote to worry.  We can redirect the energy we'd naturally spend wringing our hands and instead lift our hands to heaven!  Isaiah's prophecy of the messiah was one who would "bring good news...a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (Is. 61:1-3).  
3) Pray and Act.  Jesus' people don't do only one or the other.  Prayer without action ultimately disobeys the obvious commands God gives throughout scripture to be a blessing to our world through our actions.  But action without prayer is little more than humanism.  It feels good in the moment but is limited only to our power.  But Jesus' people serve while praying, and pray while serving.  This is how we experience and bestow God's powerful love on our neighbors.  
4) Never forget that Easter in coming!  And we're not just talking about springtime, or the second Sunday of April.  We're talking about the final Easter, when we all finally realize what the Kingdom of God means, and we all finally experience the fullness of life Jesus promises.  That final Easter will be the time when we'll finally see in full what we can see now only in part -- the reason we need not be afraid.  Because "The LORD is our light and our salvation -- whom shall we fear?" (Ps. 27:1).

For reflection: 
- What specific steps will you take this week to do all four of these practices, to turn your fear into faith?


Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash
Tagged with

No Comments




no categories