A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and the disciples woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. - Mark 4:37-39
Have you ever had that feeling that God is with you, but perhaps asleep at the wheel, or at the very least distracted? I have. It is not a comfortable feeling. I work so hard to have a good intentions for life, to steer clear of storms, to think ahead about all necessities. But then trouble comes, despite our best laid plans.
At these times I am reminded of a favorite song from the 90’s written by Emily Saliers, one of the Indigo Girls. It is titled “The Wood Song” and begins:
the thin horizon of a plan is almost clear
my friends and i have had a tough time
bruising our brains hard up against change
all the old dogs and the magician
It is hard to think with bruised brains. It is hard to out-think “the old dogs and the magicians” of culture, of politics. We can feel very helpless as we try to be the change we want to see in the world. Will the plan for meaningful change every become clear, every be attainable?
I remember the story from Mark 4. Being in the boat with the disciples and Jesus when a sudden storm comes up. God, are you paying attention? Do you not care that we are perishing? Here is what the disciples forget for a moment. They are not in the boat alone. Jesus is with them. And Emily’s song returns to my mind:
now i see we're in the boat in two by twos
only the heart that we have for a tool we could use
and the very close quarters are hard to get used to
love weighs the hull down with its weight
Even in the close quarters of a church community we can panic, forget that we have our hearts for tools and our hearts keep us close to God. We can forget how love weights our communal ship with the right ballast to keep us from sinking. In the midst of the storms of life we might wail at one another:
but the wood is tired and the wood is old
and we'll make it fine if the weather holds
Yet the weather never holds, does it? Storms come. Children are separated from parents in tragic, needless suffering. Our heart-felt plans for making the world more just, more loving, more peaceful seem thwarted at every turn. We are overwhelmed. It seems the waves are beating into our boat and we will drown. Or others will drown. How can any of us be saved? God, do you not care?
but if the weather holds we'll have missed the point
that's where i need to go, Emily sings in “The Wood Song.” God is with us in the midst of the storm even when our “Just Peace, Open and Affirming, Immigrant Welcoming” beloved body of Christ may seem old and tired, battered by too many huge waves. But God is with us in the boat. And we might not fully realize it until we are overwhelmed and forced to rely only on the voice of Jesus, "Peace! Be still!"
This coming Sunday in worship we will sit together with the story of Jesus stilling the storm from Mark 4. Before and after worship we will have the opportunity to be the Body of Christ in the midst of the storms of injustice in our world by writing letters to our government officials about the plight of hungry people and the plight of immigrant children separated from their parents on our borders. As we join in worship and in letter writing we are in the boat in two by twos using the tools of our hearts, hands and voices to help our world hear Jesus’ voice, "Peace! Be still!” God is with us always!
Blessings on the journey through your week,
PS. If you would like to hear the Indigo Girls sing “The Wood Song” click here.
The Rev. Jane Anne Ferguson, Associate, Minister, is a writer, storyteller, and contributor to Feasting on the Word, a popular biblical commentary. She is also the writer of sermon-stories.com, a lectionary-based story-commentary series. Learn more about Jane Ann here.