When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat…John 6:16-27 So much of life involves decision making and movement. The choice and the way isn’t always as easy or smooth as we like. As we go forward in our journey storms inevitably arise not necessarily to hinder our way but often to satisfy their own purpose. We then allow the storm to distract us. The good news is that as we stay focused on the Divine purpose and will, the presence of Christ will show up in places we least expect.
…he (Jesus) said to them, It is I; do not be afraid.’
Thomas Merton wrote; “It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brother and my sister.” Jesus himself often went off to pray, meditate and be in conversation with God. Some of us have learned to create that kind of space in our lives, while others grab it whenever we can. When we do, it is often quite rewarding as well as rejuvenation for the will of the spirit within us. We come to realizations and affirmations about who we are, as human beings in love with a merciful God ready and willing to bless us with his love, as we commit to sharing that love in our prayers for our bothers and sisters. When we are done we accept that we can’t stay in that quiet place forever. We are called to go back out into the midst of whatever chaos we left in order to attain some quiet peace. As blessed as we are in that solitude, we must learn to love our brothers and sisters in the midst of our interaction with others, to call upon the strength of God in the moments and events of our lives even as they occur. Its not easy to work through the chaos to get at the peace but when we do we will experience the power, strength and authority of the presence of a reconciled spirit within, and laugh without fear of the future.
Proverbs 31:21,25-26 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson…Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (NRSV)
Jesus, the Word made flesh, the one in whom we believe, said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side” and the disciples agree to go (Mark 4:35-41). At this point the disciples had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t make it until a storm arose. After waking Jesus from sleeping in the stern of the boat they immediately questioned him “ Do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus responds; “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Are these not the same two questions we must ask over in our hearts today as we face unexpected storms in our own life? We know that submitting in fear to an overwhelming situation isn’t the answer, and yet we forget that simply submitting the situation to God is. Thus, when our comfort level in life becomes distracted, falling back into unproductive behavior is often a form of fear; keeping us from moving forward in this journey. We know that God never promised us a storm-free life. In fact he assures us that we will encounter many storms (Matt 5:1-12). However, I believe in some ways his sleeping in the stern is a form of command to stop trying to fight battles we most assuredly can not win on our own, claim God’s peace and confess that God is with us! Blessedly assured that when the storm is over we will find our selves on the other side, not only as survivors but victors as well.
In spite of it all, our history, traditions and reasoning, God seems confident that we, his creation are worth waiting for. Yet we make him wait for our affection, compassion, commitment and ultimately our love. Perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit is not a risk at all, at least not on God’s part but rather a challenge. Dare we open our hearts as children, that we may receive it fully and completely so as not to allow the obstacles of the storms, fears and doubts, overwhelm our desire to travel this Christian journey in peace? The alternative of course is to do what many of us have done and receive it conditionally and with restriction in our lives, in that as long as we experience the good without disturbance we are all too eager to acknowledge it’s power and authority. Soon afterward mistakenly believing that it doesn’t matter what we do or whether we do anything at all the spirit is favorably guiding us. Subsequently, when the storms come (especially the the sudden ones) we tend to feel as if they are a personal attack specifically against us resulting in the all too well-known disparaging thoughts; “Why me? and Where is God in all of this?” While the Holy Spirit has no respect of person, the reality is that neither do the storms. Whether we walk into the storms willingly or whether they come upon us without warning, we are the ones who happen to be in its way. Either way the challenge is to hold fast to the power and authority of the Holy Spirit while in the midst of the storm, which historically and traditionally submits to that over which it ultimately has no authority or power.
Lent: Day 22 – All storms, famines and turmoil in our lives serve (intentionally or unintentionally) for the purpose of separating us from God’s Love, that being Jesus Christ. Abundant blessings can have a tendency to allow us to forget that attacks on God’s Love within us do exist. If we find ourselves struggling to endure them, Paul reminds us that even our biblical ancestors were blessed abundantly and yet struggled with fear and doubt. He also assures us that the guide, who led them out, is also our guide who will lead us to the way out and onto the peaceful side of those storms. What exactly is the way out? Jesus Christ within us is the way, the truth, and our life. We must be careful not to let our response to these attacks change who we are and forget that Christ within has not left us and will forever be with us when the storm passes over.
Genesis 47:27-48:7 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.
Mark 7:1-23 …‘there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever…
who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;…
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;…
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
Lent: Day 21 – Who among us has not felt afraid? Our emotions, particularly fear overwhelms us. While trusting God is always an option it is usually the furthest thing from our irrational thinking. Even though God hears our cries, the reality is that there are storms, famines and turmoil we will just have to endure. But rest assured, take heart, when it feels as though Christ is not with us he is always waiting for us at the other side.
Mark 6:47-56 When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. …they thought it was a ghost and cried out;…. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Lent: Day 15 – In our country, households needing food can go to government and local food programs. However, lands in other countries, where food has become unavailable, depend on outside programs to reach out to them. Over time and with persistence many of these programs have been very successful. There are times in our own spiritual life when we are simply hungry, when we go for a quick bite of the Holy Spirit with a song or scripture reading and it sustains our strength in this journey and gets us through every day trials and circumstances. Then there are other times when we find ourselves, in fact starving, when the usual nibbles and the regular meals are available but the usual resources we reach out to don’t seem to strengthen us and the resources that usually reach back to us don’t seem to have much affect. God in fact seems rather silent. The first time this happened in my own life I began to understand what it must be like consciously, at least to some effect, what starving children in severe poverty might experience. I am hungry. Why am I not being fed? Why is it that the food I have doesn’t nourish my need? Why is there no food? If we fill our selves with so much of the world around us, we may find our bodies full and yet still be hungry and to some extent spiritually starving. Over time and with persistence we must continue to discipline ourselves to eat of the spiritual food. It is inevitable that in our busy lives today the spiritual famines will come and we’ll unknowingly enter into physical storms. The good news is that we can have peace in knowing that starvation does not have to be our fate. We learn to sacrifice the tangible for the intangible and continue to reach out to God and allow God to reach out to us one morsel at a time and in time our strength is restored. Thanks be to God!
Genesis 43:1-15 Famine
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go again, buy us a little more food.’
Mark 4:35-41 Storms
A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they 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!’
1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Sacrifice
Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.