St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm 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!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Sidenote: This is the first text I ever preached on when I was 16 years old. I preached on power and authority. If I remember right, the sermon was entitled "Power Up!" Now, when I read it, I see restraint, patience, love, and humility. Is it the years? Is it maturity? [Some might insert laugh there] Whatever. I am different, and God is still with me. Thanks be to God.
What is God like? We have so many competing ideas.
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Psalm 8:4 reminds us.
Jesus is taking a nap. I have to admit, when I am awakened from a nap, I am at my grumpiest. I have chosen to go to sleep. I have not chosen to wake up. I think we get a very honest appraisal of the person and the situation when we see how they act when they wake up.
Going back to the original question, what is God like? On Sunday we had that wonderful verse from Colossians (1:15-16) “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.” If we want to see what God is like, we look to Jesus. If we want to see what Jesus is really like, wake him from a nap.
And what is it we see?
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!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
When I get suddenly awakened from my nap, the offending party is usually the victim of my ire, but who does Jesus rebuke? What is confronted?
The wind. Plain and simple. Not the people. Not those who woke him up. But the wind.
They are worried. Jesus can see that. But he does not deal with the effect, but goes to the root, the source.
From this week’s Collect: “Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask…” Notice they do not ask for the wind to stop blowing. They complain, “Do you not care that we are perishing!” Jesus deals with the thing they did not dare ask, the thing in their blindness they did not ask. They had no idea he had that authority, that power over the wind. Their response, “Who then is this???”
So what is God like? The transitive axiom of equality, if you remember your basic algebra (A=B, and B=C, then A=C). If Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and Jesus does not rebuke the people here in their fear, then God is like that. Meeting us where we are, going to the source of our worries, not the effects.
I find that very comforting. In looking at the Greek for this passage. “Why are you so timid? How do you not have faith?” I think of all the times that could be said of me. I me of little faith. The Rebuke is not on me, though. When I am in the boat with Jesus, I can weather any storm. And even when I am worried and distracted like Martha on Sunday or the disciples today, Jesus cares, Jesus responds, and Jesus calls me to faith. Amen