12th Sunday (B) 20th June 2021
This is the time of year when those who like to, take to open water especially those who like sailing. For myself, I’m not a good sailor: I’m OK on rivers and canals and across the channel when the sea is like a mill pond, but otherwise I’m pretty quick to feel unwell. But one time on a boat when I had no problems at all was on Lake Galilee. I was fortunate enough to visit the Holy Land some years and we were taken out on the lake in a replica boat. The engine was turned off – there was nothing else around and the scenery would have been pretty much unchanged since Jesus’ time – a very special moment of peace and calm and spiritual connection. Fortunately on that occasion there was no storm, though a few days later there was an almighty sand storm that blew up while we in Tel Aviv – so one can understand how frightening the ferocity of a storm would be on the Lake Galilee.
Of course, we don’t have to go to Lake Galilee to experience stormy and unsettled periods or moments in our lives. Some can be a long time in the brewing; others can spring up without notice. We all face periods of stormy weather, unsettled times when we don’t know what is going to happen, where we might be anxious even frightened : a crisis in a relationship, a financial crisis, a health crisis, a family crisis, even a faith crisis – everything can conspire against us to make life unsettled, bewildering, overwhelming and, like the disciples in the gospel, we can feel that we might sink, if not under the weight of the waves, then under the burden of the pressures, emotional and physical. Of course, the pandemic has, for many, created just such a situation. Many will have been feeling disorientated. Many, like the disciples feel left alone, not necessarily by other people but by God, and by Jesus. The restrictions that make going to church difficult have been for some a challenge to their closeness to God but for others it has enhanced the personal dimension of their faith. The disciples were alone on the lake in difficult and potentially dangerous circumstances, but they did have the physical presence of Christ there with them in the boat, even if they felt he didn’t care.
The story, as St Mark tells it, is a very vivid one. Jesus is asleep – human and tired – but not just asleep: he was asleep, we are told. with his head on a cushion – one of those touching eyewitness details that suddenly crop up in St Mark to bring the whole thing to life. Remember that St Mark got his information from St Peter, who was there.
Now, when Jesus is woken, it is not the danger from the waves, or the threat of drowning, or the threat of being overwhelmed that concerns him – the very things that were causing the disciples such alarm – he deals with that quite quickly – but rather, he is more concerned by the lack of faith. Jesus speaks words of peace and calm and brings peace and calm despite the lack of faith (which incidentally is a frequent theme throughout St Mark’s gospel – Jesus is always questioning the disciples’ lack of faith).
And this passage presents a challenge to each of us about faith. When we are surrounded by difficulty, worry or uncertainty, or faced with potential or even imagined danger, what is our response? Do we allow fear to block out an awareness of Jesus’s presence and his power? Do we send him to sleep with his head on the cushion? Or do we allow the power of Jesus to speak and to breathe his calm and his peace into the troubled moments of our lives in a way that is as real today as it was with the disciples. The disciples thought he was asleep and didn’t care; but if we have the faith that he found lacking in the disciples, surely we will come to see that he is there and that he does care.