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As many of you will know, I am not the greatest Handyman to have around. As it relates to me, DIY stands for ‘Destroy It Yourself’. I don’t really have a practical bone in my body for even the most simple of tasks.
That was particularly evidenced quite a number of years ago when Jo and I bought a rundown old shack of a house and spent the next 18 months living on site whilst builders completely renovated and extended it. But of course, I couldn’t resist having a go myself at one or two bits of the work, including the nailing down of a few loose floorboards upstairs in the hall.
Well, I thought I had done a pretty good job – the floor was nice and level and no floorboards were squeaking. But the next morning, I was sitting in the kitchen having my breakfast and our daughter Rebekah – who was about 10 at the time - came wandering in and said, “Dad, should there be water coming out of the light fitting in the dining room?”
Yep, I’d drive nails right through the upstairs heating pipes! Water pouring through the light fitting and a nice bulge to the brand new ceiling that of course needed to be replaced and a new carpet that we’d had laid just two days previously needed to come up.
DIY is not my bag at all.
And it was a great reminder to me of the power and danger of water too. If you’ve ever had a flooded washing machine or broken pipework, you will know the damage that water can do. Or if you’ve ever been caught in a riptide you know how string a current can be. If you’ve ever experienced monsoon rains, you will know the power of water: it is a formidable force and can cause deep chaos…
And in the reading we’ve just heard from Luke’s Gospel, we know that the disciples of Jesus knew all about the force of water when they were caught up in this storm. Let’s set the context…
Jesus and the disciples were in the boat on Lake Galilee – or the Sea of Galilee. The Lake of Galilee is about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide and it’s also in a valley area, so, when the wind whips up the storms arrive even before you know it. It is very easy indeed to get caught out in a storm on Lake Galilee.
These were experienced fishermen – they knew the Lake very well and so they wouldn’t have gone out on it if they had thought for one moment that they would get caught out. But the ferocity of a storm on Lake Galilee comes out of nowhere. And that, of course, is what happened to the disciples.
There they were, sailing happily across the Lake when a gale whips up out without warning. They are scared for their lives. They think they are about to sink. And, in the midst of all the problems, Jesus stays asleep in the back of the boat. He was exhausted! There were so many demands on Jesus to teach, to heal, to show compassion and loving-kindness with every person he met, hour after hour, minute after minute. So much was demanded of Jesus it is not surprising that, when he eventually did get some rest he would fall into a very deep sleep indeed.
But this, of course, was lost on the disciples. In their fear and anxiety, they shook Jesus hard and shouted, “Master! Master! We are about to die!” So Jesus gets up and orders the wind and immediately, it dies down. A great calm comes upon the waters.
An incredible miracle that teaches us a great deal about Jesus and a great deal about our relationship with him.
There’s something quite fascinating about the sea in the Bible. The sea is mentioned loads of times. In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, God determines the course of the sea. In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, there is a description of heaven, the new Jerusalem, where the sea will be no more. Many other references too. But what is particularly interesting is that when the sea is mentioned in the Bible more often than not it is a metaphor. In the Bible, the sea is used as a metaphor, representing chaos and disorder. So in the Book of Revelation, for example, when it says that there will be no sea in heaven, it is a metaphor to say that there will be no chaos in heaven but that everything will be beautifully peaceful and ordered.
So, in this story from Luke’s Gospel when Jesus calms the storm and the sea is stilled, it is a symbol for us that God can still the chaos and disorder in our lives. In some versions of the Bible, it says that “Jesus rebuked the storm…”, which is an illustration of the divine power of God at work in the world.
I’m sure you remember the film ‘Forrest Gump’: a great film about a young man with learning difficulties who happens to be a really profound and wise person. And Forrest Gump has some great catchphrases, the most famous of which, of course is “Mama always used to say. ‘Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you’re gonna get.” And there is real truth in that, isn’t there?
Life is so unpredictable, we don’t know what surprises lie in store for us from day to day, even from hour to hour…Good things in life take us by surprise and we celebrate those moments. But, sadly, negative and difficult times creep up on us and impact us when we least expect it.
There are times in our lives when we feel at the mercy of the storm, when we feel as if our lives are as chaotic as the buffeting ocean. Perhaps a financial crisis, an illness, a bereavement, a breakdown of relationship. And we pray and pray and pray but sometimes it as if Jesus is asleep; he doesn’t hear, no matter how loud we shout…
Doesn’t it seem, sometimes in life, as if Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat?
But what we do know, what our experience is as Christians, is that, when life seems tough or when we see the suffering of others, it is right and appropriate to be persistent in prayer. We need to keep calling on the Lord in our most difficult times. Because, in our persistence, we believe that the Lord does hear us and will rebuke the storms and the chaos of our lives will be stilled.
The Christian writer, Lavinia Byrne says that when we pray, “Ladders get put up to heaven”. It’s such a lovely idea about prayer, isn’t it? Prayer as a ladder being put up to heaven…
The disciples were desperate; their lives were in danger, they thought they would perish. Their faith was weak but, in their weakness, they called out to Jesus and he heard them and rescued them.
And so it is with us. In the weakness of our faith, in the chaos of our lives, in the midst of our anxieties and fear, we too can call out to Christ in confidence that he will hear us and will meet with us in the storms of our lives.
The words of God to us in Isaiah 43 are so beautiful. His promise is this:
“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.”
That is the experience of Christians throughout history. That is the experience of so many of us here today.
For those of us who are currently in the storms and chaos of life, the promise of God holds good for us today. If we are persistent in prayer, Jesus will meet with us and meet our needs. And, like the disciples in this passage, we will be amazed at his authority in our lives.