Summary: That day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let’s cross to the other side." So they left the crowd and took him along in the boat just as he was. Other boats were with him. A violent windstorm came up, and the waves began breaking into the boat, so
I’m conscious this morning that we’ve had another baptism, which is wonderful, but I do get the feeling sometimes that when parents bring a child to baptism they are sort of quietly hoping that the experience might have a soothing effect on the child. After all, isn’t that part of what good religion is all about - helping people get civilised.
I remember hearing of a conversation between a couple in an airport lounge whose wild and unruly son was racing around causing havoc with the other waiting passengers. The husband said to his wife, “Maybe we should send him to Sunday School”. Getting a bit of religion into him would be bound to make him a little more easy-going. Again, isn’t that a large part of what religion is about - settling things down?
Well … if the air of holy chaos here didn’t put an end to that idea the moment you walked in this morning, the Bible readings we had should have! We read of David cutting off Goliath’s head - engaging in what I saw one preacher term ‘sacred violence’ (something we’ve surely seen enough of that in our world).
After that we had St Paul speaking of the beatings he’d taken, and the imprisonments and riots he’d been involved in. And then we capped off our Bible readings with a crazy story about Jesus and his disciples in a storm - a story of pain and panic, fear and frustration, chaos and confusion!
And I find it to be quite a disturbing story - this story of Jesus and His friends getting into a boat and then this sudden transition from a peaceful voyage across the lake to this terrible scene of impending death.
I’m influenced of course by my own unease with the sea, and by my experience many years ago, when my birthday party at Lane Cover River National Park suddenly turned very dark very quickly as my three-year-old daughter suddenly became trapped under a capsized boat that started sinking towards the bottom of the river.
And that’s how these things happen. One moment you’re happily gliding along through life and then suddenly everything gets turned upside-down and the waves are coming crashing inside the boat from you don’t know where!
These things are often so difficult to make sense of. Mind you, in the case of the Gospel story the whole scene is difficult to make sense of. How did the storm come up so quickly? Why weren’t the crew able to steer away from it? And indeed, why weren’t these men better prepared to deal with a storm. After all, they were supposed to be career sea-people, weren‘t they?
Of course, the competence of Jesus’ disciples in their initial careers as fishermen is always a bit of a mystery. How is it that every time we see these guys in a boat they are either sinking or sitting there frustrated because they can’t work out where the fish are! Thank God Jesus saw other employment opportunities for these men.
Mind you, the whole scene is weird, and not just the disciples! The way the storm comes up so quickly, the way they fail to deal with it, the way they fail to handle Jesus properly - all very odd. But the weirdest part of the story of all, I think, is the way in which Jesus stays asleep through the storm!
I’ve tried to envisage what sort of boat this must have been, such that Jesus could have remained asleep in it through the bulk of the passage of the storm! I think the boat is often depicted as a small dingy of sorts, but it’s impossible to imagine anywhere in a boat like that where one could sleep during a storm without being deluged with water after the first few rough waves, and I can’t imagine that it is possible to stay asleep while someone is pouring water all over you!
It had to be a bigger boat, I think to myself, yet even on a luxury liner like the Titanic, you would reach a certain point, would you not, where it was no longer possible to sleep through the crisis! Are we supposed to see this as part of the miracle - Jesus demonstrating the power of divine sleep - a sleep such as that which came upon Sleeping Beauty, a sleep from which no human power could awaken you?
I don’t know. I’m a heavy sleeper, and yet it seems to me that there are certain things you just can’t sleep through. A car accident would be a one. I can’t imagine waking up and saying, ‘Oh, the car is upside-down, and half-full of water! Did I miss something?’ Your boat going down with all hands on deck would be a second!