Today’s readings look at a four-letter f-word. Yeah, it is one we all know. You hear it on the news a lot. It is overused in high schools, the work world, and in most relationships. From job interviews to medical offices to online dating sites, it is rampant. All of us are very familiar with it: fear.
The Gospel of Mark 4 shows clearly how this four-letter word shakes our faith. During the great windstorm at sea, the boat that the disciples were in was swamped with water. They were scared. Where was Jesus? In the same boat, but fast asleep. Yup, Jesus was in the same boat–in the same boat!! Jesus was in the exact same situation as those disciples. What was his response just a few inches away from one of the other disciples? He was sound asleep. Asleep! Peacefully. So deep in sleep that this great windstorm that had everyone else in a flap did not even awaken him. The spray did not disturb him. The boat pounding and tossing on the waves could not jostle him from knowing all was well.
Upon waking, Jesus rebukes the wind and says three simple words to restore calm: Peace! Be still! How we long to hear those words when we are caught up in a windstorm. The voices that rage inside our heads terrify us: I will never get that job! I cannot do this! This will never work. He can’t possibly love me. I am not good enough. I could die. I am an imposter. What if….? What if people only knew that I was scared to death? What if we could hear only Jesus’ word of peace in those moments? Could the f-word be still?
Psalm 107 echoes the scenario of the Gospel and this line says it all: their courage melted away in their calamity. Oh Courage, hang on! Do not tremble. Rather know that God is within earshot and will hear your quaking knees. The storm can be stilled and the crashing waves hushed. God will lead you to your desired haven. This psalm has some stunning lines in it. Thank God for this steadfast love that endures forever.
The First Reading today is from the book of Job, chapter 38, when the Lord answers Job from a whirlwind. He must have been filled with fear as the words of the Almighty poured out: Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?–when I made the clouds its garment, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’? Here the Creator of the Universe challenges Job, a lowly human, to comprehend that this God gave birth to the world, dressed every square inch of it, designed its parameters and details, and commanded what it will do. God is not some Wizard of Oz, waiting to be discovered as a phony magician. This God is not some fearful human, hiding behind an illusion. Whether it is in South Carolina or Sudan, this God sleeps in the boat with us. Do we comprehend that? This great God of ours, born in a stable, rejected by the powers that be, betrayed by his friends, crucified on a cross, and risen from the dead is with us. That four-letter f-word needs to be replaced a five-letter f-word: faith.
What windstorm threatens your faith these days? Do you believe that Jesus is in the same boat with you? How does that reality change the situation?