This morning’s Lenten devotional was a familiar story: Jesus quiets a storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with his disciples. What makes this story so remarkable is that Jesus exercises his dominion over the forces of nature, even when the disciples in the boat with him demonstrate little faith. I find myself sympathetic to the disciples plight. I’ve heard this passage preached more times then I can count. The common takeaway generally goes something like this: Jesus calms the storms of life. This morning I find myself wanting to argue with this conclusion.
My experience is that not many storms in life are calmed, even in response to faithful and fervent prayer. Family after family in my faith community are in the midst of raging storms and there is no evidence of calm on the horizon. News pours in to the west about the famine in South Sudan and other parts of Africa. Flooding and mudslides killed dozens yesterday in Peru. A small city of refugees is trapped in the desert between Syria and Jordan. Violence and social injustice are systemic throughout the so-called developed world. So what are we to make of this story?
It is clear that Jesus calms the storm in spite of the disciples’ weak faith. In that way, Jesus’ calming the storm is an offering of grace. Grace is God’s movement in our lives at HIs initiative, not a response to our level of faith. As Creator and Sustainer Perhaps this is not just a story of Jesus’ power over nature, but it is a story of God’s essential nature, freely given to God’s people, apart from any merit on the receiver’s part.
I think the passage also makes clear that Jesus is with us as we live with life’s storms. is makes all the difference. It is God’s presence that saves us, transforming the storm and giving us the strength and courage to grieve, to move ahead, to rebuild, to live in hope.
The season of Lent calls us to times of personal reflection. What have been the storms in our lives? Have we been aware of God’s presence during those times? What difference has that made? As we move into closer communion with God through times of quiet and prayer, we can learn to be open not only to the presence of God, but also to receiving the gi of God’s abundant grace in all circumstances.