Toorak Uniting Church

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A ship in Christ’s care

Mark 4: 35 – 41     Romans 8: 38 – 39
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
21 June 2009

Most, if not all of us, will face times in our lives that are difficult. Times might make us feel like being in a boat in the middle of a storm where we are not sure the boat is going to hold and we will come out the other end breathing and intact.

It may be the loss of a loved one, it may be the death of a marriage, it may be a difficult time at work, it may be depression, it may be an illness, of yourself or someone you dearly love. They are all situations and times where you may feel out of control and tossed around by the storms of life. Times where you may feel like you are drowning, overwhelmed by whatever it is that has come your way, and helpless and full of fear in the face of whatever it is that is challenging your resilience to the limits.

Different people will react to those challenges in different ways. Some of us will look for the support of others and share their burdens with them, others will shut down, pull down the shutters and sit it out. Some will find their way in prayer to God easily, for others it will be the last place they’ll look for support and care. Some of us will try to ignore the whole storm until we can do so no longer, others will acknowledge their fear and anxiety and seek help very early on. Some will go to sleep, trusting it will all work itself out somehow, and others will panic and lose their footing through their fear.

There are many different ways in which people react to extreme circumstances in their lives. And those reactions themselves will often be out of our control, determined by our personality, previous experiences, perceptions, cultural and social customs and the like. The whole complex of who and what we are will swing into action when we are faced with such a storm and more often than not our rationality will be the part of us that is least likely to be in control at those times. Which again adds to our feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control.

And sometimes the only thing which than remains is that we find ourselves simply crying out to God, or anybody else that happens to be close: "help, I am drowning and I am scared".

It is that situation the disciples find themselves in on the sea of Galilee late one evening. They are in the middle of a great storm, their boat being swamped with water.
It must have been quite a storm for seasoned fishermen to have been so afraid. They feel threatened by the waves of death washing over them and, what makes it worse: Jesus is asleep in the stern, oblivious to what they are going through. It sometimes feels like that, doesn’t it, that God is fast asleep while we are struggling to keep ourselves afloat while the storms of life rage around us and threaten to drown us?

In the story Jesus is asleep. It does not say he seems to be asleep. It is not the disciples’ lack of faith imagining they are abandoned, their abandonment is real. Jesus is fast asleep and needs to be woken up before he can help them. He trusts them to take him to the other side and steer the boat. He waits for them to indicate when they need his help and support, to indicate where the challenges of life are too intimidating for them to be able to deal with.
He trusts us to live our life and find our way across the sea of life with him on board and keep him safe. Only if we call on him he will get up and come to our help and apply his power to still those storms that are too overwhelming and threatening to deal with on our own.

Communion should be, in our life and in the life of the Church, that place where we know Jesus is fully alive and awake. Where the storms of life still around us while we gather at the table of the resurrected Lord and share bread and wine with each other and find our fears subside in the presence of his love and healing power. For 15 minutes or so we enter this space where nothing else matters than to be with God and share with each other, no matter what state our boats are in, no matter what it is that rages around us and challenges our resilience and faith.

Eat, drink, let the Lord heal you and nurture you and seek for his presence to bolster that resilience and trust. Open yourself and for once rely on Christ to be there when you need him, strong and rely-able. For once trust those around you and allow yourself to see others who are like you, in the same boat, with the same fears, facing similar challenges, in need of love and support as much as you are.

In Jesus Name. Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2009

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