Peace! Be Still!
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
v37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. v38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” v39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. v40He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” v41And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”
Even before the official declaration of rainy season by the PAGASA, the country has already experienced several typhoons since the beginning of this year. The onset of rainy season by experience, we can predict that more typhoons will also be following in the coming months. Some ordinary people especially the farmers are anxious. They surmise that following weather disturbances will be more devastating during the rainy season. I can empathize with them because I grew up in the farm helping my father during and after planting seasons. The fact is, we cannot do anything to prevent the impending rage of nature. And the helplessness of the situation, I can still remember my father saying, ‘let us plant and pray that we will be spared from typhoon this year.’ Helpless-ness. Faith.
These are the two words that will appropriately summarize our Gospel lesson this Sunday and the abovementioned account.
Our gospel story tells us that a storm has pushed the disciples to their limit. In spite of their knowledge of boats and the Galilean weather, their boat is sinking. In desperation, they wake Jesus, not simply to warn him that his own life is in danger, but because they had nowhere else to turn. “Don’t you care that we’re drowning?” isn’t so much a question as a desperate cry for help. They wanted to be out of the situation, which seemed hopeless, and did the only thing left for them to do. They called out to Jesus.
Let us rewind the reel of our gospel story as described above: Jesus and the disciples have been in the sea around Capernaum. They go out on the sea (Lake of Galilee), in spite of the darkness of the sky, the heaviness of the clouds, and the direction of the wind. The experience tells them it would be wiser not to venture out onto the lake, but after all, they were going with Jesus whose power they have seen. Even when the expected storm breaks loose, they are not alarmed. They see Jesus in the rear of the boat, his head on a cushion, fast asleep. Only when the water starts to fill the boat with such might and power that they are threatened to be swamped, do they awaken the master, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38)
Jesus wakes up. He looks at the pounding waves and his terrified disciples. He stands up, raises his hand, rebukes the wind, and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still.” And all is quiet again. Have you ever found yourself in a situation totally outside your control, one in which you felt your life (or livelihood) was in jeopardy? That was the disciples’ predicament before Jesus calmed the storm.
But there is more to this story. It is not a simple story about the terror of a sudden storm, the fear that comes when things are beyond our control. When all is calm again, Jesus asks the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” The disciples’ fear turns to awe. They say to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
For sure, the awe has left and indelible mark in their mental and spiritual beings because of their earlier emotional state: fear. And to be more specific, about fear of dying. In the midst of sure death, Jesus stood and gives them back their lives by calming the wind and the water.
This reminds me of an anecdote: “Jesus does not promise to calm every storm in your life. Jesus does promise to calm you in every storm of life.” In this anecdote it was told that John Wesley could hardly have been called a faint-hearted stay- at-home. But there were times when even he lost his nerve. During one of Wesley’s several Atlantic crossings, a frighteningly fierce storm broke out; pitching and tossing the ship about like a bathtub toy. While Wesley and others clung to their bunks and hid their heads, a community of Moravians, traveling to their new homeland, calmly gathered to hold their daily worship service and sing praises to God. Watching these Moravians, so apparently unperturbed by the howling winds and crashing waves, Wesley realized he was witnessing a truly waterproof faith. From that moment on, John Wesley prayed that God would give him the ability to likewise ride out life’s storms with as much confidence.
What made those Moravians so peaceful in the face of the tempest? It was the same trait that the disciples so woefully lacked in today’s gospel text: faith and trust in Jesus. After stretching out his arms and stilling the storm, Jesus turned to his companions and chastised them. By cowardly cringing and crying out to Jesus in fear, they had revealed the shallowness of their faith. Although they had been specially chosen as Jesus’ fellow travelers on this journey, they missed the boat.
We must remember that regardless of what happens, God will be with us. Wrote the Psalmist: “When I am afraid I put my trust in you.” Well, let me ask you. Where else are you going to go? If the number of COVID19 infection surges tomorrow, God is still going to be the same. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker says that so many of the fears that we grapple with—fear of rejection, abandonment, failure, separation, and loss—are but manifestations of the one ultimate fear, and that is the fear of death. Perhaps he is right. How do we overcome that ultimate fear? Faith. It is the only antidote that will exorcise the demons of fear that can haunt us.
A little girl was about to undergo a dangerous operation. Just before the doctor administered the anesthetic, he said:” Before we can make you well, we must put you to sleep.” The girl responded: “Oh, if you are going to put me to sleep, then I must say my prayers first.” And she folded her hands, closed her eyes, and said:” Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Later on the surgeon admitted that he prayed that prayer that night for the first time in thirty years. (Donald L. Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations, San Jose: Resource, 1992, 88)
How is the serenity of our lives being shattered? Where are our empty places, our terrifying places, the places where our familiar securities fail? When the darkness falls, and the wind rises, and the storms threaten to engulf us, we are promised by our Gospel lesson that we are not alone. We stand under the mercy and protection of him whom even the wind and the sea obey.
Faith makes the uplook good, the outlook bright, the inlook favorable, and the future glorious. – V Raymond Adman
Let us pray.
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence of your holy Name, for you never fail to help us and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (ECP-BCP Proper 7 Collect)**