Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Mark 4:35-41 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Stills a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Today’s Upper Room scripture reading is Mark’s telling of the calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is the parallel passage to the one we read only three weeks ago (September 20), so I’m repeating my devotional for that day. It is, after all, a message worth repeating in our stormy times:
The Sea of Galilee has always been known for its violent storms—storms that come up suddenly and can be life-threatening for any who might be caught on the water when they hit. This 64 square-mile lake is the lowest freshwater lake on earth at approximately 700 feet below sea level. This lake sits very low in the Jordan Rift with steep hills on all sides. The most violent storms are caused by the fierce winds which blow off the Golan Heights from the east. One such storm in 1992 sent waves ten feet high crashing into downtown Tiberias and caused significant damage to the city.
When evening came after a long day of teaching and helping crowds of people, Jesus announced that they were leaving the crowds behind and going across the Sea of Galilee to the other side. Suddenly, with little warning, one of those dangerous squalls swooped down from the mountain passes. The sky grew dark and threatening. The winds were beginning to whistle. The black waves were growing and beginning to pound against the sides of the little boat and washing over everyone in it. The disciples were terrified.
Jesus was asleep in the boat. The disciples went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
I imagine that the earliest Christians, experiencing the terrifying, frightening storms of persecution, heard this story and placed themselves in the boat. This story from Jesus’ ministry reminded them that they are not alone in the boat and that peace comes through trusting in the presence of Christ.
We can identify, too, can’t we? One moment all is fine. The next moment a storm is raging. Life is like a peaceful lake that becomes, without warning, wildly, uncontrollably turbulent. To use the words of the old hymn, suddenly “the storms of life are raging.” They come at us from any direction, or from no direction at all. Everything can be going beautifully, then all of a sudden the telephone can ring and everything in your life can be turned upside down. Your medical test results can come back, and all of a sudden you find yourself in the midst of a storm.
Not only will the storms come, but no matter who we are, they can terrify us and we are powerless to control them. No one is exempt from the storms of life.
The artist Rembrandt once painted a canvas titled “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” Examining the painting carefully you will note that there are fourteen men in the boat. There are the twelve disciples plus Jesus. That makes thirteen. Who is the fourteenth passenger? Look closely and you can recognize him grasping the rigging and holding on to his familiar cap as he looks directly at you from the painting. It is Rembrandt himself. We all know what it is to be afraid. Maybe we all know what it means to be on the verge of panic.
The boat on a stormy sea, the boat that carried Jesus and his disciples in the midst of an angry sea, has had its counterpart in every generation and in nearly every life. What storm threatens your boat right now?
Whatever the storm, remember that you are not alone in the boat. If we do not understand who it is that is in the boat with us then our fear of the storm has the power to paralyze. There is no promise that the storms will not come. We know better. The promise is that of God’s presence, no more, no less. In the midst of the storm, God will be in the boat with you. You need not panic, though the situation may appear bleak. The Lord of the storm is in the boat with you. That is the promise.
Dr. William Barclay was one of the most respected Bible scholars in the world. His life was devastated at one point when his only daughter drowned just a few days before she was to be married. Sometime later, commenting on our scripture lesson for today, Dr. Barclay said this: “I am not so concerned as to whether Jesus stilled the tempest on the sea. What I do know is He stilled the tempest in my heart.”
In a devotional article, Milward Simpson, a former governor of Wyoming, tells of flying in a plane that developed engine trouble. When the pilot announced that they were going to try to make an emergency landing, the governor took the hand of his wife and together they offered a simple statement of faith they often shared:
The light of God surrounds us.
The love of God enfolds us.
The power of God protects us.
And the presence of God watches over us:
Wherever we are, God is.
In the article he added that they knew that asserting this affirmation would not make everything turn out all right. But, he said, saying what they said was their way of declaring their confidence that, living or dying, they were in God’s care.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster