Linda and I recently had the privilege of caring for our granddaughters for about 5 days. It was so much fun — and exhausting. We did a lot of the grandparent things you might do with your kids: go to the zoo, the park, the museum.
On our last day with them, we took them to a large, padded play area in one of the malls. There were slides, a huge ball pit, a maze of climbing, crawling, and running spaces with punching bag entrances and exits — the kids slammed through as if they were contestants on the latest episode of American Ninja.
Fifty or more children, infant to older elementary, running, jumping, and rolling in all directions while most of the parents sat along the edge of the space or at distant tables, many on their phones or talking with one another. I remember standing in the middle of the padded floor watching the children run in every direction, skirting around me as if I were just one more obstacle placed in the course.
Initially, if I were to assign a descriptive word to the experience, I might have chosen the word “chaos.” And not even controlled chaos. Just chaos.
But the more I watched this scene, the more I began to see a level of joy and peace at the heart of all this activity. Children were doing what children do when given the space and place to be who they are — they ran, they jumped, they laughed, they played. Occasionally they’d hit a structural pole — or another kid — and there’d be a moment of tears. But in no time, they were back up and running.
This Sunday, I am concluding my series on How to Be Human (our eleven:eleven take on the church-wide fall series, Facing the Storms of Life). And the text I am using is the familiar story of Jesus’ calming the storm. He has taken the disciples in a boat onto the Sea of Galilee (more of a Great Lake than a sea in size perhaps).
A strong wind or storm begins to toss the boat about, and as it takes on water the disciples are scared. They see Jesus asleep in the midst of this chaos and wake him, angry and hurt that he has done nothing to bring about peace to this scene. So Jesus gets up and stills the storm, and then essentially accuses them of being cowardly and having too little faith.
Being human means facing a lot of storms in our lives — some of us more than others, depending on our circumstances of birth — and our social, economic, racial, geographic, and gender context. But we all experience some levels of loss, disappointment, fear, brokenness, and, of course, mortality. Life is full of challenges.
But I, too, like Jesus, am a little confused by the disciples’ panic. They’re fishermen. They’ve certainly spent a lot of time on the water and no doubt had to deal with storms before. So, what is this chaos about? Why is this storm any different? Or is there something else this story is trying to address? And even when this particular storm is stilled, the disciples still find themselves in the midst of the stormy chaos of persecution, oppressive Roman rule, poverty and the daily struggle to survive.
As we watched our grandchildren play on Monday, I couldn’t help but think of the chaos and insecurity some children and their parents are feeling today, in our time and our town, simply because of the color of their skin.
The latest senseless death of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her mother’s home, shot by a police officer, is simply one further outrageous example of how much chaos and fearsome must live with, not to mention the anxiety her 8-year-old nephew will have to endure as he grows up in a culture where the color of his skin puts him at a much higher risk of being arrested, or harassed, or worse yet, shot.
Where do we find peace at the heart of such chaos? What was Jesus really talking about in this story when he stilled the winds and storm and accused the disciples of being cowardly and of little faith? As you process the stresses and insecurities and inequalities and injustice of our time, where do you find calm? How do we find peace?
We are all human beings . . . How can we learn to be better at being human?
I hope you’ll join me this Sunday in eleven:eleven as we explore this further!
See you then.
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven