And the disciples had places to be.
So they left Jesus while he was telling yet another parable about the Kingdom of God. The disciples got into the boat and shoved off, Thomas looked over his shoulder and thought, "I think we forgot something...oh well." "And a great storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling." The disciples began to bail out the water, but the waves, did mightily crash against the boat.
The disciples cried out, "Where is the Teacher, does he not care if we perish!?"
Thomas said, "Verily, I remember now! We left Jesus on the shore."
"Well...we had somewhere to be." explained one disciple.
"And now we're sunk." complained another.
The scene I describe is not the biblical account of Jesus calming the storm, but you recognize the story I told, as your own...don't you?
How often we have heard the actual Gospel account of this story preached: the story of the panicking disciples, Jesus calming the storm, and his chastisement of the disciples for their unfaith. How often we hear the preacher lambasting the meager faith of the disciples. Since Jesus excoriates the disciples for having no faith, it is open season on those poor guys, "The disciples really ought to have had faith, tsk tsk tsk."
But, not so fast, the missing piece happens before the storm. "And leaving the crowd, they took him with them into the boat." They took Jesus in the boat with them. All the parallel accounts agree, that it is Jesus that goes with them into the boat. They don't go with Jesus, Jesus goes with them. It's a fine point, but an interesting one, Jesus goes with the disciples, they lead...at least in this instance.
But for us, more often, we leave Jesus on the shore. We don't bring him into the boat with us.
Jesus is the rebuker of winds, the calmer of stormy seas. But can He do that if he is not in the boat?
All metaphors are limited of course. I recognize that there is a problem with suggesting that Christ must be invited to work in our lives. Yes, Christ is co-eternal with the Father. Yes, Christ acts out of his own spontaneous mercy, not out of propitiation, or any other works-righteousness.
But leaving all those doctrinal issues aside for a moment...you know what I mean. We leave Jesus on the shore. We get into our boats, we get to our schedules, to our thoughts, to our ambitions. We get to our service to our fellows and to the church; and eventually the storm hits. The storm hits and we look around for Jesus. We look around and we don't see him asleep in the stern, we look around and find him where we left him: on the shore.
This is not another, "Let go and let God, " homily. This is a call to the sober reality that sometimes, in the storms of our lives, we forget the one that deals with storms. Our God is not a pie in the sky god, we have a flesh and blood, practical God who wants to be in the thick of it with us.
Yes, Jesus can calm our winds and raging seas. But today's reading shows me that Jesus is so ...VERY ... comfortable in the turmoil, in the roiling waters. So comfortable, in fact, that he can nod off in the midst of the chaos!
Bring Jesus on board with you, before the storm hits, he'll be the quiet one, sleeping, back there, in the stern.