Friday, June 11, 2021

Faith and Fear on the High Seas

I’m an excellent “Monday morning quarterback.” I can second-guess people all day long. I suspect it’s a skill developed from being a sports fan.

Oftentimes I apply this same talent for criticism toward the Twelve Apostles. As I sit back in my comfortable reclining chair with my Bible in my lap, I’ll shake my head and exclaim, “Oh Peter! How could you deny Jesus three times? If you had only stood firm that night, you would’ve gone down in history as the Apostle of Courage!” (The implication, of course, is that if I had been in Peter’s place that night, despite dozens of armed Roman soldiers, I would have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Jesus during His time of need. Yeah, sure.) 

There is one event in the gospels, however, where I am not at all tempted to be a “Monday morning quarterback.” Unlike all the other episodes where I easily criticize and second-guess the disciples, deluding myself into thinking that I would have acted wisely and courageously if I were in their place, the event described in this week’s gospel reading is different. When a sudden storm came up and threatened to sink the disciples’ boat, they were perfectly justified in my view to squeal like a bunch of frightened 9-year-olds. I know that’s what I would have done. 

After Jesus awakened and then calmed the raging storm, He asked the disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” 

Um, not to be disrespectful, Jesus, but on this one I have to side with the apostles. No matter how much faith a guy has, when his boat is about to go under in the middle of a powerful squall, I think being terrified is a very appropriate reaction. 

I admit it, I’m not a big “boat guy.” Even though I grew up along the shoreline and have been on boats a lot, as soon as the water gets choppy, in the back of my mind I start hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
The point Jesus made to His disciples is quite valid: faith drives out fear. Whenever I find myself anxious and frightened (not counting boat-related situations), it’s usually a time when my faith life is weak. If my trust and hope in the Lord is shaky, many of the everyday occurrences of life can make me nervous and worried. 

But when my relationship with the Lord is strong — when I KNOW that He loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life and promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me — then even the more frightening situations of life aren’t so bad. When financial difficulties or serious health issues arise, as they have at times in the past (and surely will again in the future), as long as my faith is strong, I find that I can honestly face these problems with a reasonable amount of serenity and peace. 

The other point Jesus made to His disciples was demonstrated by His actions. Jesus is, as it says in Romans 10:12, the “Lord of all.” And that includes the Lord of nature, too. When the disciples asked each other, “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?” the answer was clear: He is the Word made flesh, the One through whom the entire Universe was created. Since this is the case, Jesus certainly has the power to control a small storm on a small lake. 
So, this week’s gospel reading reminds us of who exactly Jesus is. And this week’s gospel reminds us that when our faith is strong, then there is nothing on earth that can terrify us.
Notice I said on EARTH. Out on the sea, that’s a whole different ball game.

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