Swamped, pressed in, overwhelmed, in danger of being crushed, terrified, exhausted, threatened… What a list of words, in one short passage, describing not only the state of the disciples, but the state of Jesus himself. All day he has been teaching about the kingdom of God, much of that from the boat because the crowds who were so needy pressed in so hard upon him that he was in danger of being crushed…..
Swamped, pressed in, overwhelmed, in danger of being crushed, terrified, exhausted, threatened…
I wonder if that list of words has ever applied to your life circumstances, if a situation or a series of situations has left you feeling powerless and out of control, almost as if you are in a boat on a stormy sea pitched and tossed about by circumstance after circumstance…
I wonder if life sometimes feels quite simply like a test of endurance, you’ve got to stick your head down and get through it, and quite often you do, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day…
Of course there are times, and we all have them when life is absolutely the opposite, the days seem calm and almost idyllic, the waves on the sea of life are gentle, the breeze is cooling and pleasant, providing us with good memories to hang onto, memories that bring hope when the sea is rough….
But when the sea is rough it is not always easy to remember….
Come with me to the Sea of Galilee, and hear Jesus teach, the parable of the sower, where we find ourselves longing to be the good soil so that the word of God can take root in our lives, drawing from us depths and richness that produce a bountiful harvest….
Then more; stories that challenge, disarm, and undo us….
"Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a basin or beneath the bed? Don't you put it up on a table or on the mantel? We're not keeping secrets, we're telling them; we're not hiding things, we're bringing them out into the open.”
Do we really want the things in our lives brought out in the open?
23"Are you listening to this? he asks us; Really listening?
24-25"Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes."
Be generous with your life….
But Lord I am hard pressed!
Be wary of shrewd seeming advice……
But Lord how will I survive?
There are times when the questions simply pile in:
How will I survive, how can I survive on this stormy sea where the wind and waves are so overwhelming?
How can I survive when life’s circumstances have so depleted my resources that I have nothing left to give, no strength, nothing?
“How can I describe the Kingdom of God? says Jesus, What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
As the waves threaten and the wind howls, as memories of calmer times slip by too quickly for you to grasp them search the depths of your heart for that mustard seed of faith, hear his words to you from another time;
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father. (John 15)
You are my friends, my friends, I’ve let you in on everything, dig deep, remember...
The storm is raging, but there is hope, he is here with you in life’s boat and though it might take every ounce of your strength to call out to him you know you have to do it. Leaving the crowd behind and following Jesus does not guarantee us, as individuals or as a church, a storm-free life, and we, like the disciples, may sometimes find ourselves crying out, "Wake up! Do you not care?" Even when we make it through the storms, following Jesus may well take us straight into encounters with the worst pain and suffering of the world, the places where Jesus' powerful touch is most needed.
Even when we make it through the storms, following Jesus may well take us straight into encounters with ourselves that unnerve and unsettle us so much that our certainties are overwhelmed and we find ourselves overcome….
Of course we know the end of this story; Jesus wakes and rebukes the wind and the waves, with words of power and peace…
Wherever life’s circumstances find you today those are his words for you, in the good times be still, draw strength and sustenance from him, let the roots of your faith plunge deep into the rich soil of faith, receive the warming sun and the life giving rain with joy and gladness, and do not forget who brings them to you. Be still and know, be still and worship, be still and soak in his presence and his love….
Wherever life’s circumstances find you today those are his words for you, when the storm rages be still, search your heart for the faith that clings to the one in whom there is life, and life in all it’s fullness, cry out to him from the depths of your anguish and turmoil, and receive his word. Be still….
Marks Gospel contains many accounts of crossings of the Sea of Galilee, and while the sea represents, chaos and the unknown, the crossings in the presence of Jesus opened the door to a new way of being for the disciples as it does for us. With him their horizons were stretched and boundaries were crossed and recrossed. With him even the most difficult circumstances held hope because he was present to hold, sustain and guide. He calls us too to follow, to allow him to lead us, to know his presence even in the storm.
He speaks to our souls, be still , he says, for I am with you, be still, I will never forsake you, be still and trust in me….
Be still, you will survive and even thrive in him, for he will never let you go.