What struck me was his strong, silent presence even in the face of chaos and tragedy. Here we were, dealing with the human tragedy and destruction of the aftermath of a hurricane. We were there as clergy to help people. We were moving through the American Red Cross “tent city” and it was set up to hold hundreds of displaced people and we were there as IOCC Frontliners, the First Responders ministry of IOCC. And what struck me was Fr. Jim’s peaceful presence. I was a chaotic mess, in tears at seeing people in pain, rushing around trying to make everything better. But Jim was doing a much better job at bringing calm and peace simply by being at peace himself. What a powerful lesson for me.
Of course, Jim was not just a co-worker but a dear friend and, eventually, an icon to me about the power of strong peace in the face of chaos. Still learning from this very good man!
Look at our lesson today in Matthew 8:23-27:
At that time, when Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, O Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Our Lord is living His life in the community of His disciples. They are learning about Him and they are learning how to reveal themselves to Him. In His living in their midst, they come to the natural need of crossing this body of water. In the course of the journey, the Lord goes asleep in the hull of the boat. And then a storm comes up on the body of water.
Notice, during the chaos, the storm, the Lord is not stirred by the moment.
Of course the disciples are fearful and panicked and they go to where the Lord is and wake Him up and ask Him to save them. Look how the Lord responds to their fear. He asks them why they are afraid. Didn’t they take some comfort at His peaceful nature? Haven’t they learned Who He is yet? Of course, the Lord then speaks to the storm and tells the storm to cease and the weather obeys Him! Here is another invitation to the disciples, and to us, to know the importance of the Person standing in their midst.
This powerful event invites us to consider three powerful insights from this Gospel:
First, Storms Come. It simply isn’t reasonable to expect a life free of all storms, pain, disappointment, and even fear. It’s just not normal to have a life free of trouble or conflict. This means we must wonder when anyone thinks that the purpose of Faith or Church or Religion is to rescue me out of any and all trouble. What the Faith is designed to do is to give me peace regardless of the pain or trouble in my life.
Second, The Lord is Lord. A relationship with God invites me to leave the self centered focus on myself to the contemplation the Identity of God Himself. And God is not disturbed by temporary troubles. And this relationship with God invites me to consider that this God loves me and cares for me. I am invited to appreciate the reality that God is not disturbed and that God loves me, therefore God will not allow anything in life to ultimately destroy me.
Finally, I am the Object of God’s Care. But this realization takes Faith. It takes a willingness to take the chance that what we’ve been told about God is true: God loves me and wants me with Him. No wonder the enemy of our souls works so hard to promote the false view of God that He is angry or vengeful or unconcerned. If we courageously stand up to the false view of God and embrace the glorious mystery of the Creator Who comes among us as one of us SO THAT we can become one with Him! And can you think of any safer place in the whole universe? In the arms of the God Who can command the weather to obey Him, we who are the objects of God’s love, have nothing to fear!
Today, is there a storm going on in your life? Are you afraid? Our Lord is not afraid and we who actively work to be in communion with this Peaceful Lord are invited to be embraced by a Purposeful Orthodoxy that builds in our hearts a lifestyle of peaceful confidence!