Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Storm


On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.

If you have been following our studies in Mark the past few days, you’ll know that the implication here is that Jesus had spent the entire day preaching.  By evening he was probably pretty tired.  You say, “Well, he was God… he probably didn’t get tired.”  You forget the difference between God Incarnate and Superman.  Jesus was a man filled with God.  In order for him to be our substitute and pay for our sin, he had to be 100% human.   When Jesus didn’t eat, he grew hungry.  When he didn’t sleep he grew tired.  His body and mind wanted all the same things you and I want.  That’s what makes his sinless life of obedience toward God so amazing.  The temptations were there.  He simply didn’t succumb to a single one of them.  So they set off from shore and told Jesus to go take a well-deserved nap:

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.

Okay.  Everyone ask the question together:  “How could Jesus sleep through a storm like that?  He must have been awake and just testing the disciples?”  If he was testing the disciples, then lying on a wet cushion in the back of a partially swamped boat waiting for the disciples to come “wake him up” would have been sin, and not very emotionally honest, if you ask me.  No.  He was asleep.  That’s just how tired he was from preaching.

And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Oh please.  Speaking of sin, they’re probably the ones who told him to get some shut-eye in the first place.  Why didn’t they wake him up when the storm started, rather than waiting until the boat was sinking? 

We do that too, you know.  We go about our business in the midst of the storm of life imagining that we have everything under control.  The wind gets worse; the sea is crashing over the side of our little skiff, and we’re still saying to ourselves, “I won’t bother God with this.  It isn’t bad enough yet.”

God came and shared our nature and frailty in order to convince us of his love and care for us.  He shared every aspect of our humanness.  Even his name means “God is so close you can reach out and touch him” (Immanuel).   You can certainly understand why those who do not yet believe and trust him would not want to bother a god they believe either doesn’t exist or is, at very best, far away.  But these are believers – disciples of Christ, in fact.  We should know better.
 
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Mark 4:35-41 ESV)

And let’s get one other thing right about ourselves.  We Christian disciples may be afraid of the wind and the rain and that the boat of our life may sink like the Titanic.  In fact, most of us are just like Jack and Rose, hanging onto the flagpole at the back of the ship, facing the “terror” alone as the boat goes down under us.  But make no mistake, we do it because we are far more afraid – as believers – of the God who is Salvation actually showing up than we are of the wind and sea.  We’d rather take the lesser of two, and go down with the ship than come face-to-face with his splendor. The preaching at the shore was great!  But now that we’re out in the middle of the sea, given the choice, I’ll take my chances with the storm, thank you very much.  Jesus is way too scary.  As C.S. Lewis famously observed in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “’Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you.’”

The implication that causes me to have this problem is, if the wind and sea obey Jesus, and I give him the chance to demonstrate that on my behalf, then I’ll have to obey him too and let him calm the storm that is raging inside my heart.  And since I have no idea what that would look like, I can’t conceive living without it.  All I can say is what I would hope you would say to me.  Don’t go down with the ship when help is waiting for you in the stern of the boat.

Jon

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