Storms. We're used to them in Florida. And we have one in today's gospel. Let's look at it.
First, let's set the scene. It takes place in the Sea of Galilee, which is about seven miles by 13 miles, and over 150 feet deep. It's a large body of water.
Jesus came walking on that water, the gospel says, during the fourth watch of the night. That would be between three and six a.m. - the darkest part of the night.
The apostles are in a storm. A bad one. We've all seen them. Been in them. Perhaps while driving. We know the fear. But in a boat, in the darkest part of the night, in 150 feet of water? That is terrifying.
Speaking of the boat, it was probably about seven feet by 25 feet. Not a very large boat to be sailing on a body of water that large and that deep, but it's what they had back then.
So that's the scene, during the darkest part of the night, a storm is blowing, and the disciples are in a small boat. And where's Jesus? Not in the boat with them. At the beginning of this passage he was up on a mountain. Then he appears at some distance, walking on the sea.
You know the rest of the story. What do we learn from this scene?
The Sea of Galilee represents our world. You and I were born into this time and place. This is the piece of history on which we sail...where we spend our lives. It wasn't our choice, but here we are, and we can't escape into the past or the future. This is the sea we sail.
The darkest part of the night - the fourth watch. That represents whatever darkness there is in our life. May not know why. Part of our life is dark, not bright. We've all got those dark places.
The storm represents the problems in our life, problems great and small, which we can't seem to control, any more that the disciples could control that storm. Some are on the world scale. We worry these days about terrorism and the threat of nuclear war, 65 million displaced people - refugees - driven from their homes, alternative truth, health care for the poor and elderly, the ever-growing divisiveness in our country, and more. You and I can't seem to do much about these.
There are also problems in our Church. We seem to be just as divided here as well. Something that bothers all of us very much is that we haven't been able to inspire many of our youth and young adults to follow us in the path of faith that we were given by our parents. They don't go to Church regularly, if at all. We haven't been able to pass on our faith very well.
Then there are the storms in our personal lives. I can't list these for you, but we all have them. They churn in our stomach, and they're with us every day, and like the storm on the Sea of Galilee, we can't seem to control these either. Each of us has our own.
What about the small boat? That represents each of us. We face all these things and we feel small. We're tossed about by them, like that small boat on the Sea of Galilee. We're just trying to make it through the storm.
And Jesus, where is he? Of course, we believe in Jesus. That's why we come here to be with him in the Eucharist, but in these dark places and stormy places in our lives - he just doesn't seem to be part of them. He seems one step removed, looking at them from the outside. He can seem as far away as on that mountain, or nearby as he was on the sea, close to the boat, but not in it.
So what do we do? Well, I think we can learn something very, very helpful from this passage. We do what the disciples did. We cry out to him, and we bring him into our darkness, into the storm. We bring him into the boat! That's the key. And indeed that's what we do when we receive his Body in ours.
That dark place in my life? The storms in my life? Sometimes, I sit and talk to Jesus who may seem far away. Sometimes, I try to run from them and go somewhere to find Jesus, rather than bringing Jesus into the boat. That's the mistake Peter made. Jesus is willing to come here. He wants to come here. We have to let him in. But too often, we talk to him as though he were one step removed from us as we face the darkness and the storms.
Another thing. When we call the Lord into our boat, no need for some long-winded prayer. We need straight talk. Direct talk. Peter, when he was sinking didn't say, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, and I praise you and thank you for your goodness, and I was wondering if you would please turn toward me and be with me. No, Peter yelled, Lord, save me!
We need to talk straight to the Lord about the problems in our world, our Church, our personal lives. We need to speak clearly, emotionally.
What happens when we do that? Well, all the problems don't evaporate. But the storm inside me calms down. And the darkness in me brightens. And when the Lord gets into my boat - my life - I feel deep peace. In this gospel passage, when Jesus got into the boat the wind and sea became calm...and the twelve did too.
Today as you receive the Eucharist, feel the presence of our Lord in you, and this week as you think about the storms in our world, our Church, and in your own personal life, remember you're not sailing alone. He's with you... in your boat. Feel his peace.