Wonder and awe. When the prophet Isaiah wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, “wonder and awe” was listed as the last gift. For those who have had a glimpse of the power and beauty of God, wonder and awe is the reaction of those who love God. And in our gospel reading today, this was the reaction of the disciples to Jesus when he commanded the waves and the water to be quiet and still. Wonder and awe of his beauty and majesty and power.
The gospel reading today is an amazing story about Jesus with his disciples, in a scene that is filled with imagery and symbolism that scholars have long considered to be important in teaching us about the identity of Jesus and our identity as disciples.
Let’s look at the imagery here. First off, Jesus invites his disciples to “cross to the other side.” The church has long considered that to refer to the destination that Jesus has in mind for us – the other side of the eternal kingdom. The sea that they were crossing together represents both all of the nations of the world as well as the church passing through time. And the boat that they were riding in is often called the barque of Peter – symbolic of the church. The storm that came up symbolizes the storms that the church faces from time to time. Storms that sometimes seem like they are going to capsize the church.
What is interesting about this violent squall is that Jesus was asleep in the stern. This is such an interesting image for us. The disciple’s reaction to the sleeping Jesus was rather accusing – “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” This little line makes all of this story rather personal for us.
The first reading from the book of Job helps us to hear this gospel story both in the universal sense of the church and in the personal sense of our own journey through life. Job was facing his own storm – and it was the mother of all storms for him. He lost everything. And in the mist of that loss God spoke to Job from the storm. How many of us have faced our own storms and felt some kinship with Job? How many of us have addressed Jesus like the disciples did in the boat – “Lord, do you not care that we are about to drown?” We can relate. These storms can create a strong fear reaction out of us. We feel threatened. We feel that we are about to die. Our trust in Jesus becomes shaky. The one who invited us through our baptism to cross with him to the other side sometimes seems to be asleep when we ourselves are facing the storm of our lives. We may feel like we are losing everything, like Job felt in the first reading.
And there is Jesus, asleep in the boat. What does that mean? Does it mean that God doesn’t care? We know the answer to that in our heads – of course God cares. Jesus loves us with a love and mercy that is so vast it overwhelms when we truly encounter it.
Perhaps the sleeping Jesus represents the peace of God in the mist of the storm. God is supremely confident in bringing us to the other side, even when the storm rages from time to time. So the problem isn’t Jesus’ plan. He has a great plan for us - a plan to bring us to the fullness of life. The problem ends up being our own trust in his plan. As if we would like God to panic along with us while we think we are sinking. But God is always the peaceful center no matter what storm is raging. God is the steady hand that brings us through the storm to the other side. God is the one who is constantly teaching us to trust in him, no matter what. So we repeat again and pray once again the central truth that Jesus wants to teach us. Come what may, “Jesus I trust in you.”
In our journey through time crossing to the other side, storms may come. In the journey of the church to the other side, storms have come in the past, and storms are brewing once again on the horizon.
The usefulness of these storms is the lesson that God wants to imprint on us for all eternity – an unshakeable trust in his love and mercy. That leads us to the peaceful center of all things, come what may.
And during the storm, it may very well be that we will encounter the beauty and power and majesty of God. When that time comes, may we also be filled with the gift of wonder and awe.
So good people, with confidence, let us go with Jesus and cross to the other side. Let us pray continually to the one who is always with us.
Jesus I trust in you.
Jesus I trust in you.
Jesus I trust in you.