Matthew 8, vv23-27 – Jesus calms the storm.
That passage is of course the one that is always read when Sailors Society is mentioned in worship like today, our Mission Sunday.
I am the last person who should comment on the disciples on the sea of Galilee; most of them were professional fishermen and used to the vagaries of the weather. I was once sea-sick crossing from Dover to Calais!
Lake Galilee – which is about ten times the size of Windermere and about twice as big as Torbay – is prone to sudden local storms mainly because it is surrounded by quite high hills. I have been there a few times but only on a boat once – and it was fine!
The gospel writers are always pointing up the underlying meaning of events in Jesus’ life and this is no exception. There is as much perturbance within them as outside with the weather. When Jesus says ‘Peace, be still’ he is talking as much to them as to the waves.
‘Peace be with you’ is still the everyday greeting across the Middle East: Shalom in Hebrew, Salaam in Arabic. It is so much better than a grunted ‘morning’ when you pass someone on an English street. It is the greeting of Jesus when famously he enters the upper room on Easter evening. And it is the greeting he offers us all when we remind ourselves that he is with us.
In similar fashion the chaplains of Sailors Society are blessed peace-makers in that Biblical sense. They are there to build broken lives, calm fears and do their best to resolve a difficult situation.
Life is always a mix of storm and calm, light and shade, hope and anxiety. Sometimes our boat does feel threatened by the storm. Things take a turn for the worse. Whether the storm is predictable or unexpected (as a sailor would say ‘out of the blue’) we need Jesus in the boat with us.
Forgive a Liverpool supporter using another set of words which make the same point: ‘when you walk through the storm hold your head up high – you’ll never walk alone’. Let the word Emmanuel resonate in your mind each day, come what may.
And the peace of God, which passes understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God. Amen
Revd Peter Brain