Playing With Creation
John 6.16-23 (NRSV)
Have you ever considered the idea of Jesus having fun – perhaps laughing, making jokes, gently stirring his followers? The creatures he loves so much, you and I, enjoy all those things – perhaps we got it from Him in the first place in our God-given genetic make-up. If you think of Jesus as the voice of creation you have to believe He has a sense of humour – think of the pelican, the giraffe, the platypus, dolphins doing acrobatics in the wild, surf rolling onto a beach, wind blowing umbrellas inside out. I also think His challenge to the faith of His disciples, by showing up in the middle of the sea of Galilee had an element of surprise and relief.
The story has the disciples, tired and hungry, caught in a typical Galilean storm, with howling winds and violent waves, no hope of sailing it out, so they’re having to row…but by now for several hours and over several kilometres – leaving them a kilometre or two from shore. The disciples had probably been getting into a serious conversation about just how Jesus has made five and two fish feed five thousand; and why Jesus had strongly turned away any attempt to make some kind of King – perhaps a storm in the boat as they argued through their points of view. Then they were beset with a terrible storm – some, being fishermen would have known what to do, but the others would have been properly alarmed at apparent doom.
At the worst moment Jesus appears, unexpectedly, frighteningly, walking on the stormy waves close to the boat (perhaps He liked walking in the midst of His Father’s great and seemingly impenetrable works) – even though they know who it is, one version of the story says they thought it was a ghost of some sort. But He greets them with words in a voice and a form they recognise; “It is I…” with the assurance that there’s no need for fear, something the Lord had said and still says to the fearful and stunned at His Presence. As they persuaded Him into the boat the storm suddenly dissipates, and their at last in a safe place; reflecting the words of Psalm 107.29, 30 …he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven…which were obviously on John’s heart as He recalled this incident.
Jesus, the creative Word, speaks and storms cease, and His loved ones are led to safe shelter with Him. Jesus is calming storms; perhaps not usually storms on the ocean or in lakes, but very often it is in Him that we find His storm quelling grace and power comes and puts us back together. We know, as many have experienced, that there is no darkness or disturbance that is impenetrable to Jesus’ awesome calming grace and peace, rather that when we invite Him, he is always there to shelter, redeem, and uphold those who cry out to Him in their extremity.
Perhaps Jesus is also telling us that He is with us even in those events in which we have no say or control. One thinks of the 2nd anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, but I also think of and remember the Bay of Plenty earthquake and knowing that even when the whole earth seemed to be coming apart, the Lord was close loving, calming, stirring His people up in loving care for their distressed neighbours.
In the face of the storm we who have been claimed by the awesome grace and love of God in His loving Son already have our safe haven, our place of shelter. The Lord never abandons His people, surrounding them in the Presence of His ever-present Spirit, giving them (us) all the resources we could have need coming to the aid of those who are tossed and bruised and confounded by disasters of many kinds – whether disruptions of the creative process, or the destructive forces of relational storms, or the self-abusive chaos of addictions. We are not to demean those who are beaten up by their circumstances, not to demand faith of people who have none, but rather to be the calming, living presence of God showing them where the haven is to be found, taking them their in our loving service and confident witness.
More than a few here have great stories of how God put them back together after terrible storms that have assailed them, that have even threatened their faith; storms that threatened to sweep them and their loved ones away in oblivion. These should be the stories with which we encourage and give shelter to those who struggle and don’t know to call upon the Lord, coupled with the truth that in God alone will we find a refuge and healing that never fails.
So in any kind of storm, first remind yourself that the Lord is already with you,. Then reach out for the God-bereft strugglers to bring them to the haven that is the salvation of our Lord Jesus.