'All In The Same Boat'
'We're all in the same boat' is a way of saying that we all share a particular experience or circumstance with others. It's a phrase we can apply to our Gospel lesson this morning. The story is told so vividly that we can almost hear the shriek of the wind and feel the fury and the lashing of the waves. We're there, in the boat, with Jesus and the petrified disciples. We're all in the same boat.
They were sailing on a relatively small body of water, fourteen miles long and three to seven miles wide, called the Sea of Galilee, or the Lake of Gennesaret. Storms could come up suddenly as the winds swept down from the mountains of Lebanon, and the storm that caught them that night seemed to be unusually violent. But the boat was manned by skillful fishermen who made their living on this lake and who knew what needed to be done. They reefed the sails, pulled at the oars, and bailed frantically. But it was all to no avail. Expert sailors though they were, and though they had beaten the elements scores of times, this storm was different. That night the terror of the deep got them in its grip; they knew that death was on the sea. And when a bigger wave than ever struck the boat and sent her staggering, Peter, hauling like mad on the ropes, looked at John, and shouted, 'For God's sake, man, don't stand there shivering. Wake Jesus! Get him up! He's our one and only hope - wake Jesus!'
Jesus had been asleep on the boat. How utterly spent and weary he must have been to sleep on through a night like that! It was the sleep of utter exhaustion, and on this wild hurricane night a couple of rough boards at the bottom of the boat were pillow enough for Jesus to rest his head.
Sermons by the dozen have been preached on Jesus sleeping on the boat, but that is not our tack this time. It's what he does when he awakes that captures my attention today.
We live in a world where storms strike suddenly. One day our life is full of promise and the future is radiant. But abruptly and swiftly calamity strikes - illness, perhaps, a failure at work, the unexpected loss of a loved one - and the dream is destroyed, the cup of heart's desire smashed to atoms at our feet. Everything is spoiled by the storm which has made chaos of all our hopes. Our boat seems too frail to survive the storm, and we face being swamped and shipwrecked. But have we overlooked the fact that we are in the same boat as Jesus, and he is in the same boat as we are? Whatever our predicament or sorrow or tragedy, Christ has been through that storm before or is going through it with us now.
One of the most famous of the Greek legends tells how Prometheus was chained to a rock in the Caucasus Mountains where an eagle tore at his liver every day for a thousand years. Whenever he cried out bitterly, the reply always came: 'Expect no answer to your anguish unless one of the gods themselves be willing to go down for you into unlighted Hades and through the gloomy depths of Tartarus.'
That, according to the older version of the Creed, is exactly what Jesus did - 'He descended into hell'. All the hellish storms of eternity gathered in their utmost fury and frenzy and crashed around his head on the cross of Calvary. So, he knows about storms; he knows about your storms, and he can calm them just as he calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee. His ringing, reverberating cry above that storm was addressed as much to the inner turmoil of the disciples as it was to the violence of the sea - 'Peace be still!' His claim that 'All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth' means he has the power both to bridle the winds and shackle the seas and also to smash the grim spectres of our fear and despair.
You may know a song by Sister Maria Teresa Winter, of the Medical Mission Sisters, called 'Joy is like the rain'. The third verse says,
'I saw Christ in wind and thunder,
Whipped by wind, yet still afloat.
That's it! Did you catch it? Still afloat! No storm can overwhelm or o'er topple us, because we are all in the same boat, you, me, and Jesus, and together we'll reach harbour safely.
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