Weekly Bible Devotional
“You Were Made for a Miracle: Activate the Power of Faith”
March 22, 2020
Scripture for This Sunday: Mark 4:35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Notes on The Text:
The Bible has so many stories that relate to our current experience where people experienced chaos, fear, and uncertainty and yet learned to find their way through faith. The story that spoke to me this week in light of our current situation is that of the disciples being in a boat with Jesus when a storm catches them by surprise.
It is important to understand the great symbolism of this story in order to appreciate its message fully. The sea in the old Jewish tradition was a place of danger. In Genesis and other ancient near Eastern creation stories, the sea represented chaos. In Roman times the sea came to be viewed as the domain of Rome’s power. Rome’s ships ensured domination. The one who held power over the sea ruled the world. For the Galilean fishers who followed Jesus, the boat was their home and place of work. The boat in time came to be a symbol for Christian community.
The symbolism of crossing the lake to the other side represented the great fear and challenge for the disciples in following Jesus into those risky areas of ministry and life. The risk was so great for them and thus fear gripped them.
They were supposed to cross over the lake into Gentile territory. This was not supposed to be something they did as good Jews. The term “Gentiles” is used in the Bible to describe those who are outside of the Jewish faith. Jews and Gentiles were separate from each other and that kept things safe and predictable. But Jesus had other plans. So, the disciples took sail from their Israelite territory, crossing the Sea of Galilee to a destination on the Gentile side of that lake. Jesus was headed there to help the Gentiles and to launch his ministry of transformation there. This was groundbreaking and scary for the disciples.
They were already on the edge because this was uncharted territory for them. Then they faced a big storm and Jesus was asleep. They felt that they were going to perish. They stepped out of their comfort zone and their fears came crashing down on them. They woke Jesus up and wondered how he could be sleeping through such a scary storm. Then he ordered the storm to be muzzled. The response of the disciples was greater fear. The phrase in verse 41 that is often translated from the original Greek as “they were filled great awe” is better expressed as “they feared a great fear.” The miracle of Jesus filled them even with greater fear than the storm. It is a curious response, don’t you think? But I think it speaks truth about how fear works in our lives. Even when we experience God’s love, it is not easy to let go and to completely trust when we are experiencing a storm!
The story from Mark 4 offers us a powerful metaphor for life. Our lives do not happen on a nice little boat that we can row gently down the stream. The storms of life are always beating our boats. Our inner peace does not come from being outside the boat on one side or the other. Our inner peace comes from our trust in the presence of Christ on the boat with us and we are all prepared and fully equipped to experience that grace. The good news is that all of us have this innate ability to connect with the eternal source of life that is within us. We are made for this! That is our true essence. The work for us in the days to come is to live out of that divine essence that is within each of us.
This moment in our lives, as hard as it may be, is a strong reminder that our peace cannot come from the false securities of the world as Fr. Thomas Keating named them: control, safety, or esteem. True peace comes when we know that God is in the boat with us because we have been made of God’s eternal presence and love. We are loved and love will lead us through. Love and faith, not certainty and control, are the true guides for the journey ahead.
What helps you to ground yourself in God’s love? Take time to practice that daily. Breathe deeply in moments of great anxiety. Life offers us many opportunities for great fear! We have no choice about being changed. Our choice is whether we let change be transformative or not. The coronavirus has changed all of us. Our choice is to let that change be for the better in terms of our love for ourselves, our neighbors (near and far), our God, and our planet. In faith, may we find the courage to claim our center. We can practice every day the kind of faith that helps anchor our lives in the love of God especially in the midst of the worst storm.
Prayer by Arianne Lehn:
Spirit of surprise
when I encounter change
I did not choose
When life feels
out of control (my control!),
When my normal coping mechanisms
aren’t available this time around
When the overarching question is,
What do I do now?
Your reassuring, Spirit-filled wind
comes blowing at my back,
announcing I’m not alone,
that you will fill me with everything
I need to take on what’s next
and do the things I didn’t think possible.
You are the master Improviser;
and I will learn from my Teacher:
This is how you do it
Yes and yes and yes and yes
Help me ride
the current of this
Use this change in plans
to be a change in heart,
that I might not move
forward with a dead soul,
clinging to what’s known,
yet no longer there.
Open my heart to what you will do in
this pocket of open space between
before and after
(even if this involves a lot
of blowing around and burning).
I say yes
And yes Amen.