Peace, Be still.
Many years ago I used to be invited to go sailing with friends who kept their boat at Tayvallich, a small village on the shores of Loch Sween. You may know it. The family were experienced sailors with their father being a marine engineer. I was more than happy to join them as I trusted them and their nautical skills. I remember being told that we had to be particularly careful when sailing through the Gulf of Corryvreckan, the narrow strait between the islands of Jura and Scarba. If we didn’t get our timings right when crossing we would be at the mercy of one of the largest whirlpools around. To say that I was frightened would be an understatement. The sense of relief when we passed through it safely was unbounded. I could relax and enjoy the rest of the holiday.
In today’s gospel we encounter an unexpected storm. Although we are not told of the weather conditions when they set off, we do know that it was the evening. There were other boats there too. A great storm arose – which must have been terrifying in a small boat – with waves beating into it so that it was already being swamped. It seems almost unreal, that as the disciples were rightly terrified about perishing, Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern. How was this possible?
Do you recall that today’s readings involve whirlwinds and great gales with no shortage of questions being asked too?
In the first reading from Job, there are deep questions asked by God. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements? Surely you know?”
In our gospel from Mark, the first question by the disciples is “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” The second and third ones from Jesus are “Why are you afraid? and “Have you still no faith?” The fourth one again by the disciples is “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
What is so reassuring is that Jesus did wake up. No one drowned. He rebuked the wind and simply said to the sea “Peace. Be still”. The wind ceased. There was a profound calmness which prevailed. Not only were the disciples greatly relieved but I image all the others who were on the lake too.
When talking recently to a teacher friend about today’s gospel, she mentioned that when she faces storms or when things feel out of control, she imagines that she is lying at the bottom of the boat. Jesus is there too. The safest, most stable part. He is alongside protecting her. She stops worrying and begins to experience something of that peace. That was an image I had not thought about before.
But what about us and the storms which we face? Some of us may be in the thick of one. Others have just come out of one. We may be fearful of one approaching. We may feel alone, anxious, frightened, exhausted, uncertain, overwhelmed and more. Not unlike the disciples. There may be no easy resolutions or endings. Whatever our situation is, whether we keep it to ourselves or share it with others, may we hear those comforting words “Peace, Be still”; and may we know his presence and calmness as we listen to Him each day.
Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace
Still us, as you stilled the storm,
Calm us and keep us from harm.
Let the troubles within us cease.
Enfold us in your deep peace.