Tonight at 11:31pm, it will officially be summer. That doesn’t mean that summer hasn’t already been officially declared by other means, of course. My friend Scott, a firefighter buddy of mine from Monmouth Beach, always said that summer officially begins when the first New York or North Jersey person – Bennies, as we called them – when they first park illegally on a side street to walk to the beach. The Preston and Steve Show on MMR always “officially” kicks off summer on the Friday before Memorial Day with an early morning party called Eggs with Peg at Keenan’s in North Wildwood; that’s where the Shoobies certainly congregated. In Bordentown, at least amongst the first responders, we say that summer doesn’t officially begin until there’s a water rescue down at the beach, and since we had our first one on Tuesday night, it’s officially summer in Bordentown! (everyone was okay)
As you surely know, the confluence of the Delaware River and Crosswicks and Blacks Creeks makes for fast times at the Bordentown Beach. Boaters utilizing smaller engines can find themselves revving out and somehow going backwards, and God help, for real, anyone out there in a bad storm or anyone who falls into the water.
It all reminds me of today’s Gospel reading, of course. “On that day, when evening had come, (Jesus) said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”” That day was the same day that Jesus had taught the multitudes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, when He taught them in parables like the parable of the Mustard Seed that we heard last week. The “other side” that Jesus was referring to was in an area called the region of the Gerasenes, and that’s where Jesus cast out the demons in the pigs, and then the pigs all ran off the cliff into the sea.
So it takes about two hours to cross the Sea of Galilee from where Jesus and the disciples were to the region of the Garasenes, but Jesus was understandably tired from teaching all day. While He was asleep, a brutal squall kicked up, as they so often did, and everyone on the boat was terrified, except for the napping Lord.
Now, first-century Israelites, on a whole, did not much like the sea. And if you have ever been on the water when it starts to get dark and the wind kicks up and you’re in a boat like the disciples had, you would learn not to like the sea much either. Because at least some of the disciples were fisherman, most famously Peter, James, and John, we can expect the boat they were in that night to be typical of the fishing boats used at the time: 27-ish feet long, 7 to 8 feet wide, 4ish feet tall. Some of these boats had up to 4 rowing stations and a single sail, and while perfectly it’s a perfectly seaworthy size and design, it’s not a particularly large boat.
And still, some of the disciples were practiced sailors, and so this storm must have been something if it got them worried. They woke up Jesus when they started to take on water, and what does Jesus say to them? Nothing. He speaks to the wind and to the sea: “he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!””
Holy moly. “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” Well, He through whom all things were made; He who has just a different relationship with the created world than we do. He who walks on the stormy sea as if on a freshly mown field; He who naps in a hurricane.
The disciples were beginning to understand that they were in a boat with the Son of the Living God, and so it’s not wrong to wonder if, at that point, they were more afraid of Him than they were of the boat sinking in a storm.
“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asked them. “Have you no faith?” I’m guessing that the rest of the trip was a bit awkward. But still, those questions hung in the air both for the disciples and now for us: Why are we afraid? Have we no faith?
The changes and chances of this life can seem arbitrary and most of them are. Like the disciples, there are storms both actual and metaphorical that change the course of our lives. We have been, like the old curse say, living in interesting times. Like the disciples wondering just how Jesus could be sleeping through a catastrophic storm, we can wonder what Jesus is up to while we weather a pandemic, societal upheaval, times in which our lives have profoundly changed.
The good news is that just as Jesus was literally in the same boat as those disciples, the Lord is literally with us now. He is with us in Word and Sacrament, with us by His Holy Spirit, with us in every neighbor who will receive the meal being prepared upstairs. And though there will be times in which we are afraid, we can trust that our God is the God who calms the storm, who turns to us and says “Peace! Be still!” May that peace of the Lord, that calm, that stillness that only He can give, be always with you.