19A – 13 Aug 2023

19A – 13 Aug 2023

Into stormy silence

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

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There are so many situations that we face in our lives where. It’s we’re just. Overwhelmed. But things just get too much for us and I think. Both our first reading and our gospel today, when we read the bigger context, provide those. Why does Jesus need that alone time well earlier on in the chapter, we’ve heard about the gaoling, the persecution and then the death of his cousin John the Baptist. Now that’s gonna rock Jesus. And in fact the section immediately before what we read from today is Jesus getting into the boat trying to find a lonely place we can go and pray, we can go and process, we can go and just sort through all of the experiences. If this has happened to John, He now knows that this is not far away in his own life he has to face his own death, and so he needs this space to be able to go and to rest, to pray, to grieve, just to go through all of the human and spiritual experiences that are inherent in that kind of experience. Instead, when he gets to the other side of the lake, what does? Find a huge crowd who’s anticipated that.

That’s where he’s gonna go. And so he can’t find that alone time. He has to minister to the crowd and so it’s in that context that our gospel begins today, that Jesus finally gets rid of the disciples and he gets rid of the crowd. In the Gospel of John, at this point, we’re told that the crowd wants to go and make him to be their king. So that’s another part of this rich experience that that Jesus is happening. So he ascends, he goes up into the mountain to pray. Right.

Just this last week we heard him going up to the mountain to be in the presence of God with his three closest disciples, where he was transformed, transfigured. So he’s there? Just pondering, grieving, crying, processing. He’s in the midst of this terrible darkness, and he has to be there in the presence of the one that he knows loves him, the one that holds him and sustains him, and no doubt, he’s also thinking about the disciples and what they’re going through. All of their different experiences of slowly now coming to understand the very person of Jesus beginning to understand his ministry. Mission they’re finally making sense of who he is and what he’s about, and what does this mean? What do they need? What are the things that he needs to teach them and to speak into their hearts and lives that they will be able to come to that fullness of life, all of that, no doubt, is it’s kind of being processed as he’s there in the. The early twilight and then into the darkness until the middle watch of the 4th watch of the night until about 3:00 AM in the morning.

When he finally then goes and makes his way down to the shore of the lake, and to begin that journey across the waves. The prophet Elijah in our first reading had something similar. He had this big encounter where he had faced down the 400 or 450 depending on the version you read prophets above and there the Lord was revealed in the fire. You know the fire had come down and consumed the sacrifices even though they’ve been flooded. With what? That the Lord. Appeared in the midst of the fire. He heard the stories about the way that Moses had been.

The Lord had revealed himself to Moses by the strong wind that had separated the waters so that the people were able to walk dry shod through the mountain on the Holy Mountain, the place where Elijah has now made his way. To on this Mount Sinai on Mount Horeb, there when the Lord revealed himself in the 10 words, the 10 Commandments. It was there in the presence of a mighty wind and the earthquakes and lightning and storm. It was in the very presence. So that Elijah is now on this mountain again in a state of sadness and depression, because after he’d faced down the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel had said, well, because you’ve attacked my prophets, I’m going to attack you next. And even though this mighty strong, strong man had with his single handedly. Killed the 450 prophets and now this woman is attacking him and so he hightails it down into the wilderness and finds a place where he can sit under this tree and he just wants to die. But he’s had enough. That’s all that he can do. The Lord says no. Here’s some food. Go and be strengthened by this food for the journey that lies ahead of you.

And so it’s then that he goes and makes that journey down to Mount Horeb, and it’s there we find him there on this cave again, no doubt still in that experience of depression still in that experience of just being overwhelmed. By all that life has thrown in his direction. And then we’re given this kind of curious detail that then the Lord passed by. But he’s not in the wind. He’s not in the earthquake, he’s not in the fire these three ways that Elijah knows that God has been revealed in the past. And sometimes we need those big signs, those mighty deeds, to be able to experience and encounter God. Sometimes we need, you know, signs and wonders. We need the miracles. We need that the great preacher who’s able with the Healing Ministry to to demonstrate just the way that God is present. But sometimes that will overwhelm us. Sometimes we need something a little more subtle. Sometimes we need that experience where we can just strip away all of those outward manifestations, those mighty deeds, and come to something much more simple. And it’s there in the silence. It’s there in the gentle breeze, depending on the translation. That Elijah realises that no, this is now the very presence of God. And so when the disciples are there on the in the middle of the lake, the storm and the wind are just overwhelming them.

And we know that so many people have died there in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, when storms suddenly appear, that the waves can be just, you know, enormous. And swamp these little boats that would often ply their trade. So the disciples rightly, are fearful of their lives. You know, we know at least four of them are fishermen. We know that they’ve experienced these storms before. We know that they know how dangerous they are. And then in the midst of all this, the wind and the waves. To suddenly see this figure making his way, or what is it? What on Earth is there? You know what other terrible thing is coming to get us here in the midst of this storm? And then to recognise it’s Jesus and Jesus, you know usually makes that that statement do not be afraid and we can experience that in our own lives, you know. Sometimes, like the disciples on the lake, you’re like, come on. We’re in the. Middle of a. Freaking storm in the middle of this lake.

The wind and the waves are threatening to overwhelm the boat and you tell us not to be afraid. I don’t think that’s going to cut it. You know, we need something more and reassuring. And then Peter, Peter makes his great declaration and Peter is always a wonderful one to put his foot in his mouth to make these stupid and yet wonderful statements. And you know, so I can really identify with Peter in, in this experience. And Lord, if it’s. You invite me to. Come. And of course, Jesus come. There’s nothing that Jesus wants more than for us to be with him. When we strip. Away everything else, that’s usually what it comes down to that he’s longing for us to be in his presence. He’s longing for us to just simply be there before him. Sometimes that will be in the silence. Sometimes it will be in the midst of the fire.

Sometimes it will be in the darkness, but often and always. It will be. Wherever he is, he’s calling us and inviting us into that place where we can. Simply come. It doesn’t matter that it’s defying the laws of nature. He’s wanting us to come. He’s wanting us to, to trust in him and to keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, on his presence, on his power, on his love, to remember all he’s done in the past to remember all of the gifts that he’s shown us in the past. And wherever we are, whatever we’re doing to continue to. Respond to that call. Whatever we find ourselves, whether that’s in grief or sadness, whether we feel like our lives are over where we feel like we’ve done all we can do, and we’re just simply spent.

We’ve poured ourselves out and there’s nothing. More to give. In that place, in that moment, Jesus is still there, inviting us into life, inviting us into this freedom, inviting us into this deeper and richer and counter with him and his. For the day, wherever we find ourselves, there’s space in the silence of God. There’s room there for us to cry out, to shout out, and even if we don’t feel like we’re being heard, if we don’t feel like there’s any responding answer, the Lord is offering to us just to know and to trust that his desire is always for us. To come to calm and experience calm and encounter calm and be loved, calm and find your life in God because there is no other place. There is no other person with whom we can experience that fullness. And that life. So today, let’s indeed come. Let’s indeed take that step towards the person of Jesus and keep our eyes fixed firmly on the glory and wonder of God’s love for us.

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