Boat in a Storm

Friday, June 8, 2012 — Week of Proper 4, Year Two

Roland Allen, Mission Strategist, 1947

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)

Psalms 40, 54 (morning) // 51 (evening)

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Galatians 3:15-22

Matthew 14:22-36

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

As I read today’s story from Matthew, my mind is filled with pictures from our trip to the Holy Land a couple of years ago.

There is a fishing boat from Jesus’ era that has been preserved after it was discovered in the Sea of Galilee a few years ago during a drought. The story of its delicate exhumation and preservation is a good story in itself. The remains of the craft have been reconstructed, and there are fascinating graphics of its original construction and repeated repair with twelve different kinds of wood. It seems remarkably small, almost 27 feet long, 7 1/2 feet wide, and less than four feet deep. Not the kind of ship you would want ride in a storm.

There is a little bay called Tagba, which has several springs that carry fresh water into the Galillean sea. Because of the flow of water it was a traditional place for fishermen to wash their nets. It was easy to imagine Jesus calling the disciples in a similar setting as they washed and repaired their nets along the sandy, rocky shore.

Above Tagba on the bluff, is a place called “Eremos” — “a lonely place.” There is a shallow cave there that imagination and some tradition identifies as a lonely place where Jesus may have retreated for prayer. It is this place that is in my mind when I read today how Jesus, “after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.” For me, sitting in that cave was a thin place of contact with Jesus and those days.

They say that storms can come up quickly on the Sea of Galilee. Warm, moist air blows in from the Mediterranian, hits the mountains just west of Galilee and combines with the local atmosphere pushed by the inland water and desert influences. Quick, fierce storms can hit without much warning.

From the cave at the lonely place overlooking the sea, Jesus could observe the approach of menacing weather and see a ship foundering off shore.

In Hebrew Scripture there are several passages that speak of God’s walking upon the sea. I’ve heard stories from Asian traditions about holy men who were able to tread across water. I don’t know about such things. They are beyond my experience or observing.

But I do know that Jesus walks into our storms, when our small emotional boat feels threatened with capsizing. When the wind and waves of circumstance appear beyond our capacities to navigate or even endure. In such storms, Jesus comes and invites us to have enough courage to risk walking through the fears. It is so easy to look at what threatens us, and to panic. But sometimes we can keep our eyes on Jesus, the stillpoint of calm in the center of the storm, and we can walk through the storm. Focus, trust, perseverance, hope. These things can carry us, especially when our boat is so small and the stormy sea is so big.

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