I am not a good sailor. I’m really much more comfortable on dry land. So when I had to get on a ferry to sail from Ramsgate to Dunkirk, some years ago, I was apprehensive. But it’s only 20 miles – so I thought ‘how bad can it be?’ If I’d known how bad it would be, I would never have got on the boat at all.
It was a gusty, wild sort of day, the sea was dark grey and looked like boiling ink, and the boat pitched and rolled and yawed and heaved and various other sea-faring terms I don’t understand. On the boat it was truly horrible – people being sick everywhere, falling around, moaning & groaning. There was only one thing we wanted to do on that boat and that was GET OFF. When we finally reached Dunkirk all any of us could think of was getting back onto dry land and staying there.
So I really sympathise with the disciples in the gospel story which we heard. They’re in a fairly small fishing boat, and although they’re not going far – probably only 7 miles or so – a terrible storm hits them. They have no motor, of course – you can imagine them struggling with flapping sails, struggling with oars and frantically baling out the water that’s coming in. All they can think of is reaching shore in one piece. Meanwhile Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. His friends wake him ‘Don’t you care that we’re sinking?’. And Jesus gets up and stills the storm.
His disciples of course are amazed and it gives them one of their first glimpses of just how special Jesus is and they ask themselves ‘who is this, that even wind & waves obey him?’.
And then, presumably, they finished rowing, sailing or a bit of both to get back to shore.
If Jesus had the power to make the storm stop, why didn’t he finish the job by making a favourable wind blow them back to complete safety? Maybe Jesus was teaching his friends something about what life with Jesus is like. Jesus doesn’t stop the storms happening, he doesn’t magic you back to dry land, but Jesus can still the storm and enable you to get on with your journey.
As we celebrate the beginning of Phoebe’s journey today, we thank God that Jesus will be with her all through her life. There will be storms – Jesus won’t stop the harder times from happening. There will be times when she longs for safety and security – and Jesus won’t give her a magic answer. But with Jesus alongside her, Phoebe will be able to travel through life, knowing the storms will never overcome her, and that she will sail on, surrounded by the love of the one who can still the storms and make life worth living.
Jesus will travel with Phoebe all her life – just as he will travel with each of us. The storms will come, but with the help of Jesus we will never sink & perish.
May we know God’s love in Jesus all our lives long. Amen.