Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
10 June 2016 / Ordinary Time
A pastoral reflection for a precious congregation.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “I Am; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (John 6:16-21)
Two years ago this month we were caught by surprise in a furious storm that threatened to capsize and sink us. Without going into any nitty-gritty specifics, we recall that the winds and waves of our circumstances were against us. For all intents and purposes, it was the darkest and scariest time of our life as a congregation.
It just so happens that the psalmists described our dire situation with a deep sense of poetic artistry:
Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the LORD,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven;
they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men,
and were at their wits’ end. (107:23-27)
There is no better description of where we were and how we felt at that time: afraid, bruised, confused, disoriented.
In our flesh we were tempted to look solely at the human causes, human errors, and human reasons for the storm. (They were easy to spot.) But in our spirit we knew that the Lord had actually sent the winds and stirred the waters in order to shape a truer and better faith in us.
As we came to grips with that basic truth of reality we “cried out to the Lord in our trouble” (107:28a). Then, by grace through faith, we looked around for Jesus. And to our great relief, there he was — riding on the storm, walking on the sea, coming near us, speaking good news: “I Am; do not be afraid.”
It turns out that the storm-chaser was also the promise-keeper:
and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven. (107:28b-30)
Against all odds, the Lord delivered us from (what appeared to us to be) an imminent disaster and impending demise. Moreover, the Lord has delivered us to our desired haven and granted us the grace to rest in him.
The good news in all this is that our Lord Jesus Christ was (and is) with us!
After the storm, we were relieved and moved to worship. We lifted our eyes to heaven in worship and praise. Ever since, we have done as the psalmist urged,
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalm 107:30-32)
Brothers and sisters, we must always remember and never forget that the Lord God has shown himself faithful to us (again and again!) even when we have shown ourselves fearful and faithless to him.
Going forward, let us recount all the true, good, and beautiful things the Lord has done for us, and let us give him praise and thanks for them all.
Above all else, let us thank and praise the Lord for drawing near to help us even when others were drifting away from us.
Like the disciples, we were glad to take Jesus into our boat in the midst of the storm; but we are also glad that he is still with us even in this time of peace.
The love of our Savior shapes the story of our life — to the praise of his glorious grace.
Bonus: And in this we take comfort:
“There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”