When the wind blows up, there is another side to our beautiful Sydney Harbour that doesn’t seem so gentle or kind. There is the lurking threat, the warning that there is power there that cannot be controlled. We can imagine what it might be like to fall into this sea and flounder amidst the waves that rock, roll, twist and rush past with the currents, as you pass the Sydney Heads. We wonder what it would be like to feel the pull of the sea dragging us this, or that way and probably down into the depths where humans cannot, and do not survive. We can imagine ourselves small, helpless and at the mercy of these alien powers to do with us what they will.
This image of being on the sea in a storm has been used in many ways to imagine the struggles of our lives. We feel ‘all at sea’ or caught in the turbulence and storms of life. We are ‘blown off course’ or caught in the raging waters of change or crisis. As we look into these deep dark waters they reflect the harsh side of life, the stresses, challenges and threats that sometimes overwhelm us, when we are caught in crises where we are thrown off balance. We feel pushed and propelled in all directions under forces that seem beyond us and sometimes beyond life. We feel like a small vessel in a huge, mountainous sea that threatens our very existence. Sometimes there are forces within our bodies that generate illness in ways that seem foreign and dangerous, waging war against our very being. Sometimes the crisis arises between people who stand against one another and the conflict escalates and builds into something that draws others into its insatiable vortex. Sometimes the powers of the world wage war on the vulnerable and powerless, the little ones of the earth, and we feel caught in the helplessness to defend justice and protect the vulnerable. Anger and rage rises within us but we are still helpless to change or stand against such power alone.
Life is filled with the very dangers and uncertainties that threaten each of us in profound or more moderate ways. Life has implicit dangers and risks, and we sometimes find ourselves in the raging waves, or turbulent seas, being pushed and pulled through grief, shame, illness, unemployment, conflict, injustice, violence, abuse and the ensuing confusion and disillusionment. Life is a very small boat on a very big sea, often at the whim of forces we cannot see and do not fully understand.
In the COVID-19 world that threat and danger seems all the more prescient and troubling.
This week’s Gospel reading (Matthew 14:22-33) holds this powerful image before us. He sent the people away to their homes and then the disciples were dispatched to cross the lake (‘Sea’ of Galilee) while he went into the mountains to pray. Through the night a storm blew up, as is common on the lake. The little boat of the disciples began to be thrown around in the waves. The winds and waves threatened the life of these disciples crossing the sea to engage the dangerous and foreign world beyond their region and side of the lake. They were sent across, with Jesus to follow, to participate in God’s Mission to the world! We are similarly sent!
In this story of Matthew, Jesus calls to them from beyond the waves and wind, beyond the boat and they are amazed, for the presence of Jesus comes to them in the midst of this crisis. Peter asks if he should come to Jesus and he is invited to get out and ‘Come!’ Peter takes a step or two and then hears wind and waves, the power of the forces acting upon the boat, and his fear overwhelms him, and he begins to sink. O how we sink as fear, tiredness, frustration and hopelessness as it overwhelms us. We sink beneath the waves and feel we are drowning. Jesus reached out to Peter and held his arm. They got into the boat and all was calm. Will we journey across the ‘Other Side’ in God’s Mission, trusting this God?
Extracted from Geoff Stevenson – Reflection Notes 9.8.20