Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting back to that boat.....

I wrote this blog post over 13 years ago. I still find myself wondering why it is that so many people who claim Christ's name seem to be consumed by so much fear, even to the extent that it would cause them to willfully ignore another passage in Matthew, that one about "the least of these."  I am distressed by those who would stand on Old Testament laws as though bolted to the floor, but who brush off the very words of Christ when our own worldview is inconvenienced by them. 

The original text is in standard type. My current thoughts are in italics. 

On September 11, 2002, I joined with many of you in a Service of Remembrance commemorating the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was a deeply meaningful service, made even more so by the absolute quiet of those in attendance in the moments before it began, unusual for a normally chatty congregation, but there was a somber mood that night, fully appropriate for the occasion.

The order of worship indicated that the chiming of the hour would mark the beginning of the service. There's a button the organist pushes to begin the tolling of the carillon, but on this evening something went awry. Rather than a chime, the opening bars of a hymn I can no longer remember rang out, and abruptly stopped. Again a button was pushed, with the same result. After several seconds of silence, there came the sound of a lone, low note played manually to approximate the cadence of the tolling of the hour. As that note was repeated - over and over - it began to sound to me like the signal horn of a ship returning home to port.

The picture that plaintive sound evoked in my mind -- one of ships and seas -- reminded me of the story of stormy waters tossing a fishing boat about, nervous disciples, and a weary Jesus soundly sleeping.

Frightened by the prospect of sinking, they roused him from his cot, and in a reply tinged with sadness that they still did not fully comprehend Who he was, he spoke words to this effect: Why are you so worried? I am here with you -- why are you so afraid?

He could, I suppose, have driven his point home by returning to his resting place and letting them ride out the storm alone. He could have stood on the deck of that fragile vessel with them until it passed. But he chose to stretch out his arm and calm the sea.

During these days of war and uncertainties and insecurities that have become our own rough seas, it comforts me to know that even if Christ had not with a simple gesture stilled the raging waters, His presence would have seen them safely through.

Of course we cannot and should not go through this life blissfully whistling past the horrors perpetuated by the evil choices human beings, gifted with the same free will we all possess, make. We rightfully, understandably, wonder where God is in all of this, and our fears make us trust more in human governments to protect us from all harm than in His sovereignty. 

I have more questions than answers. I don't understand the ways of God. I don't know why it often seems He withdraws from us when we need Him most. There are so many platitudes that would attempt to explain that, and they all pale when measured against times like these. None of us like the helplessness that comes with saying, "I don't know," when asked the hard questions. I surely don't. 

Which comes back to one of the hardest, most heartbreaking questions Christ asked of his disciples, the very people with whom he walked and rested and broke bread: 

Why, knowing Me, are you so afraid?