Day Twenty Four — Tuesday

Kneeler 94

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved:
and though the mountains are shaken in the midst of the sea;

3 Though the waters rage and foam:
and though the mountains quake at the rising of the sea.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God:
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her, therefore she shall not be moved:
God will help her, and at break of day.

6 The nations make uproar, and the kingdoms are shaken:
but God has lifted his voice, and the earth shall tremble.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us:
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

a rather long (but special) excerpt from Chris Cheah's sermon (based on John 6:1-21; Jesus walks on the water.)

"Now let's think about that curious silence at the beginning of John in giving no reasons why the disciples got into the boat. We might first remember Mark's account started with Jesus' call to 'let us cross over'. This is a call that resonates. There's at least an echo of the call to repentance - the call to take a journey into faith, towards change, to go to another shore.

Hearing this amplifies the impact of the silence in John. Suddenly I realised that when I get in the boat to make a crossing, maybe I do not entirely know why I am doing it, or where I am going, even if I think I do.

And now John's careful choice of words at the end make more sense. John does not say whether or not the disciples actually arrived at Caper'na-um. Rather they came to 'the land to which they were going'. The boat, it seems, arrives at the right place when Jesus steps into it, whether or not his disciples know where that place is when they leave.

Then the wind rises. The image of a rising wind, perhaps suggesting an impending storm, during a dark crossing of the inland sea, is a huge and powerful one which you really should ponder yourselves.

Suffice it to say that major internal transitions in us are often accompanied by a rising wind and the troubled waters. Our big changes, which can be the result of a natural stage of life, or triggered by some very disruptive event, can lead to feelings like anger, resentment, melancholy, doubt, self-doubt, depression and lethargy along with strange and snaky reactions to things. Such transitions can seem to be quite dark at the time as we lose perspective and cannot see our way out. The shore can seem distant. It can even seem as if God has deserted us in what feels like a sinking boat.

Which is one reason there can be a fair bit of fear present during a dark crossing of the inland sea, whether such fears are obvious, or unconscious, or a combination of both. Interestingly, John tells us the disciples were afraid when they saw Jesus approaching the boat. But they do not seem to have turned away, or become terrified like the disciples in Mark. Rather, they watched their fears approach. Perhaps this suggests that one way through a storm may be to turn towards those fears, hard though that is. That one way of dispelling the darkness of an inner crossing is to find a way of recognising within our fears the return, perhaps in an unexpected and strange manner, of the light.

And, thinking about it, this rings true. Ask yourself what you really fear in a rising wind, and you may be surprised. It can involve confronting and peeling back layers of fears, and layers of comforting illusions we have built around ourselves, and getting through avoidance behaviours. But, in the end, our fears can lead us to recognise some of the images we have been carrying around about what we really use as our measures of 'success' in life. This process can be scary, not only because we have to turn towards our fears. But we may also end up by having to admit that we have invested a large part of who we think we are in these images. And that they are just that - images projected by our memories, desires and conditioning. And maybe that living up to this image may not have been practicable, or at least it is no longer practicable, which is sad. Or perhaps that the image was never particularly attractive nor desirable - that we have been foolishly sucked in by other people's ideas of success, with resulting in various shades of regret.

But this kind of recognition can also be liberating. It can provide an opportunity to make something of our experiences, and start over. And it can provide a rare perspective on ourselves, because we see ourselves honestly as we really are, largley stripped of illusions. If we can avoid the temptation to be maudlin, then it can even provide a window to see ourselves a way resembling the way God sees us - with true compassion. And we may come to understand through direct experience that our true centre lies somewhere else, in a place, beyond images, where no storm can ever touch."

St Philip's Anglican Church,
cnr Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602.