A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat,
so that the boat was already being swamped.
But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
He woke up and rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea,
“Peace! Be still!”
As summer comes to a close, we find ourselves in the eye of the storm yet again. Not unlike this familiar biblical narrative, the events of recent months remind us of just how the winds of storms beat upon our journeys through life. These winds can be as physically real as the winds of Hurricane Harvey. With an unnatural force, flooding and devastation have beaten down upon the city of Houston and other cities and states in the region in ways that will take months, if not years, from which to recover. The force of the winds have left a trail of destruction in its path – even as our attention has moved on to the threatening path of Irma, the next hurricane creating havoc in the Caribbean as it moves towards our land.
The continual images of people stranded, struggling for their survival, stand alongside the humble images of ordinary heroes finding ways to extend a hand to safety. We are again reminded that we cannot control the storm, but we can control how we respond. I am so grateful for first responders of all walks of life, the Red Cross and our very own Presbyterian Disaster Agency who are faithfully on the ground, bringing hope in the midst of devastation. They embody our call to be present for one another when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm.
However, the storms that beat upon us are not only those that come from natural disasters, but also the storms of personal challenges framed by loss, pain and illness. And then there are those hurricane winds pounding upon us with seemingly the equal force of the “Harveys and Irmas” – winds and storms that seem to be harder for us to address. In recent weeks and months, we have experienced a cultural phenomenon that has found voice in the winds of hate, the winds of terrorism, the winds of racism, the winds of war. These stormy winds are beating down upon our nation and world, compromising the very nature of humanity and God’s good creation. These stormy winds keep throwing us off our balance as the worst of humanity seems to have been unleashed – finding justification in proudly bearing images historically associated with genocide and hate. These winds seem to silence our voices, making us dangerously complicit as others actively speak against our brothers and sisters of other races, cultures, languages, and faiths.
But here is the challenge for those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus – we are called to serve in the midst of these winds, even in the eye of the storms. This is our role as the church of Jesus Christ. It is precisely in these uncomfortable, life-threatening and assumption-challenging winds that you and I are called to use our hands, hearts, feet, treasures, minds, and voices. For not unlike how we respond to natural disasters, we are called to respond to these stormy winds as well. As a people of faith – as a people who claim to follow Jesus – we understand what we are called to do and who we are called to be. Our teachings are clear. We are called to resist any and all forms of bias and racism that separate us from God and one another. We are called to resist any and all forms of power and idolatry that tempt us away from God. We are called to embrace the stranger and alien in our midst. We are called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We are called to value children, the elderly and the imprisoned. In essence, we are called to be living breathing bearers of the Gospel – a people of the impossible – embodying resurrection possibilities at home, in our schools, in our communities of faith, in our neighborhoods, in our nation, and in the world.
So as we begin a new program year across the many congregations and ministries of our presbytery and as we prepare to celebrate 300 years of God’s faithfulness, may we boldly reaffirm our call to be a Jesus people. May we be active in love- caring for those within our communities and those outside. May we encourage one another to be agents of transformation for a time such as this. May we nurture and disciple another generation of followers – a generation who understands their call – our call – will always be in the eye of the storm.
The winds and gales will rise – but they will not prevail. May we hear the voice of Jesus saying – “Peace, be still.”