Jesus, let your love overwhelm me…
In the name of the father and of the son of the Holy Spirit Amen, please sit.
I think other than the crucifixion and the passion of our Lord, this piece of gospel has inspired more artwork in the Christian world than any other. Every Sunday I look for an image that will help us think about the gospel. And when you search Google for this, so many images come up. And I think it’s because it’s so easy to picture in your mind’s eye.
We all know what a rough sea looks like. We all know how dangerous a rough sea is and how out of control it can feel around. And the Sea of Galilee is well known for being a tumultuous sea. It can be absolutely calm. And then all of a sudden the winds come down to the mountain and you’re in the middle of a storm. So you can set out and it’s absolutely beautiful. And before you know it, you can’t see land and you find yourself in very, very serious bother very, very quickly.
So picture the boat. And when I was picturing the boat, I must admit, and I think it’s because of all of the images that you see about the boats, it was quite a small boat in my mind. But actually, when you think about it, all the disciples were on the boat, Jesus other followers were on the boat and Jesus was on the boat. And so, you know, we’re probably talking of a minimum of 15 people.
Well, that’s not a small boat. That’s quite a large boat. So it must have felt quite stable to start with, at least. But the. As the sea came up around them and the water rushed over the side, you can see how the panic starts to set in because you thought you were safe. That’s the point. Because when you started the journey, you thought you were safe when you got in the boat. It felt safe when you went out into the water, it was big and you were surrounded by your friends and it felt safe.
And then suddenly from nowhere, you are no longer safe, suddenly from nowhere. The waves are coming up over the side of the boat and your comfortable journey from one shore to the other is now in danger and you don’t know what to do. And so Jesus is roused from his sleep, Jesus would have been given the place of honour in the boat, in the stern, there would have been a rug for him to sit on and a cushion.
He’s had a hard day and he’s dropped off to sleep. I know how he feels. I go every year to Caldey Island just off the coast of Tenby and we go in a boat and that’s that’s very much the boat I have in my mind. It’s it’s about 30 people around the edge. And if it’s a pleasant day and the sea is quite calm and the sun is beating down, I tend to sit in the stern. I like tend to drop off.
And it’s only as the island comes into view and Edmond puts his elbow in to me and says, Daddy, we’re nearly there that I wake up. And I’m terribly grumpy when he does that, so I can only imagine how Jesus felt when somebody walks up to Jesus. Halp. We’re in we’re in dreadful danger, and they say in their panic, do you not care about us? So Jesus is not only grumpy because he’s been prodded awake from a very comfortable sleep, thank you very much.
He’s also grumpy because now these people, he has been teaching these people, he is loved and cared for, these people who he thinks have heard what he’s had to say and saying to him, Don’t you care for us? Don’t you care for us?
[It’s nice to see you, Patricia, lovely. I’m going to carry on.]
The point is that Jesus has woken up a little bit grumpy and he rebukes them well rather he rebukes the wind and the sea and he says, quiet, now be calm.
Jesus uses these words, these exact words, somewhere else in the gospel. He uses them once one other time. And it is to the demoniac. It is to the man possessed, he tells to be quiet, he uses exactly the same words, and so he says to creation around him, quiet now be calm and creation obeys. Here is one of the greatest miracles that Jesus does Jesus calms creation. He does so because he is God. This is a miracle that shows Christ’s divinity.
And then he turns to the disciples, how is it that you have no faith, why are you frightened? And in this part of the gospel, we turn to the human Jesus because we understand that grumpiness, because he’s got up and he’s gone to the waves and the sea, be calm. And then he turns to the disciples and said, Where is your faith? Where is your faith? And this is the teaching that reaches down through those ages to us today, where is your faith?
And it’s hard to hear that message clearly because it’s coming from a grumpy Jesus and it’s coming from a rebuke and it’s hard to hear a lesson in a rebuke. We know that from our own lives, if somebody is telling you off it’s hard to hear the truth of what they’re saying, but what Jesus is teaching us in this gospel that he is there with us in sorrow, in loss and grief. He is there with us in problems and in the complexity of life.
He is there in anxiety and despair. We just have to have faith in him. That’s easier said than done, so let’s take each one of those things Jesus is there in our sorrow, we are in our boat. Our daily lives and sorrow can come from nowhere. Grief can come from nowhere. It can knock us for six. And before we know where we are, we are questioning our faith. But Jesus is there in that moment. Jesus is assuring us that he goes ahead of us to his father’s house.
This is my faith because Jesus has told me so. So I mustn’t give in to that sorrow, I must hear that rebuke from Jesus, where is your faith? In the daily problems and complexity of life. It can sometimes feel overwhelming and my gosh, over the last 18 months, two years, hasn’t it felt overwhelming? Hasn’t it felt at times that the water is coming over the edge of the boat? But where is your faith? Jesus will steer us through the storm, Jesus will care for us, Jesus will hold our hands and make sure that we are safe.
If we call out to him in our problems and in the complexity of daily life, he will protect us. Finally, he is there with us in anxiety and despair. And for me, this is the hardest of all, because in despair you cease to think coherently and this is where that rebuke has to cut through. This is where when you are in despair, this is where you need to hear the rebuke from Jesus in that boat, where is your faith?
It’s the hardest because your mind is askew and you’re not thinking straight. But the more I reflected on this gospel, the more I realised that this gospel gives us the wonderful imagery of that boat to be able to find even when we can’t think coherently, even when we can’t put our lives in an ordered line. And this is how things are working. We often are able to reach for images. So in despair, when you’re not thinking clearly, turn to that image of being in that boat tossed around with the rain coming down with a thunder, with a lightning, with a boat about to turn over.
Go for that image in your mind. And then Jesus rising from his seat, reaching out to you and saying, where is your faith? Place your trust in Jesus. And take another step forward. And you know what, you might fall again. So stand up again. And place your trust in Jesus and take another step and another step and another step and another step and another step, because in your faith in Jesus Christ and in his love for you. You will be saved.
St. Paul understands it. He tells us in the first line of our reading from Corinthians. The love of Christ overwhelms us. There is nothing this world can throw at us that the love of Christ cannot overcome. This is what is at the heart of being a good father. The heart of being a good father is understanding that the love of Christ will overwhelm us. And in the moments that are difficult and in the moments that are hard, we have to ask ourselves, where is our faith?
That’s the task for this week, and I have to say, I don’t think the next month is going to be terribly easy for a lot of people as we see the extension of the restrictions when we thought that things were getting back to normal and now they’re not, so easily we will fall into despair because we have no reserves left. So when you feel that happening, feel yourself in that boat, feel yourself with Jesus and see him stood before you saying where is your faith and say, Jesus, let your love overwhelm me.
That’s the prayer to take away this week.
Jesus, let your love overwhelm me.