ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
Some time ago I attended a diocesan planning meeting. There were six or eight of us there. Some I knew well, some not. We sat around a long table.
This was a planning meeting. We exchanged ideas. We did some brainstorming. The discussion was lively and positive and very creative. Everyone participated. It was the kind of meeting I enjoy.
In a meeting like that you get to know each other fairly quickly. There was a man there I did not know well. I’ll call him Jim. In retrospect, I remember two things about Jim: I liked him. I don’t remember his ideas, but I remember liking him and being glad he was there.
The second thing I remember about Jim is this: whenever he spoke up (and he did several times) he used the same phrase. In response to someone else’s comment he’d say “I’m comfortable with that because…” whatever. Sometimes he used a variation. In response to someone else’s comment he’d say, “I’m not comfortable with that because…” whatever.
In the course of our discussion I heard Jim use these phrases again and again. “I’m comfortable with that because…” Or, “I’m not comfortable with that because…”
It made me stop and think. These are not uncommon phrases. I use them, too. I use them to explain the reason I think or feel some way.
It made me realize that the way I think or feel is so often based upon my personal comfort zone.
Is that true for you? Do you often think and feel the way you do based on your personal comfort?
In this morning’s gospel the disciples are seeking comfort. Actually, they are seeking something far more basic: They are seeking deliverance.
Jesus told them to get in the boat. “Let us go across to the other side,” he said. And so they set out. At some point Jesus went down to the stern to take a nap. (Mark is careful to tell us that Jesus had the luxury of sleeping on a cushion: nice crossing; safe passage.)
But a windstorm arose, and the disciples panicked. Keep in mind that at least four of the disciples were seasoned fishermen. There are windstorms at sea, and then there are windstorms at sea. Mark tells us this was a great windstorm, great enough to convince the disciples they were about to drown.
They awakened Jesus and they said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
That’s a legitimate question, both for the disciples and for us. Some would call it an existential question: does God care about us?
After all, it was Jesus who got us into this mess to start with. “Go across to the other side,” he said. And having started us on this journey, isn’t it his responsibility to keep us safe, to make us comfortable?
But I’m not comfortable with windstorms. They frighten me.
The voyage with Jesus should be easy. I never expected windstorms. At Jesus’ invitation, I got into the boat. I got baptized. That’s my insurance policy against windstorms, right? I want to be comfortable…
But that’s not how it works. Boats are made to sail, not to remain safely docked near the shore.
People of faith are subject to the same misfortunes as those who do not believe.
Some preachers claim that people of faith will have an easy crossing. They preach the gospel of comfort. Don’t believe that gospel. It is a lie.
Those who preach it are either spiritually naïve and/or out for your money. Don’t believe them.
Jesus calls us into the boat: “Let’s cross to the other side.”
The crossing is never smooth, but the voyage is worthwhile.
Some of you will remember Bill Dawson. Bill was an early member of St. Augustine’s. He was an altar minister. He served on the vestry. He was a devoted man of faith. You could always depend on Bill. He also served as a minister to prisoners through Kairos Prison Ministries.
It’s hard to believe, but Bill died eighteen years ago. In the year 2000 Bill crossed with Jesus. They took the boat to the other side.
Bill did not have an easy passage. The final months were painful. The final weeks were excruciating. They were certainly not comfortable.
I heard Bill cry out for Jesus to take him home, and in my heart I cried out, too. God, take him soon.
I heard Bill complain. I’m glad he complained. He had a right to complain. He hurt so badly.
But I never heard Bill ask, “Why me?”
I think Bill knew the truth: the crossing is never easy. Great windstorms arise. People of faith have no insurance policy against discomfort.
What we have is Jesus in the stern of the boat and, indeed, Jesus cares.
Having called us into the boat, Jesus will see us to the other side.
We can count on that.
Windstorms arise, but despite our pain and our fears, Jesus will see us to the other side.
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