Rev. Erick Olsen, Pastor of the Norfolk CT church for almost 18 years, is energized by time with family, good coffee, collaborating to eradicate racism, blossoms, and great reads.
Scripture: Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV)
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he 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!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Reflection: Trusting Christ in Me
This is not my favorite Jesus story.
On the one hand, I of course feel deep comfort and assurance in the promise that the Lord as my Shepherd and Storm-Calmer sustains me through my tempestuous times. I further recognize a call here to check my own perceptions of perishing, and I know that the “things of the world go strangely dim” when I can look with trust to Jesus.
But on the other hand, I admit to feeling less serene when I go through the mental exercise of joining the disciples in this rocky boat, and we actually turn our eyes upon Jesus – and he’s napping contentedly. This dynamic isn’t helped much by what feels like a magic trick that brings about the dead calm. Then, we get questioned about our faith.
The Gospel reference to a swamped boat in a great windstorm takes me back to our adult mission trip to Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi less than a year after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. We flew into New Orleans and drove east along the coast. The destruction had us speechless for much of the drive as we considered the power and terror of water and wind that could do things like twist a massive roadside billboard like a pipe cleaner.
One particular image is seared into memory: a blue and white fishing boat had come to rest in a live oak, probably 15-20 feet in the air. We just gaped, awe-struck at the absurdity of the boat’s perch, imagining Katrina’s strength. I am further reminded of other boats in this and other storms, working through flooded streets to rescue people, many of them of color, from rooftop islands. I struggle with the idea that, for those caught in such life storms, having lost so very much, words such as “Peace!” will do much more than platitudes of thoughts and prayers sent safely from a distance.
Then, I read the Gospel story again. I read it again at least in part because I recognize that it is usually the stories that aren’t my favorites that I need to revisit. Such tales, I recall, often rub me the wrong way only because they are intended to move me in the right way, in God’s Way.
Reading it again, I recognize my temptation to skip over the simple truth that Jesus was in the boat throughout the story. I gain a better perspective of who He is and what He does when I begin to let go of my “easy for you (Son of God) to say” view. We take Jesus into the boats of our life journey as he was, as he is, as he ever shall be – sleepy and hangry, majestic and wholly human and holy.
The question about having faith stronger than fear is, rather than a slight, an invitation to deep trust in the abiding presence of Christ in me. God’s strength is not merely around me through my storms and woes, but working through me in spite of my trepidation. The God of Jesus Christ never does anything safely from a distance, including when miracles like solidarity and help are delivered through fearful folks like me.
As waves rise, Lord, help me to trust more fully. May the wind of your Spirit move through us and stir a growing sense of your grace and power in each of us. Find us, we pray, in some fear – and leave us, we pray, in lasting awe. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for more than 597,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease
- For the victims and their families of the 272 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For the family and friends of Rev. John Melvin Hay, UCC pastor who served in MA and CT, who died on December 19, 2020
- For the family and friends of Rev. Donald F. Jennings, UCC pastor who served in Rehoboth, MA and several churches in New England, who died May 30
- For the family and friends of Rev. Paul E. Sinn, former area minister for the historic Massachusetts conference, who died June 6
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For all the high school graduates throughout Southern New England
- For the creative outlets that help ground us and connect us with others
This Week in History:
June 14, 1922 (99 years ago) President Warren B. Harding becomes the first president to broadcast their voice on the radio during a dedication ceremony for a Francis Scott Key memorial site. Harding was also the first president whose election result was announced over the radio (1920). The first radio-specific address meant to reach the nation would not be broadcast until 1925 by President Calvin Coolidge. President Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to appear on television in 1939. President George H.W. Bush was the first president to use email at the White House (1992), and the White House website did not appear until President Bill Clinton's first term (1994). Today, political leaders can reach millions instantly through the internet using social media networks.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”