The Storms They Are A Brewin’

Bob Henry

Indianapolis First Friends

August 13, 2017

Matthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[a] for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”


28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind,[b] he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”



As a kid, I always loved this story of Jesus walking on the water. I often hoped that one day I too would step into a pool, lake, or ocean and somehow be able to walk on water, sadly it hasn’t happened yet, and honestly, I am no longer trying.  Probably because if I only focus on that part of this story, I am most likely missing the importance of it all together. 


I had a professor who once said that we too easily get wrapped up in the miracles and divine instances of Jesus and skip right over the human aspects. Yet, it is often those human aspects that give us something to understand, relate to, and ultimately learn from. 


So this morning, I want to focus on what I think this text has been teaching us for quite some time about our daily lives. 


First, getting in a boat for the disciples was as ordinary as us getting in our cars to drive to work.  They knew the seas like we know the roads around our homes.  I am sure their boats often seemed to travel in the direction they wanted to go without a thought - much like the way we talk about our cars knowing how to get us home. 


The disciples...

●     were comfortable. 

●     knew the weather patterns. 

●     knew the warning signs.

●     were prepared, because...

●     were skilled fishermen.    


Yet, at the same time, Jesus was finishing the night’s lecture on the side of the hill and dismissing the crowds. I visualize an author’s book talk at Barnes and Noble where people are still mingling and wanting to get their book signed, yet Jesus has been on tour for some time and he is tired.  He just needs his space and some down time. I can relate to this Jesus.  He just wanted to put his feet up on a big rock, lean up on a tree and meditate to the sound of the evening bugs.  


Do you have this picture? 


Jesus is up on the mountain, most likely looking over the sea in which the disciples have just ventured out on. He most likely was aware of the storm that was a brewin’ because from his vantage point he could literally see it coming.  


I kind of assume that Jesus, as many of us, laid back, watched the storm come in, but in his exhaustion fell asleep.  Like I said, this is the Jesus I can relate to.


Yet, throughout the night as Jesus rested his eyes, the disciples fought for their lives.  This was not the usual storm.  Different texts scribe the storm’s impact in different ways.  Some say it battered the boat, others say it tossed the boat, one even says it buffeted the boat.  Stephen Tinkner says those aren’t strong enough words. He says,


“Actually, the original Greek goes further. The word used in the Matthean text is actually basinizo, meaning to torture. It conveys a sense of human suffering because it is used in some ancient Greek texts to express the application of torture to someone. So it is the middle of the night, the disciples are surrounded by a darkness we modern day light polluted people can’t understand, they are likely on a small boat, and a violent storm has surrounded and engulfed them. We can only imagine the fear pulsing through these disciple’s veins as the storm engulfs their lives.”


This was intense, folks.  


So maybe it was thunder or a bolt of lightening that jolted Jesus from his much deserved rest and meditation.  But the text says that Jesus went to them early in the morning. Many people immediately think it is dawn or as the sun is coming up, but I sense it was probably more like two or three in the morning and still pitch black (remember there were no lights on the boat, or lighthouses on land).


When people are under such stress and torture with very little sleep.  Well, you know...they don’t see things right. They had probably been fighting for their lives for hours in complete darkness, their internal clocks, their internal navigation, their nerves all had left them.  They had been battered, tossed, buffeted, and tortured - this was not what they were used to.  


Actually, it was custom that fisherman crossed a sea by staying in sight of land and traveling around the perimeter of the sea - instead of going straight across.  The text says that by the time Jesus realizes what is going on their boat was far from the land.  They were probably a bit discombobulated, but from Jesus’ vantage point, he could have seen their exact location through the lightening strikes or possible moonlight. 


Did Jesus walk on water to get to them - or did he appear to walk on water? Maybe he was on the shore and to them he appeared to walk on the water.  This is beside the point. 


The important thing is that he knew where they were and met them in their distress and urged them through their fear.


Let’s just pause at this point and turn this story on ourselves.  


Have you ever encountered a storm in your life that you were not expecting?  Not the ones that arise on occasion that we know how to get through or maybe even have taken precautions or made preparations for, but that unexpected storm that batters, and tosses, and buffets our lives leaving us feeling tortured and helpless?


The storm that…

●     knocks you off your feet. 

●     distorts your vision and abilities. 

●     has you crying out, SAVE ME!


❏    Maybe it was a marriage or relationship that took a bad turn.

❏    Maybe it was a deep depression or even suicidal thoughts that took over your mind.

❏    Maybe it was trouble or a struggle with a child or parent that was out of your control.

❏    Maybe it was a work situation that turned people against you.


And not all of these unexpected storms have to be personal.  


Societal storms surround us as well.

❏    Like the storm of impending nuclear war which has arisen in our world just recently.

❏    Or how about more recently - just yesterday - the storms of racism in Charlotteville,

❏    Or how about misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, that are gripping our world.

❏    Or storms of financial collapse, police brutality, economic inequality, human trafficking, lack of educational opportunities, impending pipelines on sacred ground…


And the list of storms could go on. 


We seem surrounded all the time by impending new storms that we are not expecting. Storms that when they arise debilitate us, consume us, and have us and our neighborhoods, and even faith communities incapacitated and crying out to be saved!


What Jesus asked of the disciples was rather risky.  He asked the disciples in this moment of utter unraveling to be bold, to step out, to not doubt their potential?


Fear often grips us, leaving us paralized. We default to survival. But God wants more of us than mere survival.  He wants us to step out and be bold and believe that we can make a difference in the midst of the storm.


I like how Stephen Tickner in a blog post described this boldness, he said,


“You see boldness isn’t arrogance, boldness isn’t bravado, boldness is what Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] called “creative maladjustment.” It’s having the courage to say and do the unbelievable, the counter-cultural, because we are strengthened in the fact that we are following in the path of, and trying to live like, Jesus.”


Peter was having a moment of creative maladjustment on and outside that boat.


Maybe Jesus is asking of us the same.  Maybe we need a “creative malajustment” to overcome the storms of our lives. 


❏    We need to say, we can make a difference in our marriages or family situations.

❏    We need to say, we are going to get help for our depression or suicidal thoughts.

❏    We need to say, we will make our workplaces better. 


And just maybe we as Quakers need some creative maladjustments.


It has been far too long…


❏    We need to say NO to racism in this country - that white supremacy is NOT accepted and hate is not the way to a better world.

❏      We need to say, we will stand against nuclear weapons and war and fight for peace.

❏    We need to say, we will speak up against misogyny, homophobia, and Islamophobia, police brutality, economic inequality, human trafficking, the lack of educational opportunities, impending pipelines on sacred ground…and the list could go on.


And just maybe we need to say, we believe we can take all this hatred in the world and transform it with love.


This is what Spiritual Guide Wayne Dyer often speaks about. He says,


“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.” 


This is what Jesus was asking of Peter and the rest of the disciples, and what God is asking of us.  Through the storms we must boldly go beyond our form to be transformed and to help transform this world.


One who went beyond his form and through many unexpected storms to transform this world was Martin Luther King Jr. and I would like to conclude this morning with his words:


“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality...I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”