April 18, 2010 Sleeping in the Boat Matthew 8: 23-27
I just started a book the other day that’s about a guy who was some kind of government official in Paris. He had a fairly stable office job, doing some kind of research about air pollution across the world.
He was in his mid twenties and saw his life stretching out before him in his office job, which he found satisfying but it didn’t quite scratch the itch that he had for his life.
So he looked out his window on a beautiful day, and according to his account, he decided on the spot, to be the first person to travel around the world completely by his own power.
He wasn’t athletic, he hadn’t ridden a bike in years, he was out of shape and he had never even been camping—but he decided to take on this incredible challenge. He enlisted the help of a friend he had gotten to know in college, and three years later they had failed at a lot of things.
They had failed to find a corporate sponsor that was willing to take on their project.
They had failed to prepare their bodies adequately for the strain of the journey.
They had failed at pulling together a public relations campaign that could have made a lot of things easier for them.
But one big success these guys had was in building a sturdy, ocean-worthy pedal powered boat that would be capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Since they were so short of the money that they needed, they thought if they could at least get as far as America, they’d have a good chance of raising more support once people saw how far they’d already come, pedaling across the ocean.
I’m at the part of the book now where these two guys have been at sea for maybe a couple of weeks, pedaling in 2 hour shifts during the day and 4 hour shifts at night so the other one could sleep. The idea was to pedal as close to 24 hours a day as they could, to keep their progress steady.
So basically, these guys were traveling across the Atlantic Ocean at walking speed. He estimated it to be a journey of roughly 4,500 miles. And they were doing it two and four hours at a time
At one point a larger fishing boat sent out a lifeboat and a crew to ‘rescue’ these guys. The crew in the lifeboat spoke a different language than the two on the journey, and so it took a lot of gesturing for them to indicate that they really didn’t need or want to be ‘rescued’.
That’s a fun scene to imagine—these two sunburned, sweaty, stinky guys in the middle of the ocean, on their little peddle-boat, trying to convince a crew of well meaning rescuers that they were fine, that they knew where they were going, that they didn’t really need help. I’m sure from any other point of view, it was clear that they were crazy.
See, these two guys had devoted themselves to something that was bigger than they were. If they would have waited until they had raised all the money they needed—they never would have gone.
If they would have waited until their bodies were ready—they never would have gone.
If they would have waited until all of their fears proved to be unfounded—they never would have gone.
But they went…. with very little experience.
They got in the boat.
They set out on this journey really only knowing one thing for sure—that their bodies and minds would either adapt, strengthen, and change to fit the journey…or they could quite possibly die.
It’s kind of like what ought to happen when we get in the boat with Jesus.
There ought to be a sense of adventure, a sense of risking it all—a sense that we are woefully unprepared and the only certain thing is that we will either adapt, strengthen, and change…or quite possibly die.
Jesus got in and out of boats all the time. And as you heard already, there was a time when he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
Have you ever wondered how he kept sleeping as he was getting soaked from the waves that were sweeping over the boat? Try soaking someone who’s sleeping with a bucket of water sometime and see if they stay sleeping very long!
I used to imagine this story as a kid, and it was hard to see Jesus asleep as this violent storm surrounded him.
It was hard to imagine Jesus detaching from the world like that; 12 other guys rushing around him; scared for their lives on this boat they were in.
With my good Mennonite background, I was pretty sure Jesus was either lazy or just plain ignorant to be able to sleep as all this was happening.
I knew Jesus wasn’t really lazy or ignorant—after all I grew up in church.
But still, the idea that he’d sleep while people were scared for their lives—it just didn’t sit well.
And it still doesn’t sit well, when Jesus sleeps.
Jesus sleeps, and I’m scared to death.
Jesus sleeps, and I lock my door at night.
Jesus sleeps, and the stranger comes just a little too close. And Jesus sleeps.
See, Jesus sleeps, but we need him here. Jesus sleeps, and a fight is breaking out.
Jesus sleeps and we’re losing our jobs, our hope, and our minds. And Jesus sleeps.
And while He sleeps; we’re wide awake.
We can’t see tomorrow because of the storm! And all the while, Jesus sleeps.
So The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Some God this is. What good is a God who doesn’t know what’s going on? What good is a Lord who can’t keep you safe from the storm? What use can we possibly have for a God who needs to be woken from His slumber to come to our aid?
A God who doesn’t keep us from cancer? A God who won’t make our children behave? What kind of God is this, who seems so callous to our heart-felt need when we are scared to death of drowning?
I think there’s a lesson here. The God we worship is the God who is right there with us—not light years away. He’s in the same boat we are; offering peace in the midst of the storm—not some cosmic shortcut through it.
Life is fragile any way you look at it. Our lives are in danger with Him or without Him.
The difference is in the spreading of the Peace. We read on in the story, and we see that Jesus had some words for the disciples.
“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
And at the Conference Assembly this year, Ervin Stutzman really helped me to see this response in a different way. I tend to read things from my own perspective. So I put myself in Jesus’ shoes, having just been woken up from my nap…and I’ve always put a kind of grumpy tone to it—like I would be first thing in the morning or anytime I was just waking up.
And so I always heard Jesus almost scolding the disciples here.
But just maybe the tone was a little more like a tone you would take with a child when they’re scared of the dark…you of little faith…why are you so afraid?
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
They were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
What I’d like you to hear this morning is pretty simple. It’s just this—that once you’re in the boat, God is there with you. He doesn’t turn the boat into an airplane to fly safely over the storm. Neither does he jump to your aid at the first sign of trouble.
Just because God is in the boat, it doesn’t make the storm any less scary, and it doesn’t make the threat on our lives any less real. But the peace of Christ can rule over the stormy sea even 2,000 years later.
These are stormy times. They are scary times.
We have learned not to fear the darkness, since we can rationalize that there is nothing in the darkness that is not in the light. We have learned not to fear the unknown—as our leaders have told us, the only thing to fear is fear itself.
But all of that matters very little when it’s our boat that’s rocking, and it’s our lives that are threatened.
Last weekend was awesome. J If you weren’t able to be at any of the events last weekend we launched this project called “Living Acts”, and I hope you can still find some energy and some excitement through the painting up front, or the sculpture we still have with us. Or I hope you can be energized by interacting with the housemates and finding out where you can plug into their lives.
We’ve started a fantastic journey—something like peddling across the Atlantic.
And I remember a few months ago, when Linford and Janet Stutzman were here, sharing about their own adventure at sea as they sailed the routes Paul took. I remember Linford talking about when you’re voyaging on a boat like that—you’re either bored out of your mind or you’re scared for your life.
I’m sure there are in-between moments, but at either extreme, God is with us.
He’s there in the boat filled with all of our fear, all of our hope, and our ambitions.
And though it seems like he can’t be trusted to stay awake in our time of need, we know that just maybe our definition of ‘need’ might have to change.
And though the wind may blow and the waves are rising—though I’m scared of the dark and I hate being known—the voice of Jesus still comes, saying;
You of little faith, why are you so afraid?
God can be trusted with our todays and tomorrows—the journeys we take and the friends who are with us. What kind of man is this? The kind who commands the wind and the waves—the kind who speaks peace to the ocean. Jesus is the kind of man who lifts up the lowly and brings down the powerful—he’s the kind of man who won’t stay dead. He’s there in the boat, speaking peace to the wind and the waves, speaking peace to the turmoil in our lives.
Can you hear his voice? Why are you so afraid?