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  • Bob Burk

Lent Day 17

Scripture: Mark 4:35-41

35  On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  36  And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.  37  A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.  38  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?”  39  And waking up, he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Be silent! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  40  He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”  41  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”


Today's Meditation: 

Some years ago, I was on a loop hike in Grand Teton National Park. The hike went up Paintbrush Canyon, over Paintbrush Divide (a small pass), and then down to Lake Solitude, then back out to Jenny Lake thru Cascade Canyon. It is a beautiful hike, one I had wanted to do for several years but had been unable to complete. We had always gone there in June, so there was always too much snow at Paintbrush divide. But that year, we went in July, and there was only a small snow cornice at the divide, so I rented an ice axe and crampons and headed out. When I reached the divide, I strapped on the crampons, grabbed the ice axe from my pack, and began to climb toward the top.

Now I need to tell you I am acrophobic - deathly afraid of high places. And about halfway across the snow and ice face, I looked down. Yep – bad idea. I saw that I was hanging over a huge pile of rocks about 150 feet below me. An overwhelming fear began to fill my brain and the rest of my body, too. I looked back up to the top, and my brain said, “You can’t do this. Go back!” So, I began to climb back off the snow/ice face. But then another little voice inside, me, I like to think it was the Holy Spirit, said, “You have waited eight years to do this. Don’t let your fear keep you from seeing the amazing view from the top. You CAN do this!”

So, I said a prayer – “God, I know you promise to catch us when we fall, but this would be a BIG fall. So, please anchor my axe and guide my steps so I DON’T fall! Amen.”

I looked up to the top, and I climbed and climbed and made it to the top, where I danced like Rocky on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The views of Lake Solitude from above were spectacular, and the rest of the hike was filled with wildflowers and wildlife. And to think I could have missed it all if I had let my fear drive me back down.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is asleep in the boat as a storm comes up. The disciples, some of whom were fisherfolks and had probably witnessed similar storms and what they could do to a boat and its occupants, began to grow afraid. They wake Jesus, asking, doesn’t he care that “we are perishing?” So, Jesus rebukes the storm, and the disciples are amazed. But then Jesus rebukes the disciples: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

I like to think that at the moment the disciples awakened Jesus, Jesus could see how afraid they were, and He knew the only way He could calm their inner storm was to calm the outer storm. Then He would be able to address their inner storm, the storm that arose because they somehow still doubted that God/Jesus was still in control, even when, from their perspective, things seemed out of control.

In our world today, so much seems out of control. And so many people are afraid. They’re filled with fear that drives them back down. Fear that keeps them from moving forward, from seeing all the good things that lie ahead of them. Fear that drives wedges in relationships, fear that feeds “it’s us against them” thinking. The fear that we all can feel when it seems, from our point of view, that everything is out of control.

Fear is a very real emotion, and feeling afraid is often justified. But experiencing fear and allowing it to become the driving force behind our words and our actions are two different things. Fear can be good when it helps us to be careful, like when we’re climbing across snow and ice 150 feet above a boulder field. But when it stops us from moving forward, when it prevents us from seeing the good in others and the beauty all around us, when it stops us from acting with love, grace, and justice, when it makes us think that “we” and “our group” is threatened, and our way of life is perishing, it becomes a roadblock to the Holy Spirit. It weakens our faith. And that means Jesus cannot calm our inner storm because we cannot hear Him over the outward wind that fear is always whipping up.

Today, and all through Lent, in the midst of the outward storms being whipped up in our nation and the world, may you not forget Who is in control, and may you have ears to hear that still small voice of assurance and love.


Prayer:

God, when things seem out of control, when it feels like my world is threatened, my life, as I know it, is threatened, and I begin to fear I am perishing, speak to me with love and drive out my fear so that I can be more courageous and loving, a more calming presence in the midst of chaos. Amen.


Mark Gregory




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