We’d had the crowds with us all day. He preached to them, sitting in the boat, as they grouped along the lakeshore.
Let us go across to the other side, he said. So we took him along with us in the boat – he was already sitting in the stern, after all, making himself comfortable. He slept. The waves came up – as if stirred by some god or goddess of the Romans.
It got bad. We woke him up!
We are all going to die! Don’t you even care?
He woke up all right. Then, he rebuked the wind and said to the sea,
Peace! Be still.
Why are you afraid? Don’t you trust me yet? How about a little faith?
We asked ourselves a question, then: Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey?
O Lord God of hosts, who is like you? :
your power and your faithfulness are all about you.
You rule the raging of the sea :
when its waves surge, you still them. (Psalm 89:8-9)
Who stilled the raging of the seas, the roaring of the waves :
and the tumult of the peoples. (Psalm 65:6)
Then they cried to the Lord in their distress :
and he took them out of their trouble.
He calmed the storm to a silence :
and the waves of the sea were stilled.
Then they were glad because they were quiet :
and he brought them to the haven they longed for. (Psalm 107:28-30)
He spoke; and, while he spoke, he smooth'd the sea,
Dispell'd the darkness, and restor'd the day.
Cymothoe, Triton, and the sea-green train
Of beauteous nymphs, the daughters of the main,
Clear from the rocks the vessels with their hands:
The god himself with ready trident stands,
And opes the deep, and spreads the moving sands;
Then heaves them off the shoals. Where'er he guides
His finny coursers and in triumph rides,
The waves unruffle and the sea subsides. (Aeneid, Book One, John Dryden trans.)
They were afraid. Trembling – fearful – anticipating death, there on the sea. They forgot about Jesus. They forgot he was even going with them, until he said something. Then he slept, and they forgot him completely – until the storm came.
Until the storm came, they were ready to go it alone. They did not need Jesus. They were doing fine. Until the storm came.
Then, they knew that they were on a terrible journey – one they would not be on, if it was not for him! He’s the one who said, let’s go to the other side.
What a Jonah! What will he do, if he has to travel in the belly of a whale? If he is swallowed by death, will he ever see the light of day again?
And what about us?
There is he, calming the storm – where there was doubt, he sowed faith; where there was trouble, he brought peace; where there was danger, and he saw them safely to other shore.
It is not that Jesus does not care – or that he sends us off on our own. He is with us; we sometimes forget he is along for the whole journey. We leave port, headed to an unknown shore – in life, in death, every step of our souls’ journey – and he is always by our side.
It is not that we do not go through the waters – of life, of death.
We are immersed in the waters of baptism, symbolizing our death to self. The old life is gone.
We are raised from the waters of baptism, symbolizing our rebirth into eternal life. The new life has begun.
Let us have a little faith – and put our trust in the man who stilled the waters, the one who calmed the sea.
As we affirm our own faith alongside the newly baptized, we have done it again – we have once again reminded ourselves, and one another, that when somebody is baptized, it is very serious: it is like dying. And life.