Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.
Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”
He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”
You know, I’ve used to see this passage differently. Maybe a lot of you have, too. What’s brought out is the fact that elements are subject to Jesus’ commands. And rightly so. That’s an amazing story and another glimpse into the mystery that is Jesus of Nazareth.
Another thing that is brought out is the faithlessness of the disciples. And this is usually tied to the calming of the storm. That is, somehow, if they just had some sliver of faith, they, too, would be able to command the storms and the storms would obey them.
But this morning, I got a different feeling about the passage. Specifically, I don’t think Jesus’ reprimand had anything to do with the storm. I think it had everything to do with believing that G-d would take care of them. That if they had faith, they would not need the storms of life removed, but would have the complete trust that G-d would see them through the storm. That no matter what the outcome -- if they died or not -- G-d would be with them. That is the issue. That is where there lack of faith resides.
And we haven’t really changed all that much, even today. We go out of our way to “cover all the bases,” to “be prepared.” We’ve been told over and over again, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Hogwash. Rubbish. Balderdash. I don’t buy it.
We can’t be prepared for any (or every) possible situation. If we could, we would not need faith, we wouldn’t need G-d.
You know, the Celtic Christian monk and theologian Pelagius got into a lot of hot water for supposedly teaching that people didn’t need G-d’s grace. That they can “make it on their own.” We’ve found out later, now that some of his writings are coming into light, that isn’t what he taught. He taught that people need G-d’s grace to empower them to carry out G-d’s commands of loving G-d and neighbor. In other words, people would have to have faith in G-d to help them in life. I think that’s what Jesus is referring to above.
The old proverb, “G-d helps those who helps themselves,” goes too far. The faith that Jesus referred to is not an afterthought, a prayer that is muttered in desperation because we’ve mucked it up (although, sometimes those are needed). No, the faith Jesus is talking about is the everyday faith - the simple trust in G-d that leads to action. And not just the “big things.” The faith Jesus is meaning is the faith needed for all things.
In the Carmina Gadelica, a very early 20th century publication of prayers, hymns, and incantations of the Celtic people in the Scottish Hebrides, Alexander Carmichael captured just the type of faith I’m talking about; that Jesus was talking about. Here are some of those prayers.
The first is a prayer at each new moon. When the new moon would appear, women would curtsey and men would bow.
In name of the Holy Spirit of grace,
In name of the Father of the City of peace,
In name of Jesus who took death off us,
Oh! in name of the Three who shield us in every need,
If well thou hast found us to-night,
Seven times better mayest thou leave us without harm,
Thou bright white Moon of the seasons,
Bright white Moon of the seasons.
Next is one for kindling a fire:
I WILL raise the hearth-fire
As Mary would.
The encirclement of Bride and of Mary
On the fire, and on the floor,
And on the household all.
Who are they on the bare floor?
John and Peter and Paul.
Who are they by my bed?
The lovely Bride and her Fosterling.
Who are those watching over my sleep?
The fair loving Mary and her Lamb.
Who is that anear me?
The King of the sun, He himself it is.
Who is that at the back of my head?
The Son of Life without beginning, without time.
Here’s a milking blessing. In this one, and the one following, “Bride” is another name for St. Brigid:
COLUMBA will give to her progeny,
Coivi the propitious, will give to her grass,
My speckled heifer will give me her milk,
And her female calf before her.
Ho my heifer! heifer! heifer!
Ho my heifer! kindly, calm,
My heifer gentle, gentle, beloved,
Thou art the love of thy mother.
Seest yonder thriving bramble bush
And the other bush glossy with brambles,
Such like is my fox-coloured heifer,
And her female calf before her.
Ho my heifer!--
The calm Bride of the white combs
Will give to my loved heifer the lustre of the swan,
While the loving Mary, of the combs of honey.
Will give to her the mottle of the heather hen.
Ho my heifer!--
And, lastly, here’s loom blessing:
THRUMS nor odds of thread
My hand never kept, nor shall keep,
Every colour in the bow of the shower
Has gone through my fingers beneath the cross,
White and black, red and madder,
Green, dark grey, and scarlet,
Blue, and roan, and colour of the sheep,
And never a particle of cloth was wanting.
I beseech calm Bride the generous,
I beseech mild Mary the loving,
I beseech Christ Jesu the humane,
That I may not die without them,
That I may not die without them.
This is the type of faith Jesus was referring to. The faith that carries us every moment of every day. Through the ups and downs, the sorrows and the celebrations. It is that faith that carries us through life’s storms.