Through the Storm

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

Enormous, thundering waves, thick black darkness, a creaking boat tossed about, grown men – fishermen at that – terrified to their core. And onto the scene walks Jesus: first challenging his friend Peter, and eventually bringing those stunned and frightened men safely to the shore.
This is the picture that this Sunday’s gospel reading (Mat 2:22-33) painted, and on which Nigel spoke during his sermon: Jesus is near us, cares for us, saves us – right within the storm. Stepping out the boat when he calls requires courage, yet it is the most meaningful thing we might ever do.

Looking through the other recommended readings for this past Sunday, one stumbles across a character for whom stepping out of the boat and facing the storm seems to have been second nature: Elijah – a master of courage (some might call it recklessness) and a defender of his God (in a quite radical way). Until we meet him, just like the disciples, at the end of his wits. Yet, to me he doesn’t come across terrified like Jesus’ companions are: he is angry, frustrated and exhausted. The story that unfolds here is in some ways similar to the events on that stormy Sea of Galilee, but in others strikingly different. Both narratives show beautifully how God reveals himself in varied ways, inviting us to keep our hearts and senses always open to his presence in our lives.

The Lord said (to Elijah), “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord , but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:11‭-‬13 NIV

It’s hard not to notice the parallel to the gospel passage: a thundering storm, bursting rocks, deafening noise, the earth shaking and an inferno of flames raging.
However, unlike the disciples, Elijah does not encounter the comforting presence of God making his way towards him through the chaos. Elijah hides away until finally, through a gentle whisper, he is touched by the Divine. God’s challenge to his hot-blooded prophet is very different to the one presented to Peter. Elijah is not asked to step out in faith, but to stay put, wait patiently for gentleness and peace, and be provided for.

Both stories speak of a God who does enter our chaos, the storms that shake up society and the fires that rage on this planet. Yet there is no script on how people experience him doing so. There are moments in which the go-getters have no other choice but to hide and wait for the storm to pass. The scared soul might be called to step out of the boat. Some will feel God in the still small voice, others in the strong hand that pulls them out of the waves and saves them from drowning.

All that you, I and our world can be sure of is that God is present: through and after pandemics, personal trauma, climate change, economic hardship and disasters like last week’s explosion in Beirut. He is present for and within the timid, terrified ones, and also the frustrated, angry and exhausted world-changers. Let’s help each other to call out to and notice the Messiah striding towards us, his saving arms outstretched. And let’s also encourage one another to hang in there and wait for God’s gentle whisper.

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