Storms and Slumber

By Sarah Puryear

A Reading from the Gospel of 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 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! 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 awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Meditation

When we read this story, we tend to focus on the fear — the fear the disciples feel as the storm rages. In a sermon on this passage, however, Augustine focuses on a different emotion: anger. He compares the wind to an insult someone aims at us. The waves are like the anger that rises in response, tempting us to seek revenge. But, Augustine says, when we seek revenge, we risk being shipwrecked, because we have allowed Jesus to fall asleep in our hearts. We have forgotten that Jesus asked his Father to forgive even those who had crucified him.

Instead, when an insult comes our way, we can awaken faith by remembering Jesus’ words: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” When we sense Christ awake in us, rather than acting out of anger and making a stormy situation worse, we can reconnect with the peace he brings. This applies not only to anger: “What have I said about anger,” Augustine says, “you should hold onto as a rule to be followed in all your temptations. A temptation arises, it’s a wind; you are troubled by a wave. Wake Christ up, let him talk to you.” In conversation with Jesus, we gain the perspective and strength we need to bring peace to storms within us and around us.

Augustine’s unusual interpretation invites us to consider the following questions: When we feel tempted to sin, do we let “the faith sleep in [our] hearts against the storms and waves of this world”? Or do we pause and call on Jesus for help? Augustine ends his sermon encouraging us about the times we fall short: “If the wind has driven us on and shaken our souls with passion, don’t let us despair; let us wake up Christ, and so sail on in a calm sea, and reach our home country.” This Lent, may you grow in your awareness that Christ is living and active within your heart, not only during quiet times of prayer but also in the storms you will encounter.

The Rev. Sarah Puryear lives in Nashville with her family. She is currently staying home with her young kids after having served most recently at St. George’s, Nashville. She enjoys writing for TLC’s Covenant blog.

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The Diocese of Kisangani – Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo
The Diocese of Mississippi

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