Monday, September 12, 2016

Activating God - even when he is "sleeping"

I am not sure of any one who can retell this story with greater humor and punch that my friend Rob Rufus. It is of course the account of Jesus and the storm in Mark's gospel - Mark 4:35 - 5:1.

For me it is very autobiographical...

when the evening had come - Jesus is simply not at all committed to our convenience and comfort. At the end of the day, I love gearing down, debriefing the day with M, a warm meal and a quiet drink. I am not sure I would have been a "happy camper" if I got the call from Jesus...

"Let us go across to the other side". Now most of those he was calling on assignment were fishermen. They knew this was not a business class flight across the pond. This was an evening's tough boating that lay ahead of them - even in the best of conditions, they would not get a good night's sleep. Jesus has such a way to challenge the things that we think we are entitled to.

leaving the crowd - it is often the case that the Jesus call is contrary to the way of the many, the popular way, the way most travelled. Obedience to Christ is not a once in a lifetime moment. It is a regular challenge as we are so vulnerable to popularity and applause. Therefore he has to position us perpetually to make decisions of followership over decisions of affirmation.

A great windstorm arose - when I think of wind I think of the Holy Spirit. When he comes, he comes to empower us on mission. This was a different wind. These were fishermen whom one assumes were not easily overwhelmed by storms. I wonder therefore if this was not the "anti-Holy Spirit " type storm. The enemy was seeking to destroy these disciples in death. Or if not destruction, then he would seek to create distrust in divine instruction. He put fear into their hearts. (How Jesus handles the storm seems to reiterate that it was not just "weather/weather" but "demonic weather")

The boat was already filling - dear reader, we know that chest beating anxiety that comes our way when we feel swamped, overwhelmed, out of our depth. We all know that complex confusion when we feel we are going down and yet all we have done is obey him! Pretty disorientating.

But he was in the stern, asleep - so Jesus was sleeping. Well we get a glimpse into his incarnation - fully man, tired, needing rest. We get a window into the freedom he had to rest while the others manned the boat. But we also know the deep frustration when we feel like Jesus is asleep on our watch. All around us, others are having their prayers answered, yet he is asleep on our petitions. Or is he...?

"Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" Jesus is not gentle, nursery-like in his response to his faltering disciples. This was a key moment in him preparing them for their global gospel assignments. They would face many more complex storms ahead of them (think of Peter in prison in Acts 12). This was not a moment to mollycoddle them with quiet, gentle dialogue. Their lives depended on him rebuking them, raising their understanding of his mission. Did he not say they would get to the other side? Did they not get there? They came to the other side... 

Faith is a big word, a huge conversation, a most essential action if we are to step into the boat of divine assignment. It is not just word and Spirit that we need. It is also not just conversion faith that is needed. The just shall live by faith! It is an ongoing, daily reality. It is the continuos present tense. It is now. It is today, even when we think he is asleep on our watch!


  1. Is ITCC still active? If so, how can I connect church members to it? (We are located in the USA. If it is no longer active, are correspondence materials still available (in the form of assignments, questions and answers, tests, etc.?

  2. thanks bobbie. it joined with the SA Theological Seminary so it transitioned that way. Don't know who has the material tho. Where are you in the US?

  3. I currently work with Friends Chapel near Coyle, OK.