The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections from Rev. Peter Neilson 

Sunday - 20 June 2021

Good morning, friends at Crail and St Ayle,

 

Sadly, we have heard this week that John, our minister, has been signed off from work for the next two months.  It seems that the stress of this first year with all its strangeness has taken its toll and he has been advised to take a complete rest.  The Kirk Sessions and I will hold things together meantime.

 

We are blessed in having good leadership teams in both congregations. “Ministry” is the responsibility of us all – the ministry of the whole people of God - a time for us all to pray for John and Neilian, but also for each other, to look out for each other as a pastoral community, and to be witnesses for Christ in our communities.

 

Grace and peace to you all.

 

Peter

 

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Gathering into the Presence of God

 

In the name of the name of the restful Father,

In the name of the calming Son

In the name of the peaceful Spirit,

May we and God be one.

 

Listening for God’s Word

Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35-41)

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with him.  37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  40 He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’

From Fear to Faith

I wonder how often we have turned to this story when life was thrown out of control by its many squalls and storms.  Losses come in myriad forms.  The solid foundations are shaken, and we become acutely aware of the fragility of life.  Pressures come from all quarters, and we feel we are about to be overwhelmed.  You will know people who are riding the storm of illness, bereavement, financial insecurity or domestic difficulties.  They can feel they are about to drown.

Few instances in the Bible address our primal fears more directly than the account of the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  A real storm.  The threat of destruction was real.  The terror of the disciples was real.  The gale had come sudden and unexpectedly.  I don’t need to tell East Neuk people about the power of the sea.

 

The Sea of Galilee sits at 700 feet below sea level.  The air pressure can change suddenly.  The hot air rises and cold air rushes through the Gulf of Pigeons at the Northern end of the lake.  In a moment the millpond is a maelstrom.  Out of nowhere - just like those panic attacks!

The sea had special significance for the Jews - it was a symbol of chaos and destruction.  They would have agreed with the book title ‘The Cruel Sea’.  In the New Creation of the book of Revelation, it is significant and symbolic that there will be no more sea.  Sea lovers may want to argue with God on that point, but it speaks of a day when all the storms of life will be stilled, and the chaos will be tamed.

 

Back to the boat on Galilee.  Literal or symbolic it speaks to our fears of all that threatens to destroy us.  We sense the panic in the disciples and add our voices to theirs as they cry:

Teacher, don’t you care if we drown? (25)

 

Everything is just too much.  We are overwhelmed.  We are about to go under for the last time.  The next wave will break us.

 

And then we hear the strong words of Jesus;

Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (40)

 

That may come as a shock to us.

We expect to ask the ‘why?’ question in the storm.

Instead, Jesus questions us.

 

We expect a soft soothing answer from Jesus.

Instead, we find this bracing summons to faith.

 

Jesus does not collude with our fear.

He collides with it.

 

In your mind’s eye, watch those waves subside and the wind become calm. Now look away from the wind and the waves, and see Jesus standing steady as a rock in the middle of the boat – your boat, your situation.

 

As you fix your eyes on him, your fear will turn to faith, your terror be displaced by trust, and worry will give way to wondering worship…… “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?”

 

Who indeed?

Calm me, Lord [i]

 

Calm me, Lord, as you stilled the storm.

Still me, Lord, save me from harm.

Let all the tumult within me cease.

Enfold me, Lord, in your peace.

 

Now pray this prayer with individuals in mind…. “Calm them, Lord…..”

(Remember John and Neilian especially)

 

St Patrick’s Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet and in danger,

Christ in hearts of all who love me

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. AMEN

 

[i] David Adam, The Edge of Glory