The storm came out of nowhere.
The forecast was fine, the air mild, the water at the edge of the lake rippled onto shore, inviting.
Within the space of a couple of minutes, everything changed. The wind kicked up and bent the trees away from the cliff. The lake was whipped up into waves and the beach emptied fast of families and small children.
Out on the horizon, a small boat raced the current toward safe harbour. The storm tossed it like a bath toy. I watched it out of sight, hoping it had reached the river mouth and calmer waters, that its people would have more stories to tell when they reached home than bruises; that they would make it.
They did not expect, when they set out, such a change in the weather, with so little warning.
Did they pray, as they hurtled toward harbour? Like the disciples, did they demand, “Do you not care, Lord, that we are perishing?” When they finally reached land, did it feel like the hand of God cradling them in its palm?
I do not think that this Sunday’s gospel reading is about the storms that attend our lives, about getting God’s attention to quell the disturbances of spirit that well up within us: grief, anxiety, rage. I think that it is a story about a storm that sprang up suddenly, boaters who were afraid, and the miraculous self-revelation of Jesus as the One who called wind and water into being, the Word who could calm the very depths.
Still, the question and its answer reach out beyond the confines of the story and its little sea: “Do you not care?” “Why are you afraid?”
“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asks them. “Do you not believe yet that I love you? That I am with you? That I am for you? Have you still no faith?”
Perhaps he meant faith in his power to still the storm, or to pluck people out of the strong currents that sap our energy and threaten our buoyancy, our lives; or maybe simply faith that, yes, Christ cares about us; no, God is not unmoved by our fears and our trials; that the clouds that run in on the wind cannot obscure God’s judgement or muffle her mercy; that the Holy Spirit dances in the tree tops, bending with them towards the earth, kissing the ground that we walk upon with grace and loving kindness.
The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and author of Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent questions for Christians in an age of violence (July 2021), and A Family Like Mine: biblical stories of love, loss, and longing. Read more from Rosalind at rosalindchughes.com.