Jesus is in the boat with us

Sharon Gardner

On behalf of all the Churches in Crowthorne, Methodist Minister the Revd Sharon Gardner shares the story of how Jesus calmed the storm and how this has many parallels with our current situation.

That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 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?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ’Quiet! Be still!’ then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this that even the wind and waves obey him?!’  Mark 4: 35 – 41

Right now we’re in a storm of anxiety and fear in this country and spreading over the whole world and I wonder – how do we react in the storms of life? The disciples were experienced fishermen and would have been well-acquainted with the squalls that appear suddenly over the Sea of Galilee. I can imagine that, to begin with, they laughed at their companions’ unease, sure that if they sat tight and kept their heads down the storm would pass quickly. But then, it got fiercer – ‘a furious squall’ it says – and the waves grew so high they threatened to swamp the boat and sink it. Now all of them were full of fear.

I’m sure you can see parallels with our present situation. To begin with, we were generally not too fazed. This storm was brewing in other countries, but then Covid19 came to the UK and the storm has been mounting ever since. Many are afraid – scared of what it might mean if they should catch the virus and anxious about the changes in our lives as we try to slow down its spread.

Who do we turn to when the storms of life hit? Do we look to our own abilities only to find they are insufficient? Do we rail at God and shout at Him because life is now hard? Or do we simply say, ‘Lord, we’re afraid, we need you.’

Jesus was in the boat with them, that’s what I find so comforting in this passage. Their mettle was tested but Jesus was there the whole time. Now we’re going through that testing time: we can choose how we react. Will we join in with the panic and look out only for ourselves and our families or will we be stirred to acts of altruism as many are?. Are we prepared to set aside our own needs, to share what we have – resources, time, reassurance, prayer? We will discover in times of crisis what kind of people we really are.

In the passage once Jesus calms the storm, He asks the disciples where was their faith? Where is ours? This is a time when our faith in a God who is so much bigger than any storm or crisis can carry us through. How can we share that faith with others? That is our challenge – to find new ways to be Church, new ways to pray together, new ways to speak a message of hope to our nation and our neighbourhood, new ways to reach out and help and heal.

As the disciples knew and as we shall discover, through the storm Jesus is there in the boat with us and through Him and His words, we, like the disciples, shall once again find peace.

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)

Rev Sharon Gardner, Minister, Crowthorne Methodist church on behalf of the Churches in Crowthorne.

Lent and Self denial redefined… deep spiritual roots will see us through.

On behalf of all the Churches in Crowthorne, the Vicar of St John the Baptist, Revd Dr Lisa Cornwell observes how Coronavirus has redefined the practice of self denial in the season of Lent and how it is vital that we establish rhythms of prayer/mediation to ensure our spiritual roots go deep.

“The season of Lent has taken an unexpected and unprecedented turn, with self-denial taking on a whole new meaning. Social contact and corporate worship are not on the traditional list of things to give up for Lent but foregoing these things has now become an integral part of our journey to the cross and beyond.

The really difficult thing is that we do not know how far beyond Easter this will go on. At least with normal Lenten disciplines there is an end point in sight.

The unpredictability and accelerated pace of this crisis is hard to adjust to. Coronavirus has not been in our vocabulary that long and now it has overridden our angst over the climate crisis, which of course, we must not forget either.

As we hunker down in all the panic, fear and confusion, we need to ensure our spiritual roots go deep. Many are finding it vital to establish rhythms of prayer/meditation to sustain us and routines in general for that matter.

I was struck by the #LiveLent bible passage for last Tuesday: “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord… They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious”. (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

If you are someone who prays, you may already have a daily prayer routine that works for you but if you would like further ideas we have been uploading some prayer and worship resources onto St John’s church website, so do have a browse.

May we permit God’s strength and peace to permeate our anxieties and nourish our sense of compassion towards others.

Revd Dr Lisa Cornwell, Vicar St John the Baptist, on behalf of the Churches together in Crowthorne.