Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Annual Conference will take place June 5-7 at Lakeside. I love going to AC—seeing friends, worshipping, learning, and (this year) introducing Amanda Thomas, our new Lay Member to Conference, to all that Lakeside and AC have to offer.
During Conference, I often do my morning devotions on a bench along the lakeside as the sun rises over Lake Erie. Last year, I read a familiar story about Jesus from Mark 4:35-39. And, as so often happens, I was struck by something in the story I had never noticed before. It has stayed with me ever since.
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 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?” 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. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Other boats were with him. When I’ve read or heard this story before, I always pictured one boat. One boat being tossed by a vicious storm. One boat in danger of sinking. One boat with the fearful disciples and the sleeping Jesus. But, Mark tells us there were other boats battling the same storm. And, surely, the people in those boats were watching Jesus’ boat to see how they should react. But they probably couldn’t even see Jesus, who was sleeping in the bottom of the boat. Until Jesus got up and calmed the wind and waves, all the people in the other boats could see were the disciples and how they were reacting to a frightening situation.
When we go through anxious, fearful times of confusion or distress, individually or as a community, we are like the disciples in the boat with Jesus. But there are people in other boats who are watching to see how we will respond to adversity. Will we look to Jesus and rely on him? Will we work together so that everyone will come through the crisis safely and our boat will make it to port with all hands on deck? There are people in our community who haven’t yet seen Jesus for themselves. But they know we are in Jesus’ boat, and they can see us! How we react to difficult times will tell them a lot about what it means to be in Jesus’ boat.
Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing. But it does mean having a Captain we can trust. If we keep our eyes on him, we can make it through any storm together. And, as they watch us, those in other boats will come to know who our Captain is, and they will see why they might want to come on board as well.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Carol Williams-Young