Mark 4: 35 – 41
35On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Thanks for listening to me when I called to say we should meet at my home rather than up on the hill where the little chapel is to be built. I’m surprised that you would join me today for the snow is falling fast, and the temperature outside is growing colder and colder. I thought you might prefer to stay home, but I’m delighted that you didn’t – you braved the elements. Come on over by the woodstove and sit for a while with me. How fortunate when I purchased the wood for our stove that the supplier sold me such dry, wonderful hardwood. See how evenly the logs burn and bring a flickering glow to the room. Now sit in that comfortable chair over there; let us be grateful we are not out in the storm.
When we knew we were going to have a northeast storm, my dad would say a sailor’s term, “We need to batten down the hatches.” Now I have said that very thing to my family at times when a snow storm was brewing, but I am not sure I really understood the term for I am definitely not a sailor. Aware that there were open hatches or wooden grates on sailing ships to bring fresh air down into the hold, I did not know that they actually took canvas and covered the grates. I did not know that they then nailed strips of wood around the edges of the canvas to hold it firm. Those strips of wood are called battens. So when the clouds in the sky or the movement of the waves told a seasoned sailor that a storm was about to hinder their voyage, that sailor would speak to the crew, “batten down the hatches.” Be prepared for the storm.
When Dale and I knew a snowstorm was coming, we had to batten down the hatches here. I made sure the driveway was plowed down to the asphalt so that a new storm could be easily handled. We made sure we had the correct food supply in our home (the usual bread and milk), and we were comforted in the thought that we had a new generator in case we lost our electricity. We were ready for the storm.
What is that book in my hand? It is an old book that was given years ago to my father’s father, my grandfather John Andrew Boyle. It was a Christmas present around the year 1897. It is a book of poems by William Wordsworth Longfellow. There are many Victorian sentimental poems in that book, but one of them has always stirred my heart since I first heard it spoken as a child. The poem has to do with a northeast winter storm and a ship at sea. Do you remember the poem The Wreck of the Hesperus?
Look – the pages of the book are yellowed; there are no colored pictures, rather they are engravings with black lines and white spaces. The poem begins with a warning to the skipper from an ancient sailor that a storm is approaching them. He warns his captain that there was a “golden ring” around the moon the night before and no moon tonight; these were signs that they should put in to a nearby port. But the skipper believes he is wiser than the sailor who warns him; yes, he is confident in his sailing skills and wisdom.
“Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast.
The snow fell hissing like the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.”
The skipper’s daughter sailing with him was frightened.
“Come hither, come hither! My little daughter,
And do not tremble so,
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow.”
As the storm was coming upon us last night, I could not help but remember this poem. I also thought of one of my most favorite passages of scripture when his disciples were afraid of the storm, and Jesus quieted the waves and the wind and brought his disciples safely to shore. Then when I reread the poem this morning, I found that very reference: the little girl’s words in that storm –
Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be:
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave
On the Lake of Galilee.
The father of the little girl, proud and conceited, did not foresee that he would not survive and neither would his little girl that he had lashed to the mast with his heavy coat around her to protect her from falling overboard.
The poem ends, do you remember how? Do you remember that the little girl is found by a fisherman as the mast of the vessel floated to shore?
How emotions rise inside of me whenever I read this sentimental poem. Longfellow is criticized today for his sentimentality, but we forget that medical science was not where it is today, and that the Victorians lost many of their children. But the poem to me, sad as it is, says that we must always batten down the hatches when a storm approaches. You and I are on a journey of life, and in life, we meet difficult and sometimes disastrous storms. I have encountered them, and I know you have as well. At such times we, like the little girl, cry out to Christ to help us. If we are to prepare for a storm in life we need to have a strong relationship to our Lord. The little girl remembered Jesus in her terror and even though she was found no longer living- our Savior, no matter the storm or the result of the storm carries us, and He carried her in His loving arms to His Kingdom. Prepare for the storm, become a disciple of Jesus – He can still any ANY, STORM.
Almighty God help us each and everyday to set aside some time to talk with You and to build an enduring friendship. We are aware that in life we must encounter difficult times and harrowing storms, but we also know we can batten down the hatches by having You Lord holding our hand at such crucial times. Bless us this day and those we love; prepare us for bright and dark days, for the darkness and the sunshine by acknowledging Your power to defend and keep us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
See you in a day or two for our walk, my friend, and until then – “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”
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