Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Tale of Two Storms

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided and all was calm (Luke 8:24)

When they came to Jesus they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind (Luke 8:35).

What is it about stories?

While waiting in a doctor’s office not long ago, my two kids were growing restless, getting on each others nerves and fraying my own as well. I reached into a plastic magazine rack mounted to the wall and pulled out a thin book. It was the story of some chubby little animal having a birthday party or some such infantile plot line. The sentences were all short, one or two on a page, written in big letters. This was not a book for a fourth or fifth grader. But I started to read it aloud and to my surprise, my kids got still. Stories of all kinds are powerful. They captivate us, pull us in.

In the pages of scripture the gospel writers prove themselves to be first-rate story tellers, each in their own way. Mark and Luke both tell the story of Jesus’ encounter with the demon possessed man in Gerasa. They both tell the story well, but as master story tellers they do something else. The story of the demon possessed man is coupled with the story of a storm at sea. Mark and Luke seem to have done this on purpose. One story mirrors the other. Echoes of the sea storm are heard again in the voice of the demoniac.

On the sea: A squall comes down on the lake
On the land: A man cries out and cuts himself and cannot be subdued with chains.

On the sea: Jesus calms the winds and the waves.
On the land: the man is found dressed and in his right mind.

On the sea: Jesus speaks a word of command – “peace, be still.”
On the land: Jesus speaks a word of command – “come out of him.”

With both stories, Mark and Luke are trying to convey a simple message about the power of Jesus. Jesus subdues storms.

Some of those storms rage around us. These storms happen to us and are beyond our capacities to manage them. It may be a hurricane that literally floods your home or a disease that invades your body or a dip in the stock market that sets you back and nearly puts you under.

Other storms rage within us. Addictions and depression, guilt over wrongs we’ve done and bitterness over wrongs done to us, fear of the future and memories of the past. These storms ravage mind and heart and soul.

And to each of them Jesus speaks peace.

The good news for us is that Jesus still speaks peace to our storms. It has been said and sung that Jesus may let the storms rage, but he speaks peace to us in the midst of the tempest. Whether those storms are happening to us, happening around us, or churning within us, only Jesus can speak stillness into our fidgety lives.

A boat at sea, a crazed man in Gerasa: suddenly those stories are our stories. Take time today to listen for Jesus’ word to you. Enter the peace Christ offers.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging . . . The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1-3, 7). Amen.

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