Getting into a storm

8 Feb

It’s been a long time since I posted, but now is a new year and I am ‘back on deck’: a phrase relevant to this post!

This week I have been part of our annual Candidates’ Retreat, which is a three day program with those who are training to be ordained pastors. It takes place in a beautiful Catholic retreat centre in the mountains.

At one point we were invited to engage in the form of reflection called  ‘Lectio Divina’. I have known and deeply benefited from this many times before, and practiced this over the years. It is a particular way of reading the Bible, as a form of prayer.  The focus is not so much on ‘what it says’ or getting through the passage, but simply reading it over and over, or sitting with it, and letting a single word or idea take hold of you. God comes to us in this way.

We spent time with Mark’s narrative of the crossing of the lake  (Mark 4. 35 – 41), which is generally known as the stilling of the storm.
Several things really took hold of me in this time of reflection.

On the one hand, I had often noticed that this disaster arises for
those who have obediently followed Jesus, when he asks them to go with
him, to the other side. He commandeers the boats. He gets them into
this!
In actual fact, this is the emphasis in Matthew, not so much in Mark. That’s Matthew’s editing of Mark’s story, to sharpen its focus. In Mark, this boat has been gotten ready, back in chapter 3.

But a different thing struck me this time. I noticed that ‘they took
him with them, in the boat, just as he was.’ – verse 36. He calls them,
but now they also take him with them.

Much of our focus in the following time was on ‘the other side’.
What for us is the other side, to which we are called?
We were invited to think how this relates to our own situations, in ministry and in life more generally.

For me, there is another side, which is avoidable and is in fact risky.
We are on the brink of new growth and some risky challenges as a
College. My leadership, as the new Principal, will be to take us to a
new level and some new forms of teaching and training.
There are risks, financial, professional and institutional.
Our strategy is to avoid risks. Don’t go there. Don’t go where there are risks.
So don’t get into the boat. Don’t go to the other side.

This story calls me to get into the boat, to go to the other side, and very likely to encounter the storm.
It is likely too that amidst the storm, the one who calls us to do that will seem absent, or at best asleep.
But the storm can be stilled, and the boat need not sink.
I am challenged to ‘take him with me’.  I am not accustomed to doing
this. I have always regarded it as a bit presumptuous to think that I
can call on God to support me in my ventures. Surely it should be the
other way round. Here it is both: he takes the initiative, but ‘they’
too have their empowerment, their initiative. I have my part to play,
and my courage to take hold of, my faith to exercise …
Hold on!

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