The readings today can be found here. (Look at Track One, and use the second of the two suggested readings from Samuel along with Psalm 133 — although I won’t concentrate on it today.)
The Gospel tells the famous story of Jesus quieting the storm and calming the waves. The passage’s main message is about the salvific power of Christ, along with a mild, implied rebuke for those who have too little faith in that salvific power.
But that’s not the part of the message that seems to me to “fit” best with Paul’s message in Corinthians. Let’s look at how they fit together.
As usual, Paul is eloquent to the verge of poetry, with a list of virtues that would serve anyone well to emulate: “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.”
But what is key here is not just that those virtues exist in the midst of ease or utopia; instead, they are made manifest in the midst of, and despite, “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, [and] hunger.”
What is holy, according to Christ’s new order of the world, is the faith amidst hardship, the lemonade made from the bitterest of lemons, the determined and resolute hope despite despair. As Paul writes, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see — we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
This is quite clearly what Jesus of Nazareth did in the boat that night. In the “great windstorm,” with the boat “already being swamped,” the disciples were dead certain that they were perishing. It was in the midst of that life-or-death situation, the ultimate of mortal challenges, that Jesus acted with the most decisive firmness to offer salvation. From the worst of situations, Christ brought His own direct, sweet relief.
But note one other thing. The disciples and Jesus did not merely happen to be in a boat in the middle of the sea. They were there specifically at Jesus’ direction. It was Jesus who said “let us go across to the other side” (of the sea). It was Jesus who asked them to brave what would turn out to be great peril.
So too are we faced with the path of Christ being one that is not always easy. So too are sometimes faced with “afflictions, hardships, calamities,” specifically in the course of living our lives in ways that spread the Gospel. If we can face those hardships with purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, [and] truthful speech, it is then that “the power of God” — which is His tremendous, saving love — makes the most difference.
So come then: The seas may be rough, but let us go across them to the other side.