Appendicitis and Peace
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Please be seated.
Many of you will already know that our priest, Frank, suffered a ruptured appendix this past week. The appendectomy on Friday evening was quite successful and he went home that same night, where he is resting now and recovering well.
The following is a reflection on today’s Gospel reading he wrote yesterday for me to share with you this morning. I will switch voices so to speak and references to I or me are now from Father Frank’s perspective.
I never ceased to be amazed at how a lectionary, or schedule of readings, determined decades ago can offer the right text at the right time. It is proof to me of God’s ongoing inspiration of scripture as it speaks afresh to new situations.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus is asleep in a boat on the storm-tossed sea. The disciples, many of whom were storm-hardened fishermen, grew frightened as the boat was being swamped and they woke him saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus then wakes up, rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Peace, Be still!”
Mark tells us the wind ceased and there was dead calm. Jesus then says, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
This passage of scripture has long been moved from its setting on an actual sea with real wind and waves to apply to our storm-tossed lives. For example, here is a brief passage from a sermon given by Augustine of Hippo in the 400s A.D.
“When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune—shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him.”Augustine teaches that Christ is present within us even when we don’t feel it. We just have to revive that sense of Jesus within us. The trick is to do this in the midst of the storm.
Within the past week I have had two very different occasions – one emotional, the other physical – in which I was tossed about by the storms of life. In the first, I was serving as a deputy at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and saw up close some of my brothers and sisters in Christ playing political games to reach an end. The end they had in mind was division of the church. It was painful to watch and to take part in a process that is intended to be spiritual and to see it subverted by some into the merely political. And yet, Christ was fully present. It wasn’t easy but when I looked with the eyes of faith, I saw no enemies of either me or the Gospel.
I did see, very clearly, people who felt the ends justified the means and I cannot agree with that. It was as if they wished to control the storm. I already knew this was the reading for this coming week. And in the midst of that storm, I could already sense the Lord saying, “Peace. Be still.”
That very night – Tuesday – my appendix ruptured on an elevator ride back to the room. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t catch up to this fact until Friday morning. In the meantime, pun intended, I just gutted it out.
As I waited in the emergency room for tests results to come back, this Gospel reading was present to me once again. And my Lord was saying, “Peace. Be Still.”
I don’t know what winds are buffeting you or what waves are tossing you about, but I do know that Christ is with you in the midst of any storm.
The problem is not the lack of Jesus’ presence, but that we forget He is there. Seek to control the storm on your own and you will sink. Be still and know that He is God and whether the storm passes or rages, you will be safe.