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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, March 2, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 4:35–41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (NRSV)

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible: It evokes the memory of a significant life-changing experience.

For two and one-half years my home had been aboard a U.S. Navy ship. In that span of time, we crossed the Atlantic six times. The sixth crossing was westward from Gibraltar and it was to be my final such voyage: my discharge papers were awaiting me in Norfolk—I had served my time!

Two days out, there arose a storm like none I had ever seen. Sustained winds exceeded fifty knots (excuse the nautical term) and the huge waves were terrorizing; in the bottom of the trough between the swells, I had to look upward to see the crests of the waves as they tumbled over themselves with a thunderous roar. It was the fearful scene described in today’s passage! But in that dark night, when the perilous journey was in process, the words of today’s passage came to mind. Although the storm was to persist for another day, nevertheless my anxiety, worry and fear were replaced by a sense of peace and tranquility; most of all, I sensed that we were not alone: the Lord was with us.

In the ensuing years since that dark and scary night, the knowledge of God’s presence has been with me when other “storms” have arisen. What a blessing it is.

“Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.”

(From the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” by William Whiting, 1860)

Reflection written by Barlow Nelson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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