Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. Mark 6:50b-51a
It was a day I remember vividly. Sails up, sun shining, water smooth; a beautiful day on the water up at Nelson Bay. There is nothing more relaxing and energising. But that all changed in an instant. Clouds rolled in, blocking the sun and swallowing its rays of light. The wind picked up to push the smooth waters to choppy white caps, which morphed into mountains of angry waves. The mood on the yacht mirrored the darkened sky as the captain struggled to keep the trailer sailer upright; the wind spinning the vessel sideways into the crashing waves. I grabbed whatever rope I could hang on to with one hand, my other arm trying to embrace and protect my young son. Caught in a boat in the middle of a flash storm, there were more than a few anxious moments.
In many ways, the last six months of life have felt like that. From drought, to smoke and bushfires and now to COVID-19, it’s like we have been hit with one storm after another. Every individual and family is trying to work out how to navigate through the torrential deluge that is obscuring our vision and threatening to drown the world. But as an insightful piece on social media says, ‘We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be…We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.’
That’s so important to remember. We may all be in this together but that doesn’t mean we are going through the same thing. Some panicked when the clouds appeared, and battened down the hatches early. Some have been in boats large enough and stable enough to ride out the storm pretty well. There may have been some tense moments as people adjusted to living with others in confined spaces for extended periods, but generally they are doing okay. For others their fishing boat, which has brought in enough income to provide for their family, has suddenly lost an engine leaving them stranded and powerless and running adrift. It’s been an incredible frightening time as they are at the mercy of the waves and in danger of losing everything. Some have had to let go valued crew of their ship and it has weighed heavy on their heart. Others have had to take on extra duties like online schooling on top of trying to understand their position on the new navigational charts of employment. Still others were rowing through this storm in a double kayak but lost their partner overboard and have had to brave the elements by themselves. Some have hit the rocks. Others have capsized. Some are taking on water and sinking fast. We are all in the same storm, but not all in the same boat.
Whatever boat you are trying to navigate this storm in, Jesus sees you straining. He knows your fear and his word to you is the same as it was to the disciples when they were caught in a sudden storm. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. You are not alone in the storm. Jesus comes to you. He will step into the boat to be with you and remain with you in the storm. His presence will bring calm. For Jesus alone knows the full havoc storms create. He has not only witnessed it, he has endured the worst storms that life can bring and overcome them. He promises the same to you. The storms will pass, the sun will shine. His presence with you will remain.
Lord Jesus, reveal yourself to me again in this storm, that I may know the peace of your presence with me. Amen.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Over the past couple of months, we have been living through a kitchen renovation. As part of that renovation, doorways have been removed and the curved archways that date the home have been squared up and replastered ready for a coat of paint. A few weeks ago, I decided to prime the gyprock and repaint the walls using the leftover paint that was still stored in the garage from repair work that happened when the ceiling caved in during a storm (that’s another story)! I checked the colour. I looked at the label. Hogsbristle Half Strength. I was ready to go. I cut in the edges, rolled the walls where it was needed to blend into the existing paintwork and waited for the first coat to dry. An hour or so later, I went to admire my handiwork and discovered two different colours on the wall. The freshly painted walls were darker than the existing walls. I rechecked the label and it was definitely half strength. But a visit to my local paint centre confirmed that while the label said one thing, the contents of the tin were actually another - full strength Hogsbristle! A slight change in the measure of tint added to the paint made all the difference to how it looked on the wall. It was obvious to everyone who saw it.
It got me thinking about our lives as Christians. So often, we want to blend into the world around us. We don’t want to stand out, be noticed, or draw attention to ourselves. What often happens is that the contents of our lives are different from the label we bear. Christ wants the label and the contents to match. Rather than trying to blend in, Christ wants us to be different; to be part of his transforming work in the world. Just as adding tint to a tin of paint changes the whole colour, a life that is tinted with Christ, will be transformed. Christ in you, changes you. Christ in you colours you. Christ in you is noticeable! A tint of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ reduces the darkness of the world around you. A tint of his love in you, transforms the feel of every room you enter. A tint of his mercy and grace in you, poured out on the lives of others will be evident for the whole world to see. Christ wants what is on the label, his life in you, to bring a totally new look to every room and space that he uses you in. Christ in you, is the right measure of tint in every situation!
How has the tint of Christ transformed your life and how can you let it permeate more and more of your life?
Lord Jesus, more of you and less of me. Add the right measure of tint to my life that as you pour me out in the world, it may be visibly noticeable and bring light and life to every place. Amen.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
One of the blessings of the COVID-19 isolation time is that many people have found time to do projects around the home that have remained undone for a long time. For me, that was fixing the half-a dozen mowers/brushcutters given to me, that were taking up too much space up in my garage. I just hadn’t found the time needed to fix them and move them on.
Small engines can be temperamental at the best of times. When they haven’t been used in a while, they can be downright frustrating. You pull and pull and pull and it gives you nothing. Sometimes you might get a brief sign of life but then all you end up with is a sore arm. It doesn’t matter how many times you pull the start cord, berate or kick the machine, it will not roar into life. But on a lot of small engines, they have a little button called a primer bulb. When you press it down, usually three times, it draws fuel from the tank into the carburettor to give a bit extra petrol to enable combustion and kickstart the engine so that it can roar into life.
It’s this action of priming the engine that comes to mind as we try and get life kickstarted again. It was like Covid-19 suddenly starved the engine of our lives of fuel and we came to a sudden halt. Now after a couple of months of being stuck in the garage, we are ready to get out and get the engines running again. But kickstarting the engine can sometimes be hard. Maybe you have settled into a different routine with your time - working from home, curling up on the couch with a remote in the hand – and there is a reluctance to go back to the way things were? Perhaps, you are being cautious and the wisdom you share is simply because deep down you are afraid something might happen and you’ll get sick? Or that no sooner than you restart and build some momentum, that your life will shutdown again? Business’, charities, churches and individuals are facing those very issues all across the globe at this present time.
One of the mowers in my garage had been sitting for so long without use, that the fuel had caramelised in the carburettor bowl. It simply would not start. But a good clean out of the fuel system, new fuel and three pushes on the primer bulb, and the mower roared into life. Could God be using this time to prime the engine of your heart so that you are ready to serve and love in a new way? Could God be letting you rest for a while; transitioning and cleansing your life in order to launch you out into the world, where the lawn has grown long in this time of uncertainty? Get ready, for there is work to be done, a harvest to be reaped and there is no engine that God cannot fix and get going again. Your primer bulb may just about to be pushed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, your starter cord pulled, and your life about to ignite with a power that will get you moving. Are you ready? A brand new day is here, the garage door is lifting up, and God has chosen you to be a part of bringing new life to the world.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ignite my life with power and love that I may go and complete the work you have prepared for me to do. Amen.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:3-4
“Nation on fire”. “Fire…fire…fire…night of terror…” “Violence erupts…” “Global anger grows…” “Anger still burns on the ground…” These are the headlines that we have woken up to each day over the last week in response to the death of George Floyd in the U.S.A. The impact has been widespread and worldwide. We have witnessed both the refining and destructive properties of fire as we have seen people on fire for justice and reform on the one hand, but with retribution and violence on the other. We have heard words of healing and peace that unite and bring together and careless words that have opened wounds, inflicted hurt and caused division.
Globally, there is simmering tension between countries, nationally, there is a divide between States and Territories over how to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic and now on top of that we have a recession to deal with. We are living in a world that is full of deep and painful hurt, repressed and expressed anger, silent and voiced suffering.
Against this backdrop, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the first Pentecost takes on renewed significance. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church was filled with courage and boldness to speak truth into a world of hurt, anger and suffering. Aflame with the Holy Spirit, the disciples were pushed out of the confines of their four walls to do life with all cultures and proclaim the good news of a crucified Saviour who loves us equally and draws us together in unity. Empowered by the Spirit who gives wisdom and understanding, believers were able to present the Gospel in a way that the hearers could connect with and desire in their own lives. Fuelled by the Spirit, the early Christians came alongside and advocated for those marginalised, in need, and experiencing injustice, to reveal a God who cares, is present and acts with justice to restore and reconcile the world to himself. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church became a witness to the power of love that alone can transform the ugliness of the human heart into something that is beautiful and brings joy and delight to the world.
More than ever, the world needs a Church that is on fire with the Holy Spirit; aflame with passion, fuelled with love, and burning with conviction and a desire to proclaim the truth of a God who alone brings life and peace and gives hope and certainty. Will you let him set you on fire for the sake of the world he passionately loves?
Come Holy Spirit, set me on fire that I may move with passion for your Kingdom purposes and be a part of your transforming work that brings healing, reconciliation, peace, justice, truth, forgiveness and unity in this world. Amen.