One of the things that I love about where we live is the ease of access to the water. I’m not a beach guy, and there is plenty of white sand to go around near us, but my favorite place to be in on a boat on Fish River or Magnolia River or Perdido Creek as the afternoon turns to evening. There is a moment, just before dusk, when the water, stirred up by boats and a summer breeze all day, suddenly becomes still and smooth as glass, or as the Gospel writers say, “dead calm.”
The first time I noticed it, there was actually very little calmness about it. I was on an inner-tube being dragged behind a boat by a driver working hard to throw me off. As I was being whipped to and fro right there at water level, I noticed just how flat the river had become, as if nothing, not even the wake of an outboard motor and the carelessness of a tuber could disturb it. Despite everything happening around me and my death grip on the tube handles, I found myself filled with awe at the beauty of God’s creation.
The disciples in Sunday’s Gospel lesson are filled with awe for a different reason. Having been filled with fear just a moment before, they are now in awe, or as Mark’s Greek says, “they feared a great fear.” What I found interesting as I looked at Mark’s text, is that in Greek there is a specific word for the calming of the sea, galene, used only three times in the New Testament, once by each of the Synoptic authors to describe what it was like after Jesus calmed the storm – and coupled by Mark and Matthew with the word megas. Mega Calm, or as the King James’ Version puts it, Dead Calm.
Despite appearances, a river or a lake is never actually calm, there is always activity happening, water moving here and there, not unlike life. Even those who appear to be calm often have all sorts of things burbling just below the surface. The gift of grace is peace, dead calm, even in the midst of upheaval. That’s what Jesus rebukes the disciples about, they feared a great fear rather than finding peace in the one who created all things. That’s why the only blessing prescribed in a Eucharistic service in our Church starts out with these words, “The peace of God which passeth all understanding…” We need that peace, that dead calm, deep within us to combat the storms that threaten on the horizon.