There are several stories in the New Testament about Jesus’ disciples being caught in storms on lakes. Journeys by boat – any kind of journey – have always been perilous.

But in the Australian mindset, we are positioned on the land. “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come. But this story puts us – if we are Jesus’ disciples – in the boat. And, if we think about this wild sea and adverse wind from a global perspective – as the ‘polycrises’ of poverty, Covid 19, rising conflict and environmental change – we are all in the same boat!

What the passage tells us is that Jesus sees us. Jesus sees us straining at the oars against these adverse winds and comes to our aid.

Verse 48 rocks the boat – temporarily. “He intended to pass them by.” It sounds like he saw them in the middle of the lake, gave them a casual wave, and kept going! But 48 is part of a wave pattern in Scripture. God passing by Moses – Exodus 33:19: “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord,’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” And God passing by Elijah – 1 Kings 19:11 – Elijah is told: “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” When Jesus goes to ‘pass by’ the disciples, he is not ignoring them but instead revealing something of God’s glory – who God is. “Take heart,” he says, verse 50, “it is I; do not be afraid.”

The odd verse out in this passage, however, is 52. Jesus has just climbed on board and the wind has ceased and they are utterly astonished. And we’re told this: “…for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” What jump in logic is this? What do loaves have to do with finding Jesus to be your port in the storm?

The thing is, this near shipwreck happens immediately after Jesus has fed a crowd of 5,000 men (and presumably some women and children too) with 5 loaves and 2 fish. The thing is, God’s glory passing before us is about seeing God’s goodness to us – God’s goodness and graciousness and mercy when the winds are against us – and God’s goodness and graciousness and mercy when we share our resources with others.

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes – Ecclesiastes 11:1 – that links this odd combination of bread and water. “Send out your bread upon the waters,” it says, “for after many days you will get it back.” Its about demonstrating the generosity God demonstrates – the bread of heaven, the bread broken for others, the bread served until all are fed. I love the way Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women puts it, “Cast your bread upon the waters, and after many days it will come back buttered!”

We are reminded this Refugee Sunday that we are to keep sharing – to keep serving – because we are in the same boat – the boat of God’s goodness and graciousness and mercy. Let’s sing the hymn together and then listen to Mustafa’s story…