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  • Ross Moughtin

Waiting for the storm

We await the arrival of Eunice, the calm before the storm. As I write this outside seems perfectly calm, the trees stand still and no rain falls. But according to the Met Office, we are soon to be buffeted in a big way. It’s a strange experience, the calm before the storm. Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, in his book on Dunkirk, speaks of the experience of one English army captain awaiting the imminent arrival of the German panzers. This English officer has been tasked to check to hold some Flemish village and all preparations made, he decides to go for a walk and look around. All is calm, still. He looks around the church and enjoys the regional architecture. A strange kind of calm, a period of waiting for the storm to break. I’ve no idea what storm Eunice will do to us here in Ormskirk – we are at the north end of the red zone so we could be in for a bumpy ride. We’ve made the precautions we can, parked the car in the safest place and await its arrival. If nothing else such storms show us that we do not control our environment – despite all our wonderful technologies. We are at the mercy of the weather. We can ameliorate its effects, of course and we can change our plans. But when it comes down to it, the storm can so easily overwhelm and subdue us. Think Katerina. It’s beginning to rain now, but nothing serious. And a daughter has just phoned to say where she is in central London, the trees are beginning to be seriously agitated. She has just Whatsapped the video. But this is merely the beginning. Waiting for the storm to break is always difficult, when we know we are going to be tossed and buffeted, even worse. We can go over our preparations, yet again. We can try and distract ourselves. We can take a stiff drink. We can take recourse to humour. Steve Martin: “First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me.” Or we can pray. Rain getting heavier but the trees are still still. Waiting, to say the least, is often more difficult than the event itself: waiting for exam results, for a diagnosis, for news from loved ones. Think of the crowds of relatives and friends, gathered in front of Albion House, the White Star headquarter buildings in James Street, awaiting news for the Titanic. Waiting is a challenge. The most graphic passage on waiting in the Bible features the aptly named Garden of Gethsemane (it means oil press) where Jesus awaits the arrival of his betrayer and this arresting party. He knows what is about to happen: a mock trail, terrible torture, the ordeal of the cross and worse, to bear the sins of the whole world. No fate could be worse. He has just spend that Passover evening with his disciples, preparing them for the ordeal ahead. “ I am going there to prepare a place for you (in the Father’s house)” (John 14:2). He urges them to believe in God, believe in him and avail themselves of the promised help of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. But as he enters the Garden of Gethsemane he is on his own. It’s difficult for us to enter the mind of Jesus, to understand that if he wanted, he could call down the support of “twelve legions of angels.” (Matthew 26:53). However, Jesus chooses to suffer as we do, as a human being in a menacing world, prey to the power of evil. So how does Jesus wait? He prays and he prays with the support of others; he takes “Peter, James and John along with him. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’”(Mark 14:33f) We need each other, and especially in prayer. As it happens these three key disciples let him down – but Jesus is making an important point. We need each other, and especially in asking others to pray for us during any time of testing. No room for self-contained pride here. Then Jesus faces his suffering head on. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Sometimes there is no point in pretending otherwise. He could do so because he knows the care of his Father. It is only here, in Mark’s Gospel, when we hear the Aramaic word which Jesus uses to address God in prayer: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36). Each morning I begin my prayer time with the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father.” These opening words speak of our place in the universe. The creator who made us and everything that there is we may know as Father, as a loving and attentive parent. We are not alone, left to be buffeted by life; we are known, loved and valued. So whatever may befall we may know, and as disciples of Jesus claim, the Father’s care – even as I hear from another daughter that areas of Bedford where she lives are experiencing power cuts. When we are rooted in Christ, there can never be any power outage, whatever comes. Whatever comes Whatever season paints this day Whatever trial may come our way We will rely upon Your grace Whatever comes All that we cannot comprehend Disasters will break the pride of men You will be faithful till the end Whatever comes. (Brian Doerksen)

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