A Harbor in the Tempest
April 9, 2020
A tempest is usually known as a violent storm. The word wasn’t popularized until Shakespeare’s The Tempest in 1611. The word, though, comes from latin and early french, and its etymology from the 11th century had these connotations: tempest (n.) “violent storm,” late 13c., from Old French tempeste “storm; commotion, battle; epidemic, plague” (11c.)
I think it’s fair to say that this original old French meaning allows us to call this epidemic, pandemic, or plague that has crossed oceans and affected billions around the world is truly a tempest, a wild and violent storm that has come over us.
Those of you who know me know that the band U2 is one of my favorite all time bands who have stood the test of musical time in my lifetime since their debut album, Boy, in 1980. One of my favorite songs from Rattle and Hum in 1988 appears at first glance to be a love song, but knowing Bono and his long-term life of faith and pursuit of God, I think this is a love song to God. And these lyrics from verse 3 are prescient right now:
You say you’ll give me eyes in a moon of blindness
A river in a time of dryness, a harbor in the tempest.
Fair Haven Church and later Harbor Churches were named after the Kali Limenes (translated the good harbor or the fair havens), a safe harbor on the southern coast of Crete mentioned in the book of Acts. The Kali Limenes was a harbor from the storms that could come up quickly on the sea and engulf the ship. Our churches have been named as “harbors” and “havens” because we believe that communities of belonging centered on Jesus are the safest places to find shelter, rest, healing, and protection because Jesus is the calm at the center of the storm. [Matthew 8:23-27] In that moment on the sea of Galilee when, as Matthew says, when “suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake,” the disciples respond with natural fear, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Sometimes we think Jesus’ response, “O you of little faith, why are you so afraid” is a kind of rebuke. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. I prefer to think that Jesus says this tenderly as a father would to a child who is afraid but doesn’t need to be because he has everything in control.
Today, you may be afraid. Today, you may be seeing, hearing, and feeling the wind storm. Today, you may feel the boat rocking beneath your feet. Today, your breath may be short, and your anxiety high. The great old testament scholar, Abraham Heschel said this:
In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil, there are islands of stillness where man may enter a harbor and reclaim his dignity. – Sabbath
As you go to prayer, I want to invite you today to ask God to be your harbor in this time of tempest, your good harbor and safe place. Ask him to provide for you a harbor in which to reclaim your sense of self grounded in him. Cry out to him for salvation. Jesus is not afraid of the storm, and he alone has the power to command the wind and the waves and bring us peace. Pray today for God to show us Himself!