Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church.
He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.
He is deeply committed to sail training with young people and skippers yachts for the Rona Sailing Project. He feels that sailing is a marvellous metaphor for chairing a district – or maybe it’s the other way round?
Barbara and Stephen Burgess have two young adult sons, Christopher and Jonathan.
I have often listened to people who claim that prayer is not always straightforward or the obvious thing to do – indeed perhaps many of may have shared those uncertainties. After all, is God actually interested in listening to us?
Those who know me well know of my passion for sailing, and they put up with sailing illustrations in many of my sermons or conversations. I have the privilege of skippering sail training yachts with crews which include young people from a wide range of backgrounds, or adults with special needs.
On a long voyage we sail through the night and I have been used to being woken up if those on watch are uncertain about the weather conditions, or nearby vessels, or indeed anything which causes concern. Strangely, I was often already aware of what was going on, waiting to be called if needed.
Not too surprising then that a favourite bible passage of mine relates to Jesus calming the storm. It was the set gospel reading for my very first sermon quite a long time ago. You can read it in Mark’s gospel, chapter 4 and verses 35 to 41.
Jesus Stills a Storm
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The disciples were facing challenging conditions, and somewhat miffed that Jesus seemed to be unaware, uninterested, even asleep while they were in imminent danger. Yet when they got round to calling on him, they soon realised his presence, and all the chaos was overcome.
Lord Jesus, in all the storms of my own life keep me ever aware of your abiding presence. Even when I put off calling on you, help me to overcome that lack of trust, and when you calm my troubled lif,e fill me with the same awe that your early disciples felt when they allowed you to take control.
So, life isn’t always calm and easy – you don’t need me to state the obvious! But during this Lent, let’s try to remember that we have a Lord who voyages with us. And let’s give thanks that his abiding presence means that we too can sleep soundly, safe in his arms.
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
Singing the Faith 645 Priscilla Jane Owens (1829-1907)