I was looking for something in my church office closet yesterday, when I came across a framed reproduction of a Rembrandt painting from a sermon series. It shows the disciples in a boat with Jesus during a storm. The painting was just sitting in my closet, so I decided to hang it in my office. I found a spot right next to my desk so I can look at it often. The painting is very dark because it is a storm at night on a very rough Sea of Galilee. Waves are crashing over the side of the boat, and the disciples try to tie down sails that look like they are about to tear apart. Meanwhile, Jesus sits peacefully in the back of the boat while all of this is happening.
You may remember the story. Jesus was actually asleep in the back of the boat when the storm hits. The disciples are panicked that Jesus doesn't seem very concerned about their boat in the storm. I remember preaching a sermon on this that reminded us the safest place in the storm is in the boat with Jesus. You may also remember the end of the story. Jesus tells the storm to quiet down - and it does!
One of the reasons I like the painting is because I think the boat represents the church. Throughout history, artists have used the image of a boat or ship at sea to represent the church. Some even trace it back to Noah and the ark. But for me, I think it describes what it is like to be the church in our day and time. While we may not face anything like the persecutions some Christians face in other parts of the world, it is not exactly smooth sailing when it comes to being the church. Maybe the best we can do in the stormy times of today is to trust Jesus and hang on until the storm dies down. Whatever we face in life, it is good to know Jesus is with us! Jesus said, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20, NIV)