This week will see many of us either visiting or thinking of Dads, Fathers or Pas, even if the Covid restrictions make that awkward again. It's a bit of a strange day since it's an import from the USA rather than home-grown. Mothers' Day has longer and deeper roots in the UK. In fact, in the USA it is now a public holiday, having been made one by then-President Richard Nixon in 1972. No such luck in the UK!
Of course, the Bible has plenty to say about fathers and about relationships between fathers and children; a lot of Christian language centres on the Father, since Jesus spoke so often of his Father (i.e. God!), using the word Abba to describe him: not a meaning that most people would think of if asked about that word nowadays.
But this Sunday's Gospel reading doesn't mention fathers once. It's the famous story of the Storm on the Sea of Galilee. It's doubly famous because Rembrandt painted a picture showing the scene right in the middle of the storm. It's even more famous in that someone stole the picture years ago and it's never been seen since.
I have to confess that I do have that picture but before you reach for your phone to call the police, it's a print.
The story of the storm is that Jesus is crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat with his disciples when the storm whips up. The Sea of Galilee is a very large inland lake in Israel and it has always been infamous for its sudden, violent storms. All twelve disciples and Jesus are onboard and Jesus, having had yet another hard day's ministry, has got his head down for a sleep. The storm doesn't waken him but the disciples are scared to death. We might remember that several of them were professional fishermen who made their living on the Sea of Galilee so they didn't scare easily.
Terrified, they wake Jesus and ask him why he isn't scared. He responds by telling the wind and water to calm down, which they do immediately. He then turns to the disciples and asks them why they are afraid and says, 'Have you still no faith?'
They are amazed at what he has done and start to question, among themselves, who he really is to be able to calm the wind and waves. For Jews, as they were, the only person who could do that was God.
The other point in this story is that, in the midst of any trouble or storm, either in the outside world or in your head, keeping your faith will bring calm and order.
Rembrandt's picture captures the story but it is worth looking at carefully. Jesus is there, calm as you would expect; the twelve disciples are there, looking like you would expect panicking men would look. However, if you count the number of people in the boat, there are fourteen people. Look closely and there is another person not panicking; instead, he is looking out of the side of the boat straight at you.
It's Rembrandt himself. Maybe it's a joke or maybe he just thought, 'You know, we've all been in that boat and we all will be there again sometime in our lives. Let's remember that we should fight hard to keep our faith at such times and rely on Jesus to be there with us, keeping us calm.'
You may remember last week that there was a picture on the page for that week's Newsletter. It showed the nest of young robins that had been born in our barbeque. Just in case you were wondering, this week's picture shows the nest on the Monday after that page appeared. That morning the young robins all fledged successfully and flew to start their lives away from the nest. That's something that many fathers will experience, when their youngsters leave home to make their own way in the world. To Dads everywhere, may God bless you and your families. Amen.