Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Just As He Was
Mark 4: 35-41
Have you ever been on a rollercoaster? There are lots of different kinds. Josiah’s first coaster was a small one in the kiddie rides at the Texas State Fair, and it was no more than maybe 8 feet high, and went around in a circle three times that had 4 sharp turns and a few humps. There are also the ones like the old wooden ones like they have a Knoebels, much higher, faster and they rattle excitingly, and when you finish, it feels a little bit like you’ve escaped the coaster collapsing.
The steel track coasters are much smoother in their rides, but they do much more intense things, like corkscrews and loops. Then there are those coasters for the ones who are bored with that, and the designers figure out how to change your position for the ride, and the one that looks the most interesting to me is the one that is themed for Superman, and the ride actually lifts you into a position where you are on your belly, and then it seeks to simulate a joyride flight with loops and turns and corkscrews.
Some folks are comfortable only in that type of extreme coaster, others are more comfortable in the old wooden ones. Some never want to leave the little kiddie coaster, and some are just fine on the carousel.
It’s probably the same way with storms. When you are on a boat in the sea, wind is a good thing. It is what gets you to the other side, even if you have to put down a keel and tack, or zigzag, back and forth. But there can be too much wind, and what is strong enough to push you through the water can also be strong enough to push you over and capsize. The phenomenon of seeing racing sloops heeling over almost to a 45 degree angle, crew strapped to the upper side as a counterbalance, I’m sure is a phenomenon foreign to 1st century fishermen.
Jesus, just as he was, was sleeping through a heavy wind. Who knows, he was comfortable with the amount of wind because it was getting them to the other side faster. But he’s just come off preaching to large crowds, for hours, and he’s tired. So, just as he is, with no bathing or washing his face and maybe even with no food, he suggests that they go to the other side of the lake, the pagan side, and preach some over there. The disciples are faithful enough to say OK, even though they know they are headed into something unclean, and seek to get him there. And a wind comes up, and it’s a little too much wind, because the boat is being swamped. Jesus, though, after preaching for hours, is sleeping in the back of the boat, and nothing is bothering him. The man needs sleep, and he’s got complete trust in God, and the guys sailing the ship.
They however, are new to this God-among-us thing. Rather than figure out a way to use the wind to get them to the other side, rather than assign people to bail, they run to Jesus, because the trip is just a little too exciting. They’ve had enough of the ride, it’s time to dial it back. So even though Jesus was comfortable enough with the storm to be sleeping through it, and though the disciples merely needed to notice that in the midst of the storm, Jesus was sleeping, and so it must have been ok, Jesus does still the storm. He dials it all the way back, back to where they now have to row the rest of the way across; the story says he stilled the wind, and there was a dead calm. Which means there is now no way to move the boat except for breaking out the oars and rowing it. But a rowed boat, I assume is a great place to sleep—cool sea breeze, rhythmic swooshing noises, and the whole crew silent and thoughtful as they row, thinking about what they’ve just seen.
Which is fine, I bet, for Jesus, who I would guess lays back down in the stern of the boat and goes back to sleep. Mark doesn’t tell us. After all, the next day is the day they go to the pagans and preach to them, and Jesus needs to be ready for that. So I think Jesus, exhausted, lays back down. Jesus, in the boat, just as he is, his full humanity being weary.
There are times when we all panic. Times when we forget that Jesus is with us, and the events of our lives get a little too rambunctious, and we cry to Jesus to still the storm for us. It may have been that the storm was moving us towards God’s goal for us quickly, like a sailboat before a strong wind, but it’s too much for us. We need to slow down. Considering the alternative, we’re ok with doing it under our own power, breaking out the oars, which are slow, and cause blisters and sore muscles. Sometimes we prefer pain and delay so that we can maintain our own control over situations.
Jesus, just as he is, loves us even though we still demand control. Jesus loves us, seeks, us, leads us, just as we are. Incomplete, stubborn, without a clue half the time, holding on to the wrong things in the high winds that surround us. Too much of the pain that is caused in our lives is because we are pushed beyond what we though we knew to be truth, and the Holy Spirit blows us into the uncharted part of the sea, where our truths are too small, now. And Jesus is comfortable enough to sleep through it.
Let go of what you see as truth. Take it out and compare it to the love of God as seen in Christ. The radical love of everyone, and the radical expectation that we are to treat each other with the same love that we assure ourselves God loves us with.
And then hang on for the ride.