In the boat

Big stormy ocean wave. Blue water backgroundWhat’s as tall as a 10-story office building, snaps large vessels in half and inspires a small tribe of surfers to launch themselves into an unholy maelstrom? Giant waves. The bigger the better — or worse — depending on who’s talking; better for extreme surfers, worse for seafarers. Until very recently giant waves lived only as lore. There was the story of the Tlingit Indian woman who returned from berry picking to find her entire village disappeared. The polar explorer Ernest Shackleton once reported narrowly surviving “a mighty upheaval of the ocean,” the biggest wave he’d seen in 26 years of seafaring. But witnesses of a 100-foot wave at close range rarely lived to tell, and experts dismissed stories about these waves because they seemingly violated basic principles of ocean physics. It was only 15 years ago, when the British research ship Discovery was caught in an endless North Sea storm and struggled to station-keep for more than a week before it could break free. The scientists had been lashed to their bunks while the maelstrom swirled around them – all the while the data recorders were at work.  The data recorded seas 60 feet high, with some wave faces spiking at 90 feet and higher. With such reliable data established, satellites began confirming that these rogues, freaks, and giants of the ocean were far from rare. Continue reading

Storms in life

LJA130270The gospel for this coming Sunday, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time ( Year B), is the Markan account of the calming of the storm waters on the Sea of Galilee.

“On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side” (Mark 4:35). As Stoffregen asks: Why do the disciples cross the lake? There are several possible answers: (a) to get to the other side or (b) as recorded in the text, Jesus told them to cross over. Even though (b) is the correct answer, (a) raises the curiosity: what is on the other side? Gentile (unclean) territory indicated by “unclean spirits,” “swine,” and “Decapolis.”  Many scholars hold that this trip across the lake represents the Gentile mission for Mark. The storm at sea represents the storms in the early church as they sought to carry out Jesus’ command “to go to the other side” or “to make disciples of all nations.” It may be noted that the area where the people of God sit while in church is properly called the “nave,” from the Latin “navis” = ship. Continue reading

Who then is this?

storms-at-seaThe gospel for this coming Sunday, the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time ( Year B), is the Markan account of the calming of the storm waters on the Sea of Galilee. This gospel account appears in the context of parables and miracles.

In 4:1-34 Jesus teaches in parables, which keeps those “outside” from understanding (4:11-12), but Jesus “Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.” (4:34). However, we will see that even with the special instructions, the disciples don’t get it. But parables are not the only method of teaching. In 4:35-5:43 Jesus teaches with miracle – stilling the storm (4:35-41); the demonic legion (5:1-20); raising Jairus’ daughter and healing the woman with a flow of blood (5:21-43 – the text for next week). However, following these displays of Jesus’ power, the responses are not positive: Continue reading

Making time to listen

Several years ago, I was fortunate to have the time and opportunity to go to Israel on pilgrimage. I remember when I first caught sight of the Sea of Galilee…. I thought it would be bigger. Trust me it is big, but not “Lake Michigan” big. The Sea of Galilee is 8 miles across at it widest and 13 miles in length. So it’s big… I just thought it would be bigger. Continue reading

The storms obey: reflections

Jesus-boat-storm2Reflections from Pheme Perkins [581]

  1. The question of Jesus’ identity appears repeatedly in Mark. When the disciples suddenly show a lack of trust in God’s power working through Jesus and even accuse Jesus of not caring, readers are challenged to examine their own faith. Merely repeating the confession that Jesus is Son of God means little if Jesus does not represent God for us. A suspicion that God does not really care what happens to us will corrode our religious life. The results of such sentiments in daily life are familiar. Human relationships die when we sense that others do not care what happens to us.
  2. Doubts about God also emerge in times of crisis. Mark’s readers were familiar with the destructive effects of persecution. The weaknesses exhibited by Jesus’ disciples encourage later believers to persist despite doubts about God’s saving presence. In the end, they will discover the one whom wind and sea obey.
  3. When the disciples say to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” their panic separates them from Jesus. How can he not care? He is in the boat with them! Jesus does not react to their panic. He speaks first to the raging elements, the wind and sea. Then he asks his stunned disciples about their faith. On the human level, we often act like the disciples. We expect others to share our panic or distress. If they seem detached from the situation, we accuse them of not caring about our suffering. Panic reactions can divide us from others who might help just as they can cause us to doubt God’s love for us

Continue reading

The storms obey: does God care?

Jesus-boat-storm238 Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

While the storm raged, Jesus lay sleeping in the stern upon the cushion that was customarily kept under the coxswain’s seat for those who were not involved in the actual sailing or fishing. The other’s aboard are having a much different experience. Given that at least four of the disciples were professional fishermen and must have experienced such storms before, their anxiety/terror indicates the severity of the incident. The usual pattern for a deliverance from a storm at sea involved a plea to the deity for help, but Mark’s version lacks such a formula. In Matthew the disciples’ words to Jesus to fit the anticipated pattern, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matt. 8:25). In Mark, however, their cry carries an edge – rebuke? Disbelief? Incredulousness? It is hard to assign a meaning that leaves the disciples other than accusing Jesus of being indifferent to their plight. Continue reading

The storms obey: as he was

Jesus-boat-storm2Commentary: 35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.”

As Stoffregen asks: Why do the disciples cross the lake? There are several possible answers: (a) to get to the other side or (b) as recorded in the text, Jesus told them to cross over. Even though (b) is the correct answer, (a) raises the curiosity: what is on the other side? Gentile (unclean) territory indicated by “unclean spirits,” “swine,” and “Decapolis.” Many scholars hold that this trip across the lake represents the Gentile mission for Mark. The storm at sea represents the storms in the early church as they sought to carry out Jesus’ command “to go to the other side” or “to make disciples of all nations.” It may be noted that the area where the people of God sit while in church is properly called the “nave,” from the Latin “navis” = ship. Continue reading

The storms obey: context

Jesus-boat-storm2Jesus’ Power Over the Wind and Waves (Mark 4:35-41)

35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. 38 Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” 41 They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Continue reading

In the boat

LJA130270What’s as tall as a small office building, snaps large vessels in half and inspires a small tribe of surfers to launch themselves into an unholy maelstrom? Giant waves. The bigger the better — or worse — depending on who’s talking; better for extreme surfers, worse for seafarers. Until very recently giant waves lived only as lore. There was the story of the Tlingit Indian woman who returned from berry picking to find her entire village disappeared. The polar explorer Ernest Shackleton once reported narrowly surviving “a mighty upheaval of the ocean,” the biggest wave he’d seen in 26 years of seafaring. But witnesses of a 100-foot wave at close range rarely lived to tell, and experts dismissed stories about these waves because they seemingly violated basic principles of ocean physics. Continue reading

Storms: reflections

Jesus-boat-storm2Reflections from Pheme Perkins [581]

  1. The question of Jesus’ identity appears repeatedly in Mark. When the disciples suddenly show a lack of trust in God’s power working through Jesus and even accuse Jesus of not caring, readers are challenged to examine their own faith. Merely repeating the confession that Jesus is Son of God means little if Jesus does not represent God for us. A suspicion that God does not really care what happens to us will corrode our religious life. The results of such sentiments in daily life are familiar. Human relationships die when we sense that others do not care what happens to us.
  2. Doubts about God also emerge in times of crisis. Mark’s readers were familiar with the destructive effects of persecution. The weaknesses exhibited by Jesus’ disciples encourage later believers to persist despite doubts about God’s saving presence. In the end, they will discover the one whom wind and sea obey.
  3. When the disciples say to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” their panic separates them from Jesus. How can he not care? He is in the boat with them! Jesus does not react to their panic. He speaks first to the raging elements, the wind and sea. Then he asks his stunned disciples about their faith. On the human level, we often act like the disciples. We expect others to share our panic or distress. If they seem detached from the situation, we accuse them of not caring about our suffering. Panic reactions can divide us from others who might help just as they can cause us to doubt God’s love for us

Continue reading