Saturday, June 20, 2009


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. (Mark 4:35-36)

Just as he was.

Even though I had read or heard this passage many times, I had never noticed that phrase until a colleague pointed it out to me. Reading back to beginning of Mark 4, I saw that Jesus had begun his teaching sitting in the boat near the shore and so this little phrase that I had overlooked for so long simply meant that he had remained in the boat until he was finished teaching and the disciples set out for the other side with Jesus sitting just where he had been all day.

But I don’t want to leave it at that, nor do I think Mark wanted to. At the nursing home where we celebrate the Eucharist each week, we sometimes sing “Just as I am…” and I rejoice that Jesus invites us just as we are. But isn’t it also true that Jesus invites us to a relationship with him just as he is?

The problem, of course, is that we don’t want him just as he is. We want a different kind of savior. One of my friends has said that we want an ATM savior. We ask and out pops the answer that we want. Or we want a Rambo savior who will mow down any obstacle or enemy in our path. Whatever kind of savior we want, we hardly ever want Jesus just as he is.

As the story in Mark 4 continues, we hear that a storm blew up and the disciples feared for their lives and chided Jesus for sleeping. After he had rebuked the wind and the waves, he chided the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Faith, not belief in a set of propositions, but trust in Jesus. Perhaps what the disciples had not yet grasped was that Jesus wasn’t what we might call a meteorologist savior, one who would show us where the storms of life were so that we could avoid them. I don’t think Jesus wants us to avoid all of life’s storms, but he promises us that he will be with us always, even when the winds and waves threaten to capsize our boats.

Someone has observed that we really don’t want a savior who was crucified, dead and buried, and then was raised to life again. We want a savior who avoided death altogether. We want our lives storm-free. We like smooth sailing. But that isn’t the kind of life to which Jesus has called us. We are called to bear witness to God’s love in the world, and that means that our lives will be stormy at times. The world doesn’t really want to hear that God’s love is freely given to rich and poor alike, and that wealth and prestige and power are not what matters. And when we challenge the world’s values, when we proclaim that what matters is sacrificial love, the world may decide that we are crazy and, perhaps, dangerous.

One of my favorite hymns, a hymn about those fishermen who became Jesus’ disciples, ends with these unsettling words, The peace of God it is no peace but strife closed in the sod. Yet let us pray for but one thing - the marvelous peace of God.

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