My covenant group has been practicing mediation on the previousweek’s gospel from the common lectionary. A whole new space for encountering the good news opens up when you have a week of study and presentation behind me and the open space of ongoing reflection before me. Last week’s encounter with Mark 4: 35-41 made me aware of the difficulty that can begin when leaders don’t trust followers. I can remember any number of times when I, unlike Jesus in this passage, did not trust others to take me “into the boat,” just as I am. Instead I sometimes prefer to stay on shore in a beached boat waving to those who set out, paddle my own boat even when exhausted, or avoid a boat altogether and walk alone on water (you can imagine how that turns out).
What I’ve learned by experience is that when leaders don’t trust followers to take us as we are, our identity starts to dis-integrate into private (protected) and public (partial). I’m not saying that we out to let it all hang out. The disciple’s boat in this story was not full of dirty laundry trying to hand dry in the wind before the storm. I am saying that we need to be whole people, authentic wherever we are. The alternative leads to:
1. fractured selves trying to adapt to segmented circumstances in a personally destructive pattern.
2. barriers erected to those we seek to lead, those who are trying to learn how to be authentic people of God be observing how we try to do the same. If what we show them ourselves isn’t real, or is only partial reality, should we be surprised when they don’t live up to our expectations?
By trusting his followers to take him “as he was” into a potentially dangerous situation, Jesus demonstrated that they really are in this together. His quizzical question to them asks why they don’t trust him. I wonder what difference it would have made if their cry in the boat, instead of “don’t you care?” had been, “we need you.”
When, a few verses later, in Mark 5: 24b-34, Jesus encounters someone who does trust him without reserve, both the disciples and we overhear him say to the woman with 12 years of hemorrhaging, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace and be healed of your disease.” We don’t hear any more than that. There is no evidence offered of whether it “worked.” We are invited to trust that she found the peace and wellness she longed for. The passage itself is written in a way that draws us into that trusting relationship. Jesus’ followers would have remembered when he noticed the limits of their faith. Will this example lead them/us into deeper faith?
I think that we often read or hear these passages through the lens, “how do I get the results I want (safety in a storm, physical healing). In each of these stories Jesus goes further than he’s asked to, actually stilling the storm, actually welcoming the woman into his family. Jesus’ tendency to exceed expectation is not limited to the supplicants’ attitude (panicked, skeptical, desperate, or willing). It’s just what he does because of who he is. It’s his authentic self at work.
But what Jesus is seeking is the trust, faith, relationship, not the results themselves.
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.