June 20, 2021
Just as We Are
Jesus spent a day beside the sea teaching, and then the disciples took him in a boat “just as he was” (Mark 4:36). These are easy words to skip past between the wisdom of parables and the stilling of the sea. After a day of teaching to the masses, Jesus was tired. Indeed, he fell asleep in the boat. Perhaps he was hungry. He was already being followed everywhere by an ever-growing crowd, given little time to himself for rest. It was Jesus, “just as he was,” who calmed the storm. This was not the transfigured Jesus or the resurrected Jesus, but the fully human (and fully divine) Jesus after a long day.
Psalm 139 reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (v. 14). Yet we often struggle to let people encounter us just as we are. Some of us have been conditioned to believe that “just as you are” is not good enough, smart enough, or worthy of attention, credit, or love. Others have been praised for perfection and must strive to maintain that image.
Most of us have some way of hiding bits of ourselves and our experiences. This may look like a wall of silence and a minimum of words, or a flood of information that reveals no more than the silence. We have all learned to live with a mixture of our own secrets, doubts, fears, and hopes. Our public selves reveal some, but not all, of who we are.
What if “just as we are” is exactly where we are most powerful and most able to bless others? What if “just as we are” is where we are most able to bring grace and peace to our families, friends, coworkers, and neighbors? Come to worship today just as you are, and know that is right where Jesus meets you and calls you into service.
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The Readings in the Bible
Mark’s narrative of the stilling of the storm means to demonstrate Jesus’ divine power, through which he has healed the sick and by which he proclaims God’s kingdom. The ancient world believed that the deity has power over nature. In the Old Testament, one descriptor of God’s creative might is that God conquered the sea demon. Jesus rebukes the wind, just as he did the demon (Mark 1:25). The present tense of “obey” (v. 41) indicates that the narrative is not merely a record of a past event, but means to call forth the faith of those who hear this text in assembled worship, who are asked to have faith under their current duress.
The book of Job, likely composed by a Jew living in exile in Babylon or later in history, is one the world’s most profound discussions of theodicy: how can we understand the power of God in light of the suffering of the innocent? Using an older legend as the book’s frame (chaps. 1–2, 42), the poet raises stereotypical religious answers to the theodicy question, some of which are taught in the Bible itself, and the suffering Job rejects each one. All that is left is the mysterious power of God (chaps. 38–41). God’s answer begins with a poetic description of the creation of the world, in which God conquers the power of the sea. Ancient Mesopotamian and Canaanite literature depicted the sea as the location of terrifying monsters, such as the Leviathan of Psalm 104:26.
In a rhetorical tour de force, Paul summarizes the difficulties and qualities of a life of missionary activity. The quote in verse 2 comes from the Septuagint of Isaiah 49:8, which referred to return from exile, which for Paul is a precursor of the death and resurrection of Christ. The “now” indicates Paul’s realized eschatology. Like his contemporaries, Paul thought of the heart (v. 12), not the brain, as the organ that controlled bodily emotions. A literal translation of verse 12 refers to one’s bowels: this exemplifies the interesting issues involved in biblical translations.