Mark 4: 35-41 Crossing Over to the Other Side Charles Asher 6/24/12
It wasn’t the first time that day that Jesus had gotten into a boat. Now evening had come and it was time to get back into the boat and cross over to the other side.
I doubt there’s a person here this morning that will not at some moment hear these same words, “Let us go across to the other side.” Are we willing to launch our boat, face the storms, and find the grace of calm for our lives in the One who beckons us to cross over to the other side?
Life is one crossing after another: Birth, marriage, separation, divorce, graduation, aging, retiring, entering the work world, losing those we love, our homes, our health. Sometimes it’s crossing from one worn out idea to another, or perhaps a huge attitude shift. You name it. We all are called to make our crossings, to go across to the other side, and that other side we may or may not be able to see.
These crossing are times of “liminal space” or ritual space, as the scholar Victor Turner would say. It’s a time of danger, darkness, potential death and opportunity as well. Transitions are like that and we enter into a different space, a danger zone that is also an area of opportunity as well.
At one point earlier in that day Jesus had met the crowd at just such a liminal place – down by the seashore. There he had taught the crowd and explained the parables in private to his disciples. The crowd pressed closer to him, and it was hard to back them up. They wanted more. They knew their very own lives were at stake. It had been a long day of teaching, explaining, and reaching out to those on the fringes of life. He had been forced to get into a boat, push off from shore a bit and address the crowd from the boat.
Now, evening had come, the liminal time between day and night, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” I’m wondering if someone here this morning might hear those words echo down through the ages and consider that they may be spoken once again to you this very morning.
Let us go across to the other side by launching our boats.
I know of someone who wanted to go to sea so he began to build a boat in his backyard. When my wife was a child, she had a neighbor who lived behind them on the other side of a tall fence. This neighbor had a dream. He would build a boat and begin to explore the world. He decided he would build it in his back yard. He ordered the plans that came in a kit, and began to build. This was no rowboat, but a large boat, and everyone in the neighborhood knew about it. He started out by constructing a building to house his project and the neighborhood kids threw him milk cartons to line the roof of the building and keep the rain out. There were a lot of giggles about his project and he asked for advice from the neighbors as he worked for over ten years building his boat and his dream to sail away some day. Some said he was a bit off but the neighborhood tolerated his project. But, you know what, after more than ten years the boat just sat there. It never made it to sea. Maybe he ended a ten-year argument with his wife. Maybe the boat had been so long on land that it began to rot and was no longer seaworthy. Maybe he couldn’t get it out of the yard without tearing down the house. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Whatever! The boat never launched and neither did his dream. At times we may simply get caught in our dreams and never take the chance of enacting them.
Maybe we don’t cross because we’re looking for the perfect launching. You know the church was often compared to a ship, the mast being the cross, an image of the church as being like Noah’s ark. Most launchings don’t go so smoothly. Some of you know about this first hand here at St. John’s on St. John’s Day. Launchings take a lot of preparation especially for a sideways launch: greasing the skids, first knocking the blocks out on the launching side, then driving in the wedges that begin to tilt the ship, and then the slide, huge splash and the ship rights itself. Sometimes we simply have to act even though it may not look so nice.
Maybe we don’t launch because we want to hold on to the familiar. Some people will cling to the familiar that is unhealthy for them rather than risk changing to something that is new and unfamiliar and yet healthy for them. It seems safer to stay put – even when their life is not working.
Some people decide to live in houseboats. They can’t decide if they want a house or a boat, and so they stay tied to a dock in a houseboat – most of the time.
I’ve known others who stand on the shore and tell themselves a story about what it’s going to be like if they leave shore and their stories frighten them into not getting their boat wet. The pull their boats further up on shore! Never know how high the tide will get!
One story some tell themselves is that everything is going to get worse if they launch their boat into the unknown. They are convinced and certain this will be the case. Life is a bad soap opera, and the story is surely going to turn out bad. They seem to know just what’s going to happen, and it’s going to be bad, bad, bad.
Others tell a story about how wonderful it will be on the open sea, if you just keep a positive attitude. It’s all in your mind, all in your attitude and your mind can control the situation and that will keep you safe. They have the interesting idea that their mind is all-powerful, and if their mind is not positive about an adventure they will choose to stay on land.
Both the negative and positive story is driven before the wind by anxiety about the unknown. And, of course, anxiety is not something we are to blame for experiencing and we may experience it in various degrees of intensity. However, at times we cling to our stories as a way of controlling an unpredictable future. At times and for a period of time this may be necessary. In doing so though we may cut ourselves off from surprises, from God’s grace, even from our own relevant resources and yet mostly from God who is there to help us draw on the resources we need at the time – resources that help us meet what comes our way from the unknown.
Let us go across to the other side in spite of the storms we will inevitably meet.
Suppose we do launch our boat, and hoist our sails and end up ‘luffing’ before the wind, perhaps caught in the irons. How do we get out of the irons? We throw our wheel or tiller hard to one side, tighten up on the sheets, and then catching the wind we can start across to the other side.
There will, of course, be storms at sea and we are suddenly in peril.
Those of us here this morning know there are sudden squalls that hit us in life: A tragic accident that happened to thirteen year old Trevor Smith who fell between a car and a trailer and was killed, young mothers and fathers killed in war, the sudden onset of a disease, losing someone we love, a moment of betrayal and the loss of innocence, an unexpected diagnosis, a financial reversal fed by an overall economic crisis.