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Archive for June 19th, 2016


Mark 6:47-52: Rowing Against the Wind

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Disciples See Christ Walking on Water. c. 1907. Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections: Gift of the Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, 1921.1

Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Disciples See Christ Walking on Water

When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea . . .

Night is about to fall and as darkness overtakes us, the once gentle waves rise above the sides of our boat. We worry about the unseen future, fret about the present and hope to remember the lessons of the past. Hold on, we say to ourselves and one another. The light will come again.

He saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them . . .

We strain against the current that runs too swiftly for our tiny oars to guide us to shore. We cannot possibly go on, we say to ourselves and to one another. This looks like the end.

He came to them, walking on the sea; and he intended to pass them by . . .

The promise of salvation flickers before us as our oars stutter over the chop and waves breech our little boat. Our rescue is here, we begin to think. But is it? Are we expected to save ourselves against this overwhelming wind?

They supposed he was a ghost and began to cry out . . . they were terrified . . .

Jesus understands us far better than we understand ourselves. His presence is both soothing and alarming. We are doomed! We say to one another. There is no way out of this.

But immediately he spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid . . .”

This cannot be real, we say. Who walks on water? Who calms the sea and wind? Who cares enough about us to risk a relationship of fidelity and hope with us?

Tanner: Christ and his Mother studying Scriptures

Tanner: Christ and his Mother studying Scriptures

Learning at his mother’s knee and listening to the Spirit within, Jesus knows how to respond to every hope and every fear that pulls us down into negativity in the moment of its burgeoning.

Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished . . .

Jesus does not abandon or betray us, even when we falter or stumble.

For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their hearts were hardened . . .

Jesus accompanies us even when we refuse to enact the gift of grace and peace he offers. Jesus is with us when we find ourselves rowing against the tide. Might we come together to help one another as we struggle to reach the shore against the wind?

Use the scripture link above to compare other versions of these verses. Or read this story in Matthew 14:22-26 and John 6:16-21 to reflect on Jesus’ presence and power in our lives. 

Enter the name Henry Ossawa Tanner into the blog search bar to discover more about his depiction of this story. To learn more about his life or works, click on the images or visit: http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tanner/tanner_main.html 

Jessie Olssen Tanner

Jessie Olssen Tanner and Jessie Ossawa Tanner posing for Tanner’s painting Christ and his Mother studying the Scriptures

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