I'll never forget him as long as I live. His name is Gary, and I had the privilege of welcoming him into the family of faith. Gary is a simple man, and a bachelor. In fact, he is one of the simplest people I know. It doesn't take much to make him happy, and I don't think it ever will. He just showed up one morning at a church I was serving, wearing old bluejeans, a T-shirt, and a ball cap. When he dressed up, it was in his one good flannel shirt...and ball cap.
We hit it off immediately. He came up to me after attending a couple weeks, asked if he could help with the music, and I told him that he absolutely could. We practiced on Tuesday nights for the non-traditional service and Gary showed up that very week. When he picked up a guitar, he was transformed. He became more confident. His face even seemed to change, but he couldn't read a lick of music. Everything was played by ear, and if I remember correctly, the first song he played was, "Walk around me Jesus."
I hate bluegrass, with a few exceptions. Always have, but when Gary played that song, I melted. It came from his heart. There was not a pretentious bone in his body and when Gary played, he played for God and God alone. Now, why did I tell you about Gary? Because that song was what came to me when I read this morning's Life Journal readings.
Today we're in Mark 6. My absolute favorite chapter in Mark's gospel. I have read that chapter at least a hundred times. It's my go to when I'm asked to do an impromptu devotional. It's got the story of the feeding of the 5000, and the flashback to the time when John was martyred. In Mark 6 Jesus calls the disciples away to get some rest, and then there is the story about Jesus walking on the water. That is where scripture meets real life for me today.
Look at the story again. Jesus had just finished feeding the 5000. The disciples had just picked up the leftovers and cleaned up the kitchen. Jesus didn't even let them sit down after supper. Immediately, he made them get into a boat. He stood there watching and saw they were having some trouble. So instead of borrowing a boat, he just started walking. Here is the "Aha!" moment for me this time...
"He was about to pass by them..."
Have you ever noticed that before? I'm sure I had, but something clicked this time. It jumped out at me and screamed, "Look at me!" Jesus didn't walk on the water straight to the terrified disciples who were getting tossed around in a little boat, he was going to walk past them. What kind of Jesus walks past you when you're in a storm?
Now, I'm not questioning his motives, well not much anyhow, and I'm certainly not in a position to judge, but part of me is absolutely dying to find out why he was about to pass by them. Maybe he thought the disciples just couldn't handle seeing him walking ON TOP of the water, so he was going to flank them and slip into the boat unseen. Maybe he was wanting to see if they would recognize him. Maybe he had walked out there to guide them on across. I have no clue.
I do know this, though. There are folks all over who are in the midst of a great storm, battling against the oars, straining with all they've got, and still getting nowhere. There is a world full of folks who desperately want Jesus to walk around them, but all they can seem to see is Jesus walking on past them. This is where we come in.
Our role is not to judge, condemn, or criticize, but to welcome those who look to us with questions in their hearts, years of struggle written on their brows, and tears in their eyes and remind them that even though the storm is raging, and the boat is being tossed like a ragdoll, and it seems as if Jesus has walked past them and out of sight, he hasn't. He is in fact, walking around them.
That's a great image. Jesus...Second Person of the Trinity...Prince of Peace...Wonderful Counselor...and now...Night Watchman...walking around and protecting that which is dear to him in the midst of their storm.