to the other side

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’
— Mark 4:35

For so many years I have taken encouragement from the story of Jesus crossing the sea in a sinking boat. 

A couple decades ago I was assisting a church that had gone through a difficult passage. There were conflicts, a lack of clarity on mission, confusion among the lay leaders, and a fractious congregation following a divisive vote on whether to retain or dismiss a pastor. It was a mess.

I was so frequently asked, "Is there any hope for us?"

For the first several months, I heard this question repeatedly.  Sometimes from key leaders and influencers.  Occasionally from the church administrator who knew more than anyone about the ins and outs of that faith community.   Frequently in quiet in-home visits where young families sought assurance that this was a place to invest their time and nurture their kids.  “Is there any hope for us?”  “Is our congregation beyond repair?” Interestingly, the eldest members didn’t ask these questions as much.  Perhaps they had witnessed the resilience born of God’s grace.

Regardless of how I felt, or even what I was capable of seeing, I always answered “yes”.  There is always hope.  It may have been then that the gospel story from Mark 4:35-41 became more firmly placed in my imagination.  But that’s not when that passage most impacted me. After a painful experience of my own with a congregation, I came to see the promise contained in that story more clearly. The story begins with Jesus’ seemingly offhanded comment, “let us go over to the other side”.

It might have been nice, though, if he hadn’t been so confident. He was asleep on the cushion.

In Rembrandt’s famous depiction from Mark’s story, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, painted in 1633, we can see Jesus in the front of the boat. One wonders how in the world he had been sleeping through that storm.  But I take courage in his slumber.  He said they were headed to the other side; he didn’t say they were heading to the bottom of the sea.

We all need evidence of hope

In January of 2017 I will begin podcasting, To the Other Side Minicast, brief messages about “getting to the other side”.  Find the podcast page on the tab for "media" on at   Send me a question via email, message me on Facebook, send me a Twitter direct message, or leave a voicemail with a question about challenges, issues, problems, hopes, or curiosities about your community of faith.  I will read or play your recorded question on the podcast and then give a brief response to hopefully bring some light and encouragement.  Additionally, when useful, I’ll put together an infographic, a checklist, or a list of resources to guide through the points I bring up. 

I don’t guarantee my responses will be perfect.  In fact, try not to look too closely at the man in Rembrandt’s painting, the one leaning over the gunnels of the boat.  Sometimes getting to the other side with Jesus still makes you think some Dramamine might be helpful.

Bring on the questions!