A living parable

Katherine Cartwright Knodel

A living parable

Lectionary blog on Mark 4:35-41 Text for Sunday, June 24, 2012

"On that day, when evening had come…"

The opening of the gospel reading prompts the question, "Which day?" The answer gives us a clue about how to listen to the story we are about to share.

It was a day that large crowds gathered and Jesus taught them in parables -- the kind of stories that turn our world upside down and give us mysteries to ponder as we think about who God is and how God works. They all had something to do with planting seeds.

Seeds themselves are mysterious. You plant them in the ground, give them water and light and fertilizer, and somehow they break open and produce wonders of great beauty that also feed us.

The ancients knew something else about seeds. They knew that the whole truth and the whole future is in that tiny kernel of potential. The ancient Celts said it this way, "Inside the acorn is the mighty oak."

And so, as we move into evening of that day when they went into the boat, we can understand what happens as a living parable. The disciples' experience with the storm and with Jesus' stilling the storm turned their world upside down and gave them mysteries to ponder, as they began to think about who God is and how God works.

Such experiences often behave like seeds planted in the ground of our experience, like tiny kernels of potential that lead us into understanding the deeper truths about God.

But before they could get to the pondering, they had to get through the fear of the immediate moment and notice what God was doing in the middle of the storm and in the middle of their fear.

A great windstorm arose and was so violent that the boat quickly swamped. In the midst of this, Jesus’ presence was so calm that he was sleeping. They woke him up and demanded an explanation from him, a sign of his concern.

After Jesus had dispatched the rising winds and the churning waves, he turned to the disciples and asked why they were afraid and why they were unable to trust God through this difficult moment.

One of the surprises of the story, when you really think about it, is that the disciples did trust God -- they trusted God so much that they shook him out of his sleep and cried to him for help, trusting that their need would be met.

Their fear broke them open and something new began to grow out of them -- something that reached up through the dark soil of their experience and toward the light of God.

They reached out to the part of God that they could see and feel and hear and touch. Even in their fear, they reached out to God's open, compassionate heart and Jesus, in turn, asked them to open their hearts to God after the stilling of the storm.


• How do the storms of life break us open and lead us to a deeper relationship with God?
• As you think about the storms in your own life, how have you reached out to the part of God that you can see and feel and hear and touch? What response have you received?
• Both Job and Paul express steadfast faith in the midst of the "storms" of life -- how do we see this trust and God's response in their experience?


Katherine Cartwright Knodel, an ELCA pastor, has served congregations for more than 21 years. An instructor for the Pennsylvania Diakonia Program, she teaches two classes, "Biblical Images of the Life of the Church" and "Communicating the Gospel."

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