freedom stories – Eoghan


Mark 4:35-41 Jesus and the shape of freedom.

I love this passage from Mark chapter four. There’s just something about this ‘Sunday school classic’ that has always caught my attention, because I think there’s a lot more going on here than at first meets the eye. Beneath all of the moving parts on the surface of the story, the wind, the waves, the journey to the other side, the disciple’s loss of perspective, something else is going on.

At its very core this text shows us two things. Firstly it shows us something about Jesus and in doing that it shows us something about how we are invited to imagine life. Whatever we understand about this text, it’s clear that Mark wants us to see Jesus. But not in an abstract sense, Jesus the idea, Mark wants us to see Jesus in the flesh, because that’s the beating heart of the Christian message, that: God came in the flesh. Jesus is more than an idea. Jesus is our model for what human life looks like. A truly human life will always be Jesus shaped. This is hugely significant for us as disciples in terms of what we understand it means to be free, or to live freely.

Jesus and the Disciples were in the same place at the same time, suffering in the same kind of way, faced with the same kind of danger, but something is different. What is it? What do we see if we look past the surface of the story? I think Mark wants us to sit up and to take notice of the difference between the way in which Jesus was present in the boat and how the disciples were in that moment. See how the text finishes in verse 41 with the question ‘Who is this?’ Mark has us exactly where he wants us, with Jesus at the centre. If we stick to a surface reading of the text we might find ourselves left with a picture of Jesus where he needs to be pulled reluctantly from a nap, indifferent to the situation around him. But I think there’s far more going on here.

This isn’t just a gale like the kind of weather we’ve had in Dublin throughout winter this year. Take another look at the text, verse 37 tells us that the waves and breakers were beginning to fill the boat. The boat was starting to break apart. This is not a picture of the kind of setting most conducive to sleep. So what else might Mark be trying to show us? What if Jesus’ actions here are a picture for us of the shape of life we’re invited to adopt in our own lives as disciples. Where we’re present in the boat of life, storms and all, but free. Free enough to be at peace. Jesus’ actions here call us into a lifestyle rooted in relationship with the Father, lived out of rest not fear.

Jesus’ life is the true shape of freedom.

Eoghan Heaslip

what the sea brought in

This January, when the waves beat against the rooftops of the homes and businesses on Lahinch’s sea front I wonder if people knew what the sea would bring in. Pavement was torn apart, windows broken, and the town flooded. It was a town under attack. Looking at the sea front now one might not realise the ferocity of the storm and the damage it caused. The buildings still stand tall, even if a little worse for wear.

But the locals see what the sea brought in. They tidied the town in the ways they could but there are changes that they won’t be able to reverse.

Half of the pristine sandy beaches of one of Ireland’s premier surfing towns is now littered with boulders, so much that you can’t see the sand beneath them. To me, the thousands of rocks looked as though they had always been there when the reality is that one storm carried them in covering over the perfectly sandy beach that was once there. But to me, it is just as beautiful. I don’t really remember it without the stones.

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Like the storm that hit the west of Ireland just two months ago, there are forces of change beyond our control that threaten our places of safety. They draw us out and make us question our wisdom of making our home so close to the sea – the unpredictable sea. Were we too risky?

The pastel colours that filled my vista as I drove closer and closer to the edge of Ireland took my breath away. The beauty of the sky, the sea, the streets, and the people were unique to this collection of buildings and life.

After the hurt is gone and the strength to stand returns we see what the sea brought into our lives. Friends and family who love us help to pick up the pieces and put them back together again. It changes the landscape for good – but there is beauty there. And when we open the roads to let newcomers and visitors in again they will stand in awe of the creation that we are. They won’t see the storm, they will see the beauty.

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“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?”
Job 38:8-11