Christ Calming the Water (c. 1988)
by Almo Lavinigo
photo by Robert Lz
copyright 2008

Proper 7, Mark 4:35-41

Historical Description:

Throughout history sculpture has provided the means to create incredibly lifelike, three-dimensional images that can exemplify a scriptural passage.  Some of these sculptures are famous, situated in the best-known galleries in the world.  Others are less well known, but perhaps more influential because of their anonymity and surprising grace.  If you go to the Memorial Park Cemetery in Gainesville GA, you might not expect to see statuary.  Instead, you may be visiting a grave.  There, among the graves, however, are surprising statues, depicting scenes from the life of Christ.  Not hidden in a museum, Christ is here among us in the world.  One such statue depicts Jesus calming the storm.  This piece was created of carrara marble by Italian sculptor Almo Lavinigo, who produced many more pieces for the cemetery grounds.  While the pond might be still, its visitors are not.  Often they come tossed and turned by the suffering of grief.  Yet, there in the midst of their suffering is Christ calming the storm.  Although not located in one of the great museums of the world, this sculpture no doubt brings calm to the hundreds of people who come visit each year.

Devotional Reflection:

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” Mark 4:41 (ESV)

The backdrop to the above verse was a terrifying one.  The disciples were attempting to keep their boat from taking on water and being pushed over by wind all the while Jesus was sleeping on a cushion.  Most everyone knows what happens next: the disciples wake Jesus up, He stills the wind and sea, chastises the disciples and then . . . the disciples were filled with great fear.  This passage seems a bit odd at first glance and the above verse may often be overlooked.  After all, there is a lot of “fear” mentioned as the disciples try to keep their boat afloat during the storm, which is understandable.  What might be less understandable is that the disciples were “filled with great fear” AFTER the storm had died down.   They were afraid of this man standing in the boat with them whom they now realized was God.   It is one thing to fear a deadly storm, it is quite another thing altogether to fear the One who mastered that deadly storm.

That’s why the statue at Memorial Park Cemetery is so fascinating.  The statue captures that moment in time AFTER Jesus stills the storm and the disciples are in the boat cowering in fear wondering, “who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  Like that first scriptural event, death surrounds everyone.  The corpses of people are buried for a ½ mile around in every direction.  I can only imagine burying your own grandparent, parent, spouse or child, seeing the casket lowered into the ground and having the cold realization seep in that you will never see your loved one again.   As the car drives away and the tears stain your face, the emptiness begins.  Your sense of being small and powerless in this world seems to cripple you.  As you turn the corner of the cemetery you see a small statue in the pond.  It is Jesus stilling the storm.  The pond does not move.  It just shimmers.  Every turbulence has been made quiet.  Every threat has been disarmed.  There is only peace.  The disciples cower in fear, not at their impending death, but at the greatness of the Peace Giver, Jesus, the One who mastered the storm.   And in that moment, I can imagine people being comforted, maybe even struck for the first time, by the realization that Jesus truly is master over all things even death itself.  The statue helps people see, and maybe even Christians experience for the first time, the power of this God-man Jesus Christ.  And who is He?  Nothing less than the One who has the power to still storms, heal the sick, and yes, even raise the dead.  Amen.

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