Daily Devotion for Friday 5th April 2024

Friday 5th April 2024  James He Qi Peace Be Still



reproduced on licence from James He Qi

Currently a California resident, Dr He Qi Studied at Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing Art Institute in China and Hamburg Art Institute in Germany.  He has been an Artist-in-Residence at Fuller Theological Seminary (CA) and is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Art Institute of RUC (Renmin University of China,Beijing)  He was the first among Mainland Chinese to earn a Ph.D. in Religious art after the Revolution(1992). He also received his Honorary Doctor Degree from Australia Catholic University in Melbourne (May, 2011). He is also a member of the China Art Association.  He Qi’s art is seen as a reinterpretation of sacred art within an ancient Chinese art idiom. Chinese religious art, being an expression of Buddhism, was historically typified as a tranquil and utopian portrayal of nature, often painted with black ink and water. He Qi is influenced by the simple and beautiful artwork of the people in rural China.  Within that framework, he seeks to redefine the relationship between people and spirituality with bold colours, embellished shapes and thick strokes. His work is a blend of Chinese folk art and traditional painting technique with the iconography of the Western Middle Ages and Modern Art.  Peace Be Still is  one of his most well-known artworks.  It’s  been featured in the New York times in an article called  Searching for a Jesus Who looks like Me

Reading  St Mark 4: 35 – 41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’  And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’


When you read this story, what do you picture in your mind? I imagine a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Why do I not think of fishers working off our own coast? Or of the many storms that have lashed our islands? Such images are readily available.

What strikes you most? That Jesus was asleep? That his disciples thought he did not care? Do you focus on their fear? Or their awe? The answer to these questions will depend on your perspective, your upbringing, personality and what is going on for you in your life right now. Do you feel buffeted by the storms of life, metaphorical or literal? Or are you safe in the knowledge that Jesus is in the boat beside you and though he didn’t stop the storm from happening, he will calm the waters with ease?

In the time of Jesus, control of the sea was a divine characteristic. This story is a way of showing the true identity of Jesus to the disciples. The Gospel of Mark is known for having not very intelligent disciples – hints of Jesus’ divinity keep appearing, but they just don’t get it. It is vital to Mark to show that the disciples are just like us – don’t worry, if you are finding these things about Jesus hard to understand, so did they. If you are afraid, so were they. The Jesus of Mark’s Gospel is struggling with how to tell the disciples things there are no words for. So, he shows them – he calms the storm with just three words. Something only God should be able to do. And here we have art, showing, rather than telling us the story.

In He Qi’s painting, the sea is rough below, but calm above and a peace dove with an olive branch in its beak flies over Jesus’ head – a reminder perhaps of the calm after the flood and God’s forgiveness of humankind? Forgiveness of our unseeing and waywardness?


Creator God, we give you thanks for artists who help us see your world through different eyes, who open up your Word with new interpretations and wider understanding. We thank you for Jesus, the one who sits beside us in the boat of life and calms the storms. Amen

Today’s writer

The Revd Naomi Young-Rodas, Minister, Christ Church Rayleigh and the Bridgwater Drive Church


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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