Duke Divinity School BoatMySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on the Christian in troubled waters, the Church as a small boat and our individual mission from God  Is doubting normal?  Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Matt. 14:22-33.   #Prayer #Sermons #Homilyhelper #WalkingonWater  #LordSaveMe #MissionReady

MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   8/10/2014 The 19th   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Matthew 14:22-33.

          At Duke University’s Divinity School, there is a doorway that has as its capstone, a depiction of a boat with a cross in it on the water. I have posted the picture on the website next to this entry so that you can see it. When I attended Duke, I stopped many a time to look at that capstone. I stood out on the quad in the shadow of the massive gothic Cathedral called Duke “Chapel” (I should wonder what Duke Church would look like.) and looked at the capstone. At that time, the waves seemed a little rough, but not too much for the little boat with the cross in it.

Now, after I have been in ministry for nearly 30 years, I look at a picture of that capstone and I think, those waves would topple over any boat that size. It has to be the cross in the boat that provides enough ballast that the thing is deep enough in the waters for stability, but not too deep that it takes on water.

Many centuries ago, allegory was been left behind as a way to interpret Scripture. Yet, of all the passages of Scripture, this passage from Matthew about Jesus walking on the water to the boat at night, is still interpreted as an allegory.

The modern mind focuses what we see as the amazing feat of Jesus walking on the water and Peter getting out to join him. For the mind of the disciple at the time, Jesus walking on the water was not amazing, it was expected. Yet, the allegorical interpretation of this passage gives a very different message. The walking on the water in the allegorical interpretation is an afterthought.

Jesus is the presence of God. The sea is the chaos of life and of the evil one. The boat is the Church. It is just a boat a little bigger than a row boat by the way. It is not a clipper or something sizable.   Peter is the apostles and disciples.   So, this sets the scene. Let’s make some observations from this scene:

First, it is dark. As I get older, life does not seem as certain as it did when I thought I could change it. There is no darker place than out on a lake away from the lights of the houses on the shore. Back in the day, the moon would be the only source of illumination and that still is no guarantee. Out on the water at night with no lights is a scary concept, especially if all you are in is a boat a little bigger than a row boat.

I have heard people in the Church today, especially in the connection principle of all humanity: facebook, decry the world as a place that they describe as “scary.”  They say it is scary to send their children out into a world that is against religion. They say it is scary more now than in the past. Well, when the Huns were at the gates of Rome and Pope Leo the Great negotiated to have the city sacked, but the people left to live, I think that it was scary. Just a year before, Leo issued his famous Tome which defined that Christ’s humanity and divinity were in “hypostatic union”, meaning inextricably tied together. All must have seemed well then. Who would have guessed that the very next year, the Huns would be knocking at Rome’s door? I would say that it was scary.

We are now in an age when it is considered taboo to mention that there is a God let alone that Jesus is Lord. It is a turbulent time for the Church. The Church needs to redefine itself as no longer a part of the political power structure, but as an organic movement in churches throughout the world filled with people who are willing to step out into the dark chaotic world at the calling of Jesus.

It is no mistake that the Church is a boat that is getting roughed up by waves that Matthew says in the Greek word there, are “torturing” the boat. There were 14 persecutions of Christians under Rome before it was the “Roman Church”. There are people being beheaded in Iraq. We here in the United States complain because we can’t pray in school. The Church itself is flimsy and can come tumblin’ down. It is the Church who is Christ that is indefectible and strong. In the flesh, we as the Church can be very weak, and I mean clergy as well as laity.

Jesus has gone seemingly away from the apostles in the dark night. We often feel as though the Lord has left us in the midst of the battle. We say, “I will go if you send me.” He says, “Come.” We go. We tend to the needs of people in the inner cities of Chicago, New York, Denver, Los Angeles, Calcutta, Manila and more. We go to rural areas like Hopkins Park, IL to establish missions to the rural poor. It is tiring work, lonely work. We are persecuted for what we believe and who we are. Like, Peter, we believe and then when it gets tough, we wonder where God has gone. “Where are you, Lord?” we cry. Even the Great Peter vacillates between belief and doubt. When we are trusted by God to do the job and he isn’t in the flesh next to us, we doubt.

Just because we are out of the boat of the Church and walking on the chaotic waters of life, it doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t there on the waters with us. It just may mean that he is trusting us and believing in us that we will walk with him through any adversity. Yet, when it gets tough, we doubt.

When our homes are almost lost, our businesses almost closed, our ministries shut down, he reaches out his hand and snatches our dignity from defeat, our hope from despair, our worth from degradation. Then, in that hour of hope from hopelessness, we can see clearly in the dark, in a small boat, on rough waters that it is the Lord who saves us. It is interesting that here we have Peter saying as he is sinking, “Lord, save me!” because it was in Chapter 1 verse 21 that it says, “He shall be named ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.”

I once had a student fill out an application for a retreat where the question was asked, “After reflection and prayer, please briefly describe why you feel called to the role(s) you indicated on pages 1 and 2.” Usually, the students go on and on about their experiences, how they have grown, what roles they completed on past retreat teams. This student, she wrote for her answer, “I am mission ready.” The undercurrent of the readings this summer seems to be “God didn’t say that life would be easy, but he did say he would use you for his mission.” Are you mission ready?

There are going to be rough seas ahead and you are going to have to stand in a flimsy boat. Are you mission ready? There are days when your heart is going to move you to ask the Lord to let you walk on the water. He is going to say, “Come.” Are you mission ready? There will be days that you are going to believe strongly and walk on the waves as if they are solid ground. Are you mission ready? There will be days when you will vacillate and wonder if the God you gave your life to really exists and if this is all real. Are you mission ready? But think of this: there will always be time after time after time that you will cry out to Jesus and say, “Lord, save me!” On that day he will stretch out his hand and lift you out of the chaotic waves of a rough and troubled world. Are. You. Mission. Ready?

Yes. Yes you are. Yes. You are mission ready. Are you baptized? Yes. You are mission ready. Are you reading your Bible every day? Yes. You are mission ready. Are you praying daily for yourself, your family, your community, the church and the world? Yes. You are mission ready. Are you confessing your sins and going to Church every Sunday? Yes. You are mission ready. Are you receiving the Lord in the Eucharist at every opportunity? Yes. You are mission ready. The question is, what is your mission and are you doing it? If you are, take a lesson from the capstone over the door at Duke Divinity School. It may be a picture of a flimsy boat on waves, but it is firmly embedded in rock. Get to work. You have a mission. Amen? Amen.

 

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