#Boating is the podcast for August 9, 2020. Jesus goes up on the mountain and sends us boating. What gives? Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew14 #WalkingOnWater #Boat #Church #MainThing
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/9/2020 The 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 14:22-33.
I am not a big fan of boating. I can swim, if necessary. When I was a young man visiting a friend at an Indiana lake, he asked me to go out boarding behind the speed boat. At that time, I could not swim very well. Even though, I said sure because I didn’t want to seem weak. He said he would go on the board behind me to help me feel safe. Instead, he decided it would be funny to wave behind my back to the driver of the boat to go back and forth casting the board, to my horror at the time, over the wake, throwing us into the air and then crashing down on the waves. Unfortunately, on one of those launchings, he came off the board and I got my leg caught in the rope and was drug under the water for what felt like an eternity. To this day, whenever someone says, “Let’s go out on the boat”, I have a sensation of that moment of being drug under the water. It is not pleasant.
When I read this passage from the Gospel of Matthew and it says, “by this time, the boat was battered by the waves,” I get that same suffocating, water in my lungs, injured leg feeling I got on that day on Coldwater Lake in Indiana in the 1980s.
I have made reference to this before, but above the door at Duke Divinity School is a keystone that sits atop the arch. It is a boat that sits on very high waves with a cross in it. It is a reminder of this passage from the Gospel of Matthew. Each seminarian should be reminded that the church is the boat and the waves are the world. The Cross in the center of the boat is Jesus Christ. Whenever I looked at those waves, they were very high and nearly went higher than the side of the boat, I am reminded of the accident on Coldwater Lake and the apostles in the boat.
When you say that you are a Christian, you are saying that Jesus Christ is the center of your life. When you do, when you try to live a life that is centered on him, you can see that inside the boat is peace and security. You can make it within the community. The boat provides shelter.
Even though churches are notorious for being petty or not living up the Gospel, I also know that I am hard pressed to meet a bad person in church. I have been an every Sunday Christian for 39 years. I have known a lot of Christians, and for the most part, they are very good people. So, when we are in the boat of the Church, it is somewhat easier to live our faith. We don’t have to go out into the world. We can do business with our brothers and sisters in the Church. We can make friends with people who are in the church. These are safe.
We can see from this passage that Jesus sends the boat out on the choppy seas by itself. He is up on the mountain praying. Much like he is at the right hand of God today, the Lord sends us out, the Church, as a boat into the choppy seas of the world. He entrusts to us the mission he has taught us. We know it is a message to the Church because it is a message only to the twelve who are in the boat, not to the crowds that follow.
As he intercedes with the Father, he sends the Church out: o.u.t.. He does not send the Church to be in. We are not to be only insular and not participate in the world. One of the things I have to do on social media all the time is remind United States people that it is not “Freedom from religion” it is “Freedom OF religion.” I have a duty to speak in the public square. When that happens, it can be like being drug under the water with your leg caught in the rope.
Yet, not only is the Church called to go out on the choppy seas of the world, the people of the Church are beckoned by Christ to come out on the water and walk toward Christ. This is particularly dangerous for us. When we are in the boat, as I mentioned earlier, we have all we need to protect us. Yet, when we get out of the boat to walk on the water, we have to rely upon more than the faithfulness of the people and situation around us.
In my research, I cannot recall which scholar pointed it out, but they said, rather obviously, “the characteristic of walking on water is associated with God and God alone.” I laughed out loud when I heard that. Of course, walking on water is an indicator that Jesus is God. Yet, when we take the water and mix it with the wine, we say, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.” When we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are not just relying in life on our own power, our own intellect, our own energies. We are relying upon the power, intellect, and energies of the living God. When we receive the Eucharist, the intimate nature of the closeness of receiving the Lord into our bodies is a source from which we can draw. Our prayer life, our daily Bible reading, keep us tethered to the boat, the Church, which saves us through Christ.
When we get out into the world, we never know what we are going to run into. I ran into plenty of people when I ran for State Senate in Indiana in 2018 that were very hostile because I was a priest. At that time, I needed to remember, that as I walked on those stormy waters, that I should keep my eyes fixed on Christ, or lest I be like Peter in this instance and sink into the same kinds of behavior that the world around me does. As we can see from the election, I am not surprised that persons who are not in the Church can be mean and vicious. I am thoroughly disappointed that when encountering the harsh waves of the world, we Christians often take our eyes off Christ and sink down in the water with those who would be cruel.
I had a bishop once who said, “You have to keep the Main Thing the main thing.” It is applicable here. We, as people of God, need to keep the Person of Jesus Christ the guiding principle of our lives in all situations. We can do it by quietly declining people’s invitations to do what we shouldn’t. We can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus by saying a prayer beneath our breath as we face a terrible situation. We keep our eyes fixed on Christ by choosing to do the right thing over the expedient thing, the popular thing, the easy thing. We only need to reach out our hearts to the Lord and say, “Lord, save me!” and when we do, the waves will cease. When we commit to the Lord’s way, the water is still there, it is still flowing, but in our hearts, we are committed to Christ and we can walk atop those stormy waters with him.
So, friends, do not lose heart about where we are in the world. No, get in the boat and go out over the deep choppy water. Then, get out of the boat and come to the Lord. There is plenty of ministry for us to do. May God bless the preaching of this Gospel in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian