I spent the first half of this week in Madison at our annual Clergy Conference. This year the clergy from all three Wisconsin Dioceses gathered together to listen to Bishop Craig Loya of Minnesota try to convince us to leave our boats and delight in the water. The Bishop was referring to the miracle of Jesus walking on water. The disciples are in a storm and at first they think they see a ghost walking towards them. Then Peter realizes it’s Jesus, and at Jesus’ invitation, even joins Jesus walking on the water.
The Bishop contrasted this image of Peter shakily walking on the water, with the image of children playing in water. Not to do anything, simply to delight in the water. Our “boats” are the places we feel comfortable and safe, and too often when those boats stop working, we will devote great energy and time towards fixing the boats, rather than joining Jesus in something new.
Bishop Loya started by inviting us to rekindle our gifts. This is a reference to 2 Timothy 1:6-7: “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” The gift is there. And yet sometimes we let it fade or go dormant. The Bishop continued with the boat analogy and invited us to scrape off our barnacles, and reveal the core of ourselves and our identity as God’s once more.
In our next session, the Bishop talked about trusting God to show up in unexpected (even bizarre) ways. In that talk he focused on Genesis 12:1-4: “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you …” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him … Abram was seventy-five years old…” At a time when Abram could have been comfortably looking back on his life and legacy, God invites Abram to leave everything he knows for a promise from God. And Abram does. At 75! In the Episcopal Church, clergy have mandatory retirement at 72. But three years after that, God does something new with Abram, and Abram goes. Do we trust God to show up in the unexpected? Or are we so sure we know what it looks like when God shows up that we can miss God’s actual work in the world and in our lives?
In our final session, Bishop Loya turned to the economics of the cross. Our paradox as Christians is that we proclaim that we die to live and give to gain. This doesn’t make it easy. Indeed, dying, giving, weakness and foolishness can be quite painful. (1 Corinthians 1:27) But in doing so, we recognize the wisdom, strength, life and gift of God within us, and are able to better offer it to the world.
I hope you have had a good week and will join us this Sunday for pancakes at both coffee hours. Lent starts on Wednesday, February 14, and so we have one last feast before moving into the penitential Lenten season.
Prayers and Blessings,