Dear Sisters and Brother –
Two nights ago at 8:59 pm the house started shaking, then came two enormous jolts. Turns out it was a 4.2 earthquake, the epicenter on lower Hood Canal just 8 miles west of our house. The kinda funny thing was Rick had just spent the whole day transferring our old 25’ cruiser boat weighing 5,000 lbs. from its double axle trailer onto a couple boat stands with a few piles of huge wooden blocks strategically placed under the keel. The last thing he said as he finished about 5pm was, “We’re good – unless the big one comes!” Needless to say after the shaker came 4 hours later he ran outside to check on the boat which fortunately stood stoically in place.
I’ve always been a little captured by the fact that one of the earliest images used to describe the church was a boat.
In fact, at points the church has been likened to Noah’s Ark - because, as Frederick Buechner explains, both have “just about everything imaginable on board, the clean and the unclean both…” resulting in, um, messes everywhere. And yet, “even at its worst, there’s at least one thing that makes it bearable within, and that is the storm without…” The church can be a safe place, a harbor.
Still sometimes one can feel overwhelmed in the church-boat. I recall the 14th century saint, Catherine of Siena, who in the last years of her life, had a dream (or was it a nightmare?!) where a really big ship landed on her shoulder! Is it any surprise that the brilliant, irenic and deeply spiritual Catherine woke up paralyzed, and died a few months later? She remains the patron saint for all who feel crushed by the weighty burden of the church.
So, we’ve named our little troller boat the “Willie C”, after my grandfather. But a close runner-up name was Misneach (pronounced “Mish-knock”) – an Irish Gaelic word meaning, Courage! Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit. Stay with the boat. It reminds me that when the church-boat is navigating troubled waters, or is not making any headway, or has even lost its way, the Lord says: Misneach! Courage! Take heart! It is I. Don’t be afraid. (Mark 6:50) It really isn’t ever entirely on our shoulders. We are carried. Best of all, Jesus promises never to abandon ship.
Grace and peace,