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The Sea is so wide, and my boat is so small

Cat Harbor picnic favorite memory


Pasties on the shore.


Uncle Werner carving water wheel


Gazing into the breaking waves on the rocks in the impossibly blue water.


Puffy clouds in northern blue sky.


I was under seven yet memory is so clear


I felt safe in the arms of extended family

And Mother Superior, our gitche gumi,

big sea shining water.


How many of you have been on the shore of Lake Superior?


How many of you have been out on the big lake in a boat?


It’s magnificent.


Also frightening, because blue sky and nice breeze

Turns in minutes to roiling clouds,

rain in torrents,

and huge waves.


The power of water astonishes.

Waves sweep over breakwaters

and giant rocks.


Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small


This is where we meet today’s gospel,

Or rather, where gospel meets us.


Now the Sea of Galilee, where we find Jesus today, is not the size of Superior.

The far shore is visible, at least East to West.

It’s only 8 miles wide and 13 miles long.


That’s a bit smaller than Keweenaw Bay,

Which is 12 miles wide and 22 miles long.


So while the Sea of Galilee is small for a Sea,

It is treacherous.

Storms come quickly.

Boats capsize.

People drown.


I’ve been on a boat in the Sea of Galilee.

I felt perfectly safe,

The sun was shining and the breeze was gentle as we read the passage from today’s Gospel.


In that Sea a boat was discovered in 1986.

It dates from the first century CE

The time when Jesus lived on those shores.

The vessel is about 28’ by 6.5’ by 40” deep.

About as long as the church is wide,

And about 3 pews wide.

Kat, if you stood up in it you might just see over the sides.

So it was quite large,

But would you like to be out in Superior in that?

We had a 23’ sailboat we took out on the big lake.

It was exhilarating, but weather changed so fast.

A 20 mph wind made for a great sail,

But if clouds appeared we could have 6’ seas

and 40 mph in minutes.

We came in very grateful to set foot on dry land

More than once.

I can’t imagine being out at night

without radar

Without a weather radio.

Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.

That evening, Jesus said to his followers, “Let’s go across the lake.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him in the boat just as he was.

Now Jesus had had a long day

Preaching to crowds

Teaching his friends

And trying to help his followers understand what he was about.

And they set off in a boat to go to the other shore,

To find somewhere quiet

To get some rest

What had looked like an easy trip

Turned into terrifying wind and waves.

They were afraid the boat would sink.

They were afraid they would drown.

So they went to the back of the boat,

And there was Jesus

Sleeping through it

His head on a cushion.

That’s one of those bits of the story that rings so true.

He not just sleeping through the storm,

But his head is on a pillow.

Can’t you just see it?

“Teacher, don’t you care that we are drowning!”

Jesus wakes,

Sees the storm

And water in the boat

His frightened friends.

So what does he do, just awake?

He stands up, in a boat about to sink,

And says to the wind and waves.

“Quiet! Be still!”

And the storm stops.

This is described as one of Jesus’s great miracles.

But I get the sense that it is just the prelude to the teachable moment.

He says,

“Why are you afraid?

Do you still have no faith?”

Now I used to hear this in my head in my mother’s voice,

Why are you crying now?

Why can’t you be more like you sister?

What are you afraid of now?

Like I had done something wrong.

But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is doing here.

I think he is so tired of trying to help these friends

Understand what he is about,

Who he is.

His asking is out of weariness,

Out of realizing their lack of understanding, still.

Day after day he’s been with them,

And they just don’t get it.

The story goes on with those friends in awe

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

They’re still asking, who is this?

But they miss the point:

Why are you afraid?

You still don’t have faith?

Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small

Fear and faith

That’s what it’s about.

Fear is part of being human.

Humans wouldn’t have survived without it.

It’s the best response to a large predator.

And a wise response to an angry herd.

As the human family grew

We began to question why and how things happened.

The larger world around us

The stars and the seasons,

Birth and death

What caused all these mysteries?

Obviously, I’m making a very long story

Exceptionally short!

We developed elaborate beliefs about the gods

Those invisible beings who somehow

Controlled everything.

But still, we had so much fear.

Eventually, we of the Christian-Judeo heritage

Find Moses on the Mountain

And the Ten Commandments.

If you’re up on the news, you know that

All public classrooms in Louisiana

Must post the Ten Commandments.


Something like this:

They are simple:

There is One God

Remember God, not things

Honor God’s name

Honor God’s Sabbath

Honor relationships

No murder

Be truthful

No Jealousy


People being people decided that wasn’t clear,

So they clarified with 613 more laws.


And so it went for centuries of folks

afraid of God.

Finding ways to appease the anger of God.

Punishing law breakers.


So God sent us Jesus,

God with skin on

To help us learn what God really wants.


Faith, not fear.


What is faith?

It’s putting the trust of our hearts in God.

It’s knowing how beloved of God you and I are.

It’s knowing that we will never be

Without God’s loving embrace.


This is the joy and peace of faith


It is the perfect faith that frees us from fear.


Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.


May it be so.



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