We’re All In The Same Boat!

Two Sundays ago, I rose early and headed off to church. I hoped to offer a “welcome home” to friends from St. Paul’s who’d returned from Israel a few days earlier. Though I was unable to physically join them on this trip, I traveled with them in spirit. The tour director and fellow tourists had shared this adventure via photo and video posts on Facebook. They’d allowed me to be with them, at least virtually, every step of the way. Though these images indicated that all concerned had enjoyed an amazing trip, I wanted to confirm this for myself. As it happened, the smiles and comments of the six friends I met that morning indicated that they’d experienced the same once-in-a-lifetime adventure I’d enjoyed in Israel. When I returned home, I pulled out the albums which chronicle our trips there. Within minutes, that unexpected sense of peace which greeted me in the Holy Land returned…

For reasons unknown to me, the time I spent in Israel felt very much like a family reunion. Several years earlier, Mike and I had traveled to Croatia to meet his cousins there. Two years ago, we flew to Quebec to meet my dad’s family. Last summer, we traveled to Sicily to visit Mike’s grandparents’ hometown. Each of these encounters left us with a heartwarming sense of belonging. I’d experienced precisely the same in Israel. When I pondered this phenomenon, it occurred to me that going to the Holy Land was a family reunion as well. My own story began there long ago when the one whom they called “Teacher” laid the foundation for everything of importance to me. Jesus revealed the essence of God’s love and our capacity to love one another. I wouldn’t be the person, child, sibling, wife, mom, aunt, grandma and friend I am today if I hadn’t taken these lessons to heart. Though our family trees may not indicate that we share our genealogy, Jesus and I are family just the same. Every encounter with Jesus’ history in the Holy Land proved to be an encounter with my own history as well. When I revisited our photos of The Jesus Boat, I understood why I take today’s passage from Luke’s gospel (Luke 5:1-11) to heart.

We read a great deal about fishermen and boats in the gospels. Though some of his followers abandoned their fishing businesses to follow Jesus, he went back to their boats often to get from place to place, to preach and to rest. Though no one can say with any certainty that Jesus set foot on The Jesus Boat, this vessel is definitely a relic from Jesus’ day. Because it was discovered just north of Magdala and just south of Tabgha, Jesus may have looked upon this boat as he lingered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The boat is displayed in a museum in Kibbutz Ginosar. There I learned of Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and fellow fishermen like Peter and Andrew. They discovered the ancient boat buried in mud near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I was struck by the excitement of these two who couldn’t hide their amazement over this discovery. Their treasure shook both the archaeological world and the spiritual world to their cores. No one had ever before unearthed such an old vessel in such complete condition. This bit of Jesus’ history is particularly special to me because it gives life to Luke’s telling of Jesus’ adventure with Peter and Andrew, James and John.

As Luke tells it, Jesus had been preaching among a crowd near the Lake of Gennesaret (also called The Sea of Galilee) when he saw Simon washing his nets. Jesus boarded Simon’s boat and asked the fisherman to pull his boat into the water just a short distance from the shore. Simon must have been taken with Jesus because he obliged immediately. After preaching from Simon’s boat for some time, Jesus asked his unsuspecting friend to sail into the deep water and to cast his nets once again. Practical man that he was, Simon pointed out that he’d worked all night in the same area and had caught nothing. Still, Simon did as Jesus asked. Almost immediately, the poor man’s nets became so full that they threatened to tear. Simon’s fellow fishermen came to the rescue as his boat might have sunk under the weight of those fish. Having seen The Jesus Boat first hand, I understand Simon’s fear! Still, small as that boat was, Luke tells us that Simon seemed to fear something else far more than his sinking boat. Witnessing this miracle filled him with absolute awe and trepidation. Simon seemed to wonder, “Who am I to be in the company of this Jesus who can work such wonders?” Indeed, Simon followed this thought with a command to Jesus: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

Jesus’ response to the fearful Simon is the reason I take Luke’s account to heart. Though Simon doubted what part he could possibly play in Jesus’ plan, Jesus remained steadfast in his confidence in Simon. Though one day Jesus would rename his humble friend Peter, it was the essence of the old Simon which compelled Jesus to ask him to follow him and to work at his side. Whenever I doubt myself, I must open my ears as Simon did to God’s call. Incapable and unworthy as I may seem to me, I must never doubt my place in God’s world and God’s plan. Nor should you!
©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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My Hero

Mary called the Magdalene…
and many others were assisting them out of their means.

From Luke 8:2-3

I don’t exaggerate when I say the visiting Mary Magdalene’s hometown was enough to compel me to fly off to Israel. Mary Magdalene has been a hero to me all of my life. My mom is a strong woman who endured her share of troubles, yet embraced this life with passionate determination. In spite of the uncertainties which lay before her much of the time, my mother consistently put her best foot forward and carried on. As a child, when I pictured Mary Magdalene, I imagined her with my mother’s strength and seeming fearlessness.

Very early on, I witnessed the difficulties faced by women who go it alone. Though Mary Magdalene was a woman of means, she also suffered from a serious malady. First Century Jews considered such conditions to be the result of possession by demons or of serious sinfulness. Either way, those in Mary’s situation didn’t garner much sympathy from their contemporaries. In spite of all of this, Mary managed to maintain her position and her wealth. When she and Jesus met, Mary’s cure resulted. With deep gratitude for this turn of events and with great respect for Jesus’ message, Mary supported Jesus in his ministry.

My mother perpetually remained in “provider mode” as she eked out grocery money and fashioned much of our clothing by sewing new things or re-styling the old. She worked heard and took advantage of every sale to provide for us. Mary Magdalene operated in “provider mode” as well. She tended to the food and lodging needs of Jesus and his disciples while also attending to his every word. I think Mary Magdalene loved Jesus so completely because he lived love as eloquently as he preached about it.

Dear God, Mary Magdalene embraced Jesus’ message and lived accordingly. Help me to do the same.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

That Wonderful Boat

He called them, and immediately
they abandoned boat and father to follow him.

From Matthew 4:21-22

We read a great deal about fishermen and boats in the gospels. Though some of his followers abandoned their fishing businesses to follow Jesus, he went back to their boats often to get from place to place, to preach and to rest. Though no one can say with any certainty that Jesus set foot on The Jesus Boat, this vessel is definitely a relic from Jesus’ day. Because it was discovered just north of Magdala and just south of Tabgha, Jesus may have set his eyes on this boat as he lingered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This is the reason that, though I’d seen the boat last year, I was very excited to gaze upon it once again.

The boat is displayed in a museum in Kibbutz Ginosar. Before seeing it, we watched a short film which told the tale of Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and fellow fishermen like Peter and Andrew. They discovered the ancient boat buried in mud near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Though the film was a rerun for me, I was struck once again the excitement of these brothers who couldn’t hide their amazement over this discovery. Their treasure had shaken both the archaeological world and the spiritual world to their cores. No one had ever before unearthed such an old vessel in such complete condition.

While the science behind The Jesus Boat’s preservation is fascinating, I’m more fascinated by Jesus’ presence in all of this. Once again, it matters little to me whether or not Jesus sailed in this particular boat. What does matter to me is the glimpse into Jesus’ daily life and the lives of those he loved which this boat afforded me. When I gazed upon this ancient relic, I imagined Jesus out on the water with his friends. That day, I experienced just a bit of the amazing adventure which was Jesus’ life among us!

Dear God, thank you for the treasures of this earth which make your presence among us undeniable.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Sea of Galilee

As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee he watched two brothers,
Simon now known as Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea.
They were fishermen.

From Matthew 4:18

On our second evening in Israel, we checked into a hotel which rests on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This was the same place we had stayed the year before which assured me that I’d hear the waves if I listened carefully. Though I’ve heard the surf in the darkness many times, this was special. I was within earshot of what I considered to be Jesus’ lake.

The following day, I would sail that lake. I would see the images Jesus saw from every vantage point. Beyond the buildings which occupy some of the shoreline and hillsides, the views would be the same as they were in Jesus’ day. I allowed the sounds of Jesus’ lake to coax me to sleep that night. In my slumber, I imagined the surprise in those fishermen whom Jesus called to his side. I imagined the courage it took to leave their fishing business to follow this young teacher into uncharted waters. I imagined myself sneaking alongside them in the shadow, waiting for the right moment to profess my willingness to follow, too.

Today, I find myself in the right moment to profess my willingness to follow. This second day of Lent 2018, I will open my eyes to see what Jesus sees from every vantage point. I will also open my heart to respond to what I find as Jesus would.

Dear God, be with us as we do our best to follow Jesus, to see what he sees and to respond with love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Magdalene

Mary called the Magdalene…
and many others who were assisting them out of their means.

From Luke 8:2-3

I’ve been a fan of Mary Magdalene since childhood. I’m the offspring of a strong woman who endured her share of troubles, yet embraced this life as only she could. In spite of the uncertainties which lay before her much of the time, my mother consistently put her best foot forward and carried on. When I first learned of Mary Magdalene, I imagined her with my mother’s strength and seeming fearlessness.

Though I was very young, I understood the difficulties faced by women who go it alone. Mary Magdalene was a woman of means, but she suffered from a serious malady. First Century Jews considered such conditions to be the result of possession by demons or serious sinfulness. Either way, there wasn’t much sympathy to be had from others. Still, Mary managed to maintain her position and her wealth. When she and Jesus met, Mary’s cure resulted. Eternally grateful for this turn of events and smitten by Jesus message, Mary soon began to support Jesus in his ministry.

I recall my mother in “provider mode” as she eked out grocery money, fashioned much of our clothing by sewing new things or re-styling the old and searched for our shoes on sale. I see Mary Magdalene in “provider mode” as well. She skillfully tended to the food and lodging needs of Jesus and his disciples while carefully attending to his every word. Perhaps this is the reason Mary Magdalene loved Jesus so.

Dear God, you entrusted your message to Jesus and he shared it through everything he said and did. Help me to bring your message to those you have given me to love, just as Jesus did.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Boat

He called them, and immediately they abandoned boat and father to follow him.
From Matthew 4:21-22

While in Israel I had encounters with two boats which touched me deeply. I’ll share my experience on Daniel’s boat tomorrow. Today, let me tell you about The Jesus Boat.

We read a good deal about fishermen and boats in the gospels. Though some of his followers abandoned their fishing businesses to follow Jesus, he went back to their boats often to get from place to place, to preach and to rest. Though no one can say with any certainty that Jesus set foot on The Jesus Boat, this vessel is definitely a relic from Jesus’ day. Because it was discovered just north of Magdala and just south of Tabgha, Jesus may have set his eyes on this boat as he lingered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The day we sailed the Sea of Galilee, we also visited Kibbutz Ginosar where the Jesus boat is displayed. Before seeing it, we watched short film which told the tale of Moshe and Yuval Lufan, brothers and fellow fishermen who discovered the ancient boat buried in mud near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Though I’m certain their parts in the film were well rehearsed, neither brother could hide his excitement over this discovery. Their treasure had shaken both the archaeological world and the spiritual world to their cores because no one had ever unearthed such an old vessel in such complete condition.

Though the science behind The Jesus Boat’s preservation is fascinating, I am more fascinated by Jesus’ presence in all of this. Once again, it matters little to me whether or not Jesus sailed in this particular boat. What does matter to me is the glimpse into Jesus’ daily life and the lives of those he loved which this boat afforded me. When I gazed upon this ancient relic, I imagined Jesus out on the water with his friends. That day, I experienced just a bit of the amazing adventure that must have been!

Dear God, thank you for being present in the treasures of this earth. Be with us as we make ourselves present to those who need you most.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved