That Special Boat

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

From Matthew 4:21-22

While in Israel I had an encounter with a true relic which touched me deeply. 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 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 a 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 that 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!

Current events compel me to acknowledge that the contemporaries of Jesus also suffered. Though in Israel I recalled the best times Jesus enjoyed on his friends’ boat, I must remember that they and that beloved boat also endured terrible storms. Do you remember the gospel story of Peter and the others who feared for their lives as they were being tossed from wave wave to wave by a powerful gale? In the midst of it all, Jesus suddenly appeared on the water. Though I don’t expect Jesus to embark on foot across Lake Michigan to ease my worries today, I do expect that he remains close enough to hear every prayer I utter. Best of all, he responds. Speak up, because he’s listening to you as well.

Dear God, thank you for being present in the joys and the sorrows of life on this earth. Hear our prayers and those of all of your people.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

Share God’s Treasure

Though my mom passed away in 2003, my sisters and I finally dealt with the last box of her things at a family gathering in early December. This single cardboard carton holds the costume jewelry which had become our mom’s hallmark. My sister Rita had meticulously sorted and bagged each item so it can be sold or donated. Rita left it to me to determine what to do as she’d done quite enough in this regard. When I took the box to the door, I turned to ask my sister about a little gold ring my mom had allowed me to wear for very special dates while I was in high school and college. This very thin band sports two tiny rubies and a small pearl, none of which may be authentic. All of us had gone through my mom’s jewelry several times and we never came across that ring. Though I’d assumed long ago that it had been lost, I had to ask about it one last time. My sister assured me that the ring wasn’t among my mom’s treasures. With that, I stowed the box in my car and headed home.

A few weeks later, I took out a wreath pin to wear for a Christmas gathering. Because it has gold-colored trim, I searched for gold earrings. I didn’t have much time to spare and I was becoming more annoyed with each passing minute of my search. I did find two small boxes of gold jewelry which hadn’t seen the light of day in quite some time. I thumbed through the first where I found two gold hoops of different sizes. Though it occurred to me to wear them with the hope that no one would compare earlobes, I decided to look in the other box for matching earrings. While thumbing through the contents, I found a matching pair. When I took out the earrings, I noticed something dangling from one of them. When I looked closer, I couldn’t believe what I saw: My mom’s little gold ring! I immediately called to my dear husband, “Mike, I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it! I’ve found my mother’s ring!” The poor man had to listen as I recounted my sisters’ and my years-long search for this elusive bit of jewelry. How had it gotten into that little box? I hadn’t seen that ring since before my mom passed away.

Needless to say, I wore my mom’s ring that evening. I also repeated my tale regarding this amazing discovery several times throughout that party. The following morning, I shared my good news again in the gathering space here at St. Paul’s. All the while, I pictured my mom smiling broadly. That little ring was a gift from my father. She loved that ring and she wore it often. My occasional requests to wear that ring signaled to my mom that I really liked the boy I was dating at the time. My mom’s permission to wear that little gold band signaled to me that my mom loved me and that she trusted me with her treasures. I still can’t get over my good fortune in all of this and I still can’t help sharing this good news with anyone who will listen.

It occurs to me that our treasures aren’t meant to be hoarded and good news is meant to be shared. The scripture passages we hear today echo these sentiments. The Old Testament chronicles God’s attempts to share everything with us. When centuries of attempts to build a relationship with us humans failed, God sent Jesus to give a voice to God’s intent and to give flesh and bone to God’s love. In the first reading (Isaiah 60:1-6), Isaiah called Jerusalem to celebrate this amazing relationship with God. Isaiah insisted that God’s presence among the people made them shine bright enough to guide all of the world in God’s direction. God commissioned Israel to welcome all who would join them as God’s family. The second reading (Ephesians 3:2-3a; 5-6) underscores Isaiah’s proclamation. The author who wrote with Paul’s authority reminded the people “…that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This news of the inclusion of all continues through Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 2:1-12). Matthew noted that when Joseph and Mary welcomed the Magi, they offered their relationship with God to the entire world. When the Magi returned to their homes, they carried this good news to all whom they met along their way. The treasure they’d discovered far out-valued my little gold ring and they shared it as generously as my mom had.

On this Feast of the Epiphany, we’re invited to celebrate God’s love for us in precisely the same way. Though we’ve packed away our Christmas decorations, God asks us to carry the good news of Jesus coming and God’s love for us wherever we go. God asks us to be modern-day Magi who share the treasure we’ve discovered. Like Jesus, our words and our deeds speak of God’s love to our neighbors, our coworkers and grocery cashiers, to everyone we meet at school and here at St. Paul’s and to our own spouses, children and loved ones. The treasure we find on this Feast of the Epiphany is the same treasure that I found in being allowed to wear my mom’s ring: God’s love and God’s trust in us to share that love with the rest of God’s family.

©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 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