I walked across the Mississippi this afternoon. Even more, I have accomplished this seemingly amazing feat at least once a summer for the past 17 years!
No, unfortunately, I am not so open to the power and grace of the Lord Jesus that I can do the amazing things that he once did, like walking on water. Rather, for the past 17 years in August, for two weeks of vacation, I shepherd little St. Catherine Church, at the north entrance of Lake Itasca State Park, Minnesota’s premier and oldest state park.
In exchange for presiding at one Sunday Mass at St Catherine, I am given use of its two bedroom mobile home rectory, just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River in the beauty of northern Minnesota. Here the fishing just happens to be better than … probably … the Sea of Galilee … and certainly anywhere around west-central Ohio!
Those who know their geography, know that the Mississippi River begins (its headwaters are) just down the road in the park, at the northernmost point of Lake Itasca. (Actually, those same people will also probably know that the Mississippi flows north for its first 30 or so miles.) At this spot from which I write now, the mighty Mississippi is far from mighty. Rather, like most great things at the beginning, the river is small, humble and simple. As it flows by St. Catherine, the Mississippi is no more than a creek, where you can wade in and walk across the Mississippi with a couple of small bounds, getting nothing above your knees wet!
Humble beginnings are certainly the story of the Christian faith. Consider, for example, most all of the stories of Jesus’ ancestors in the Hebrew Scriptures. While there was certainly greatness in those stories, most of them had very humble beginnings. With hope, courage and perseverance, the meanderings of their stories, not unlike the meanderings of the Mississippi, led to a faith that became something great.
For certain, the coming of Jesus among us began with the simple “yes” of a lowly and insignificant handmaid of God. We know little about the first thirty years of his life. Even when he began his short, three-year ministry, it must have seemed insignificant to most, such simple realities as teaching, forgiving and healing, which was most of the time misunderstood or lost on his listeners and even his rather bumbling apostles. At face value, his ministry seemed to end in tragedy. Yet, God transformed suffering, cross and death to a superabundant flow of grace that is … amazing!
Indeed, the faith journey of the Lord Jesus, our God incarnate, and all who follow him, seems insignificant at first. However, with perseverance, relying upon the increasing grace that is offered by worship and practice of the faith with the Body of Christ, the Church, something seemingly insignificant becomes something awesome and great. Without our being aware of it, slowly but surely, with prayer, perseverance and good works, like the Great River which begins as a creek as it winds its way 2,350 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, faith becomes something mighty.
The writer is the pastor for Immaculate Conception, Botkins, St. John, Fryburg, St. Joseph, Wapakoneta, and St. Lawrence, Rhine.