Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Andrew Colquhoun, OHC
Proper 14A - August 7, 2011
1 Kings 19:9-18
In 2003 I woke up in Rome one morning about 3:00. I thought I’d slept funny on my left arm. It was floppy. I rubbed it to bring the circulation back but it didn’t come. So I took a shower, put on my habit (one handed) and about 5:30, knocked on the door of a monk from Peru who spoke only Spanish. There followed a pantomime – me flopping my arm and he taking my blood pressure. Then, general mayhem. A few of us piling in a small car and heading off to a hospital emergency ward. I won’t go into sordid detail but having no Italian and no English speakers around was a tad disconcerting. And in Rome hospitals, you fend for yourself. Finally, we unearthed an old English nun who translated: Father, you’ve had a stroke!! My worst fear of all illnesses confirmed. But a funny thing happened (to quote Brother Christian) immediately, I felt calm and knew that I would cope.
When I was in the hospital, two of the nuns from the Formators’ program came to visit me. They asked me what psalm I’d like them to read to me and I asked for Psalm 29…. The Voice of the Lord --- and in the Temple of the Lord all are crying, “Glory!
They finished. We were quiet. And then they said, “Why on earth do you like that psalm?” I tried to explain that I was comforted by the “Glory” in the midst of everything falling down and blowing away but I don’t think they got it. I still love that Psalm – Thursday second week Matins and First Class Matins.
It comes to me when I read about Elijah and his experience. Frightened, hiding and in flight, he knows God at the still center of all the chaos in his life. And he knows he must go on into whatever lies ahead. This account of the storm and Jesus walking on the water gives the same numinous feeling. I have no desire to rationalize the experience away. It transcends all normal understanding. It must only be received. It calls for unbelievable bravery from Peter. His testing of the “ghost” bounces back with Jesus’ invitation… “Come on!”
And all goes fine until he looks down!! Fixed on the stability of Jesus he does the impossible. But, distracted, he sinks. And Jesus takes him by the hand. No tragedy. He doesn’t drown. He’s warned to hold on to trust.
Not a bad word for these days. There’s so much stormy around. Government is at low ebb morally; the economy here, awful as it is, protects us from the starvation of the world. Seen any photos of children from Somalia lately? Wars feed wars; the planet is suffering.
Life and its experiences often take us into the storm - sometimes of our own volition and sometimes by circumstances. Illnesses, job losses, broken relationships can feel very stormy. Nor are storms always awful. They can be majestic and freshening –restoring balance and giving nourishment, watering things.
Our Order is going through that kind of storm right now. We’ve stepped out into school raising in Grahamstown. Here at Holy Cross Monastery we have a Prior of the new generation and he’s knocking walls down. We are looking to start an internship program for college age people who will work out in the neighborhood. We’re hoping to found a food pantry. And at the center, the still point, Jesus is holding out his hand saying,
The response of the faithful to storms of any kind is, I believe, to live on. I think we‘re doing that. In all times of life we are called to respond to Jesus’ invitation to come and we will do just that. Any move to hunker down in the boat and shelter is to miss the Glory, to lose out on the vigor of faithfulness Jesus calls us to. Doubt right now is cowardice. Jumping out of the boat into the storm is elation and faith.
I get seasick on boats anyway!