Deep Water

”What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” asks Mary Oliver, in her poem “The Summer.” 
It’s a question that stirs and rises, even troubles us, not just on summer days when we have the gift of leisure and long nights to ponder such existential questions. It also rises up in our wintertime, nights of the soul, it rises like spring flowers filled with promise, and it comes to us too as we let go like deciduous trees in the fall. 
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? How will you carve out a path or a way of being that matters, that contributes, that is grounded in something, something worth living for. How, today, will you be the change that the world needs?  
The world, I suggest, needs ways to connect with the deep rivers of life running through each person. To connect desiring to understand. To connect knowing that it is our differences gathered around the table wherein wisdom, truth, and solutions arise.  Your story of what you have done and are doing with your one wild and precious life is a word of hope and inspiration for me.
Last fall,  Ann McMillen facilitated  the group “Everyone has a story.” Through a variety of creative exercises and processes, we came to know one another in a new light. We heard some stories of each other’s wild and precious life.   Our lives are vast, varied( different) and our lives have much in common( humanness). Because of that group, there are five other people that I know better, and they know me. Each story told triggers memories of past events that, in many cases, haven’t been thought about for years. The stories reveal the values of the tellers; now that’s a conversation that matters!  
Conversations that matter the context of church and faith might begin with questions such as:
    In your one wild and precious life, the divine is active, how and where do you perceive it?
    How are you with God?  (We have a variety of words that we use to name or describe God “the Spirit” “ Love”  “The Christ” “Universal Energy” “Source and ground of our being”  “Life.”  As I use the word God insert the word that IS  best for you.)
    Where is God pushing you? 
    How is God challenging your faith in a way that is uncomfortable or scary, and ultimately helpful and holy? 
    Where and with whom are you being called to journey? 
    How are you experiencing God with you in the grief of your current life situation?
Often, when I lead people through a process called making an ethical will, I hear people list regrets.  If I could do this life over again, I would …    It can be so easy (and seductive) to get caught in a spin cycle of blaming the other or shaming ourselves. That spin cycle traps us in muddy shallow waters! Wherein we miss experiencing the deep beautiful and precious life that has been ours. We miss the divine markers, the Holy within, active and present in and through all things working all things together for good. ( Romans 8:28)
Denzel Washington a couple of years speaking to graduating glass  offered them five points of advice: 
    Stick with God
    Fail BIG
    You’ll never see a U hall behind a hearse it’s what you do with what you have that matters
    Help others 
    When you go to bed at night put your slippers far enough under that bed that when you get up in the morning you have to get  down on your knees to reach them and while you are down there, on your knees, say thank you …for  life, grace, mercy, kindness, understanding, wisdom, love, humility, peace, forgiveness and prosperity.
When I graduated, I did not hear those brilliant paradigm changing words “plan to fail.” Influential leaders then focused on being success oriented because success is societies measuring stick, which then does lead to feeling regrets because we think we do not measure up. 
Jesus, in Luke, says, “push out from shallow waters into the deep; into the places of deeper talk, that’s where we’ll hear  “ Do what you are passionate about, be ready to fail, and go again. ”
In the story from Luke, we catch up with Jesus standing by the Sea of Galilee and the crowds pressing in on him to hear the Word. Imagine, if Jesus had been preaching in a church, the congregation would be filling the front pews and pressing in at him in the space between the pews at the pulpit.  Jesus gets a bit claustrophobic and gets in the boat of a fisherfolk and puts out a little ways in the lake to get some elbow room. Also, Jesus preaches sitting in the boat. Now those fisherfolk had just returned from a long night of fishing, and they hadn’t caught a thing. Jesus met them when they were failures. (Remember what Denzel Washington said: Fail Big)
As usual, Jesus had something up his sleeve, and he tells them to put the boats out a little ways in the deeper water and try again. We know the result, nets filled with fish. And, once they got to shore, the text says, “they left everything and followed him.”( Rev. Kevin Little)
This text is about the pursuit of deeper connections with others; a deeper connection with Jesus.  Pushing out to deeper waters is more about a place of removing fear (Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid”) and transformation (they left everything and followed him).
Sharing our call stories is one way to pursue deeper connections. When I share that I was fifty years old when I went to Vancouver School of theology, to start my Master of Divinity, because that’s what God called me to do, and by the age of 50 I gave up resisting the call. Sometimes people find that story encouraging even as I say it was a wild ride. 
Conversations that Matter occur at the table in my office, your kitchen tables and at bible studies where we dig deep into matters of faith, life, and relevance.
Several upcoming Conversations that Matter  at AVUC
     The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown Book Discussion.
    The Book Discussion on The Yes Brain is an essential tool for nurturing positive potential and keeping your child’s inner spark glowing and growing strong. ( See Dana)
    celebrating Pride Movies Series starting March 31, the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Luke tell us about what Jesus did next after he has pushed his followers to deeper waters?  Luke chapter 5 is wild.
Jesus Cleanses a Leper. “Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Be made clean.”
Jesus Heals a Paralytic. Jesus said, “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home. 
Jesus Calls Levi. “After this Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to Levi, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Luke then says, “Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
Then Levi gave a great banquet his house for Jesu, and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and sinners sitting at the table with them. 
Rev. Kevin Little, says, “what I love about this transition in Luke 5 is how a text that began with fisherfolk being pushed to go to deeper waters, to find what they are looking for in that scary and mysterious place in the deep, ends with a banquet meal that includes persons around the table  whom others label sinners and outcasts.”

•    Maybe the  time has come to ask, ”Where  is God pushing you?” And remember, “ When God pushes you to the edge of difficulty trust God because two things can happen. Either God will catch you when you fall, or you will be given wings to fly. “
•    Maybe the time has come to do that thing that we know God is asking of us and stop resisting the call. 
I am eager to have conversations that matter with you. Whether it is at the church, at a coffee shop or a banquet table, and most importantly I hope you will have these deep conversations with each other, at coffee hour, at a coffee shop or restaurant, at one of our community meals. More in-depth conversations will inevitably take place in deeper waters, around the table with people not like us; for Jesus, it was tax collectors and others; people different than him.”   
The text is about pushing out to deeper waters to a place of removing fear (Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid.”  )  We remove fear when we connect and accept that people are different, offer different perspectives, lived experiences, and worldviews on things. These differences are essential to what the world needs today.  Seeking out differences of opinion is essential. Finding people who are different from you and working with them makes you all smarter, says Chris Corrigan, in “Differences are real; Divisiveness is a choice.” Divisions happen when people become so afraid of the other that they stop making an effort to bridge the gap. ( that’s a future sermon, but for now, the gap is fear)
Imagine, then that Jesus leads you out into the deep water and asks you “What are you going to do today with your one wild and precious life to bridge the gaps between peoples?” 
Every day, no matter our birthday years, plan, intends to use your wild and precious life to respond to God’s call. Your plan may be to  offer more kindness into the world, to walk with another and not do for them, to pray more,   to be a bridge where there is division, to listen to understand another’s values , to host a kitchen table talk, to uplift people with music, art
This text is about transformation (they left everything and followed him)leave behind what no longer serves you well and follow into the way gratitude, generosity, health, and healing….
May your lives be evidence that following the teachings of Christ makes a life-giving difference that brings you a deep gladness.
Amen.  We rise to sing Jesus you have come to the Lakeshore
Resources:Chris Corrigan recently posted a provocative blog post “Differences are real; Divisiveness is a choice.”  AND Rev. Little, Bethany United Church.