Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:6-8 (ESV)
When I was a girl, I loved to water ski. I can’t remember when I learned, probably about eight or nine years old, but from the time I first got up on skis and stayed up, I looked for every possibility that I could to go back and ski again. Though it looks easy to the uninitiated, water skiing is not a simple task. With a life jacket on and two long skis (in my day they were wooden, but now they are fiberglass) strapped to your feet, you float in the water and grasp a short pole in your hands that is attached on each end to the ski rope. The ski rope is tied to the back of a motorboat. You keep your knees bent as though you are in a crouch and try to keep your skis pointed up. As the boat moves forward, the skis tip forward and then, flat on top of the water as you gradually stand allowing the boat to pull you along. The hardest part of water skiing is relaxing in the water and waiting for the boat to provide the lift up and forward. If you don’t wait for the boat and try to stand up on your own power, you will fall, most of the time flat on your face. It takes lots of time and effort to learn this skill of depending on the boat, crouched, relaxed and waiting. The second hardest thing about water skiing is learning to navigate the wake of the boat. After a time of standing, gliding along the top of the water, the tendency is to want to try something new. To negotiate the waves that swell to each side of you as the boat plows through the water. An experienced skier can go up and over the waves, even doing tricks and “catching air” as they leap high over the water. There is a thrill in being out away from the boat’s calm path negotiating your own way through the rougher sea. But, there is danger in it too as a swell or even a light chop can shoot your skis right out from under you. When you lose your balance, let go of the rope and hit the water, again usually face first, it is not a pleasant experience. Water rushes up your nose and depending on the angle of impact, an arm, shoulder, knee or elbow can suffer bruises or injury. I was thinking of my water skiing days as I read a book by Jen Hatmaker called Interrupted. The book is about the kind of church that Christ calls us to be. She talks about leaving the current church mentality where it is all about me and pleasing the congregation behind and moving out into the streets to minister to the homeless, hurting, hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick and imprisoned. She described this kind of work as “staying in the wake of God.” In other words, we don’t go out on our own, creating programs over people, relying on our own wisdom instead of following the Holy Spirit. She describes a church I want to be a part of when she says, “I want the church to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies. I’d like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts. I desire the greatness that comes from not just seeking mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors. I hope to be part of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, who injects supernatural wind and fire into His mission. My version of great will come when others are scratching their heads and saying, ‘Wow, you live a really different life’.” Or as Pope Francis said yesterday, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Being a Christian is a lot like water skiing when we envision Jesus as the boat. We relax in His wisdom, and let him propel us where He wants us to go according to His mercy and grace. When we do, we don’t have to worry about falling flat on our face either!