“A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.” (John Shedd)
We can explore this with either paper boats if you have running water nearby, or with helium balloons
You will need:
- paper and pens
- Running water
- A tray of water
- 2 or more helium balloons (preferably biodegradable to look after our wildlife) – Link to biodegradable balloons *
- marker pens
Give out paper and have everyone make two boats, which they can personalise with the pens.
Place one of each boat in the tray of water and discuss how well they float and how long they will last. Then place the others in the flowing water. It is dangerous; the boats will be pushed around and may even sink, but they are moving and going somewhere.
In God we have the promise that he is always with us, even in the troubling times and he will never let us go. So we can leave the easy safety of the shallow tray and risk the dangerous adventure, safe in his care, even though we cannot know where it will take us.
If you have two balloons, have one tethered to a chair and one held, ready to be released. If you have more than two balloons, tether one and have the rest ready for release. Invite folks to write their names on both the tethered balloon and on one of the balloons to be released.
Talk about how good it is it have a balloon to play with, and how sad we can feel when we ‘lose’ the balloon. But only a ‘lost’ balloon is truly free and can reach places a tethered balloon will never find. Then release the balloons and watch them fly.
I have to say, I’m in full agreement with the disciples here. This is a hard teaching – all this weird stuff about eating flesh and drinking blood. Seriously?
It must have sounded much weirder to folks who did not have the benefit of two thousand years of taking Communion. It went right against the Jewish food laws and even sounds creepy today. Was Jesus being deliberately weird? Perhaps.
I am reminded of a passage from a book by C. S. Lewis (always worth a read) in which he considers his “slip of the tongue” while praying. Instead of asking that he might ‘pass through things temporal that he finally lose not the things eternal’, he swapped the eternal and temporal round.
Lewis wondered if his slip better described his real life, and I have to admit that I can do that too, trying to get through the Christian bit so that it doesn’t mess up my ‘normal’ life.
I mean this sort of thing. I say my prayers, I read a book of devotion, I prepare for, or receive, the Sacrament. But while I do these things, there is, so to speak, a voice inside me that urges caution. I t tells me to be careful, to keep my head, not to go too far, not to burn my boats. I come into the presence of God with a great fear lest anything should happen to me within that presence which will prove too intolerably inconvenient when I have come out again into my ‘ordinary’ life. I don’t want to be carried away into any resolution which I shall afterwards regret.
He goes on to describe some amusing instances, but puts his finger on what is, for me at least, the nub of the matter “Have we never risen from our knees in haste for fear God’s will should become unmistakable if we prayer longer?”
Lewis captures exactly what Jesus was pointing out to his disciples when he asked “Do you also want to leave?” Lewis described it like paddling in the sea, but holding tightly to a lifeline to shore. Jesus was making the water deeper so that folks had to choose between returning to land in a hurry, or letting go the lifeline and learning to swim. Paddling was no longer an option.
This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (I think St John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with my things temporal.
These ‘things temporal’ might be very good and noble things, or might be selfish and ignoble. Lewis considers a quote from William Law that “If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead”. ‘Really?’, asks Lewis:
Will it really make no difference whether it was women or patriotism, cocaine or art, whisky or a seat in the Cabinet, money or Science? Well, surely no difference that matters. We shall have missed the end for which we were formed and rejected the only thing that satisfies. Does it matter to a man dying in a desert by which choice of route he missed the only well?
It is a remarkable fact that on this subject Heaven and Hell speak with one voice. The tempter tells me, “Take care. Think how much this good resolve, the acceptance of this Grace, is going to cost.” But Our Lord equally tells us to count the cost. … Between them it would seem to be pretty clear that paddling is of little consequence. What matters, what Heaven desires and Hell fears, is precisely that further step, out of our depth, out of our own control.
Deep water is scary, but we have a choice: haul ourselves back up that lifeline and run up the beach, or let it go and swim, to who-knows-where.
“Do you also want to leave?” “Master, to whom would we go?
John 6:56-69 The Message
But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”
He said these things while teaching in the meeting place in Capernaum.
Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.”
Jesus sensed that his disciples were having a hard time with this and said, “Does this throw you completely? What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen. Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this.” (Jesus knew from the start that some weren’t going to risk themselves with him. He knew also who would betray him.) He went on to say, “This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father.”
After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?”
Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
. Preached by C. S. Lewis in the chapel of Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1956 as Lewis’ last sermon. Text in ‘The Weight of Glory’, (London: William Collins, 2013) pp 184-192.
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