Mark 12:1-12

A boat was provided to two brothers and a sister by their parents. The parents told the three siblings to use the boat to meet them at their vacation home near Kettle Falls for Labor Day. This family home was located on one of the many islands of Voyageur National Park between Minnesota and Ontario, Canada.

The three children had fond memories of the family home and island; and they remembered both the boat trips to get to the island home. But they had never navigated the waters and operated the boat. They had always travelled with their parents–they had always left it in the hands of their parents. But now it was their turn.

The boat was simple enough. It had a small sail and rigging, a small outboard motor, and an oar and lock system as well. There was a map and note from their parents stashed together toward the bow of the boat, “See you soon! Love, Mom and Dad!”

They boarded the boat with all their baggage, eager to celebrate the holiday. Charles (the oldest) immediately began to prime the motor. “What are you doing? Mom and Dad always use the sail,” said Will (the youngest). Susan (the middle child) remembered and reminded both brothers that Mom and Dad used the oars sometimes, too, although she could not remember when and where they used them.

The siblings debated for some time how they were going to even get started from the shallow part of Kabetogama Lake: motor, oars, or sail. Charles felt a major victory had been won when the motor revved to life.

The journey had begun. It was agreed to shut the motor off and loose the sail. Another disagreement came as to which direction would be the right one to take. Their entrance point into Lake Kabetogama was about 20 miles from Kettle Falls. The parents could sail the distance in less than three hours.

Right direction was understood differently by Susan and Charles. Susan wanted to study the depth chart on the map and plot the most direct, sail-friendly course. The lake had islands and high spots that needed to be avoided and the map could help. Charles was open to using the map, but insisted on taking the route he remembered Mom and Dad taking. There was no replacement for memory and instinct. Will was trying to get his map app running on his phone. We need technology’s help.

Will began studying the sky when he realized there would be no reception here. The Ojibwe named Kabetogama for a reason: Kabetogama means “rough waters.” All three knew that the lake would not freeze during this time of year, but voyageurs had to be savvy: rain storms were expected, but sleet, snow, lightening, or all three were a reality in late August.

“There’s a storm in the distance—in the northwest.” That wasn’t good. Not only did they disagree on how to get to their vacation home, both method and route, but now weather and time were crucial.

After more negotiation, Charles and Susan came up with a compromise: they would take the route they thought Mom and Dad had taken in the past, but under the navigational supervision of Susan with her map.

An hour and a half into the trek, the wind and waves had become troubled. There was no rain, yet, but the long, grey blur on the northwest horizon was a clear sign it was coming. They had at least another hour and a half on the water.

When the wind was too hard, they had to take the sail down. Here, they ran the motor.

Each began to focus more on the trip and how to get to their destination.  But instead of working together, they individually tried to problem solve. And arrived at disagreement with one another again.

An hour later, a cold drizzle came. Soon, the wind and rain intensity picked up. Then the sleet. They were cold, crabby, and miserable. Each child blamed the other child for not heeding his or her personal wisdom. There was some bickering back and forth, but mostly there were cold stares and silence.

An hour later, the sun slowly falling under the horizon, they stopped using the motor because it was getting too low on fuel. But even this was an argument. Susan and Will felt it best to not use up all the fuel in case of an emergency. Charles felt this was that emergency. He refused to row. Will and Susan began to row the boat. Their hands, though numb, could still feel the sting of the sleet hitting them.

  1. What was the goal of each child?
  2. Why was there so much difficulty, then? Were there bad ideas with some of the children?
  3. What should have happened? Could we have different solutions to this amongst ourselves?
  4. Who is to blame for weather problem? The weather became an unforeseen complication.
  5. How would you end the story and why?

Read Mark 12:1-12

Now these two stories are different, but there is a similarity, too. Both the children in the first story and workers in the second story have lost their focus. The children are competing amongst one another for who will decide how they journey to Mom and Dad’s vacation home. The workers have forgotten the graciousness of the vineyard owner, thinking only of what they can get for themselves.

Both the children and the workers believe that if they do it their own way, they will receive the prize. But what they don’t realize, is that the more they pursue their own way, they further their own endangerment and destruction.

Do you see what I mean? The more each child fights with the others about their way being right, the more time is wasted, the more resources are diminished. The workers keep on killing the vineyard owner’s representatives in order to keep more of the harvest blessing for themselves, it is actually making the vineyard owner angry enough to kill them.

I had been planning on something completely different message-wise, but when this story was given in the night, I knew this was the direction to take. And I will say this: I was given the story, but not the ending, nor necessarily the message. I will tell you what was given, though: I had a firm impression that we are the children in the story. It relates to us as a Yearly Meeting, a congregation, and I can even see it personally.

I believe the story is still being written…the ending is ours. And that means the message of the story is ours. What we are doing as a Yearly Meeting, as a congregation, and personally in our lives…it will be read by the next generations. How does it end? What is the message?