People attending the Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission stand together to join in song.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

People attending the Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission stand together to join in song.

October 31, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

We are better off with Jesus asleep in our boat than with the best of captains.

That’s according to Lutheran pastor Craig Tufts, this year’s leader of the annual Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission. Live it Up in the Abundant Life Jesus Gives! was the theme of the mission, which the Lutheran Church sponsored this year.

Speaking to more than 60 people at a breakfast session at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church the morning of Oct. 24, Tufts explored the story where Jesus took his disciples into the midst of a storm, leaving them to weather the storm while he took a nap.

If we had Jesus in our boat, wouldn’t we feel safe even if we were in the middle of a terrible storm, even if it looked as though our boat was going to sink?

The disciples didn’t feel safe; they became alarmed and were afraid for their lives, related Tufts.

How could Jesus sleep through a storm that was so bad the waves were crashing across the boat, filling it with water and threatening imminent destruction for all?

Jesus reacted to his disciples’ fear by asking them, “Where is your faith?” And the disciples replied, “(But) you were asleep. The boat was sinking. What were you thinking, Jesus?”

Jesus was incredulous. He couldn’t believe they were afraid after seeing so many miracles and having walked with him for so long.

“Do you know what I think the message for us is here?” Tufts asked. “The message is that we are better off with Jesus asleep in our boat than with the greatest captain you can possibly find.”

Tufts said the Lord is with us even when we feel he is not.

ENGINEER TO PASTOR

Craig, currently pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Parksville on Vancouver Island, spoke at nine sessions during the Oct. 23-26 ecumenical mission. The former electrical engineer became a pastor after graduating with a master of divinity from Edmonton’s Concordia Lutheran Seminary in 1989.

Each session of the ecumenical mission was held in a different church in Strathcona County. Nine Christian churches participate in the mission, which OLPH representative Rita Sandmaier said allows the churches to enjoy their common vision of Christianity.

The mission opened the evening of Oct. 23 with a potluck supper and a service at Bethel Lutheran Church, where Tufts gave his first talk. He spoke on Jesus and sinners and on the parable of the prodigal son. About 250 people attended.

Pastor Craig Tufts

Pastor Craig Tufts

“When I think about the ecumenical mission of the Church, about the task of speaking to the world about Christ, I honestly can’t think of a better way for us to get better at that task than to grow in receiving the abundant life that Jesus has for us,” Tufts said.

A LOST COIN

The story of Jesus welcoming sinners is one to which Tufts personally relates. He admittedly was a lost coin. “I thought I had my life all figured out and I guarantee you, God had no place in that life,” he said.

“I look around tonight and I know that wherever you live, there are a lot of lost coins that live around you. But listen. I have good news for you. Jesus has an amazingly rich and abundant life for those lost coins. Don’t lose hope.”

As a lost coin, Tufts met his wife Donna, who was raised in the Lutheran Church.

“She was raised in a way that when this lost coin came along and tried to talk her out of going to church, there was no way. She was going to church every Sunday; which meant I was going to Church too.”

Every Sunday that he went to church, he heard about Jesus and Jesus finally got to him.

Tufts used the story of the prodigal son to explain his return to God.

“I can’t tell you exactly when I figured out that I was the younger son but I know at one point in time it clicked in for me as I heard that parable that I was the younger son; that I had squandered a lot.”

Tufts said when he looks back at his life, “I’ve come to realize it was through Jesus and the Church that God embraced me with his love and I let him embrace me and I was home. I could say I came to faith, but really faith came to me.”

In the story of the prodigal son, the elder brother is jealous of the younger brother, who was welcomed home by the father despite having sinned against him.

So the younger brother has no elder brother to look up to and to provide support.

HE HAS YOUR BACK

“Here is the good news. You have an older brother, someone that has your back and someone you can look up to.” Tufts said.

“He is way older than you and unlike that older brother in the parable, he was completely and utterly willing to pay the price.

“In fact he paid the price of giving up heaven itself so that you can be absolutely welcomed back home. Yes, I’m talking about Jesus. He is the older brother of all of us.”

Added Tufts: “Whether you are a lost coin or a lost sheep or a younger brother or an elder brother, I have good news for you tonight.

“The older brother is here to embrace you, to welcome you, to reach out to you with the father’s love and say welcome home and join the dance.”