Yockey-ColorWhen the tourist season opened, he posted a sign: One trip daily – 3 p.m.

At 3 p.m. a curious crowd gathered to see what would happen. Precisely on schedule he appeared, pushing his wheelbarrow heaped with stones. He climbed on to a rope, pushed the load ahead and bounced his way across a long waterfall and back. The knots in the rope were no obstacle. He never slipped or teetered.

This went on all summer into autumn. An enterprising bystander started taking bets.  Soon he had amassed a fortune. People couldn’t believe how the stranger and his wheelbarrow would crisscross the falls.

One day when the air was chilly from a brisk wind, a thick coat of ice had glazed the rope. At 3 p.m. the biggest crowd ever assembled in wonder and amazement. The young entrepreneur made huge bets that day, and his pockets were bulging with money.

On schedule the stranger appeared, but this time his wheelbarrow was empty. He called to the young man, “Come here!”

Never before had the stranger spoken. Eagerly the young man ran up and was asked: “Do you believe I can do it?” Patting the money in his pocket, he smiled, “I sure do!” The tightrope walker then motioned, “Get in!”

Get in! That’s the Lord Jesus challenging you and me in a similar way at this critical time in our faith journey together.

Jan. 4, 2011, had an uncomfortable chill with a thickening coat of ice more in our hearts than outside at mid-winter. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki announced that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Inc., was filing for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Act.

Some eight weeks later with unwavering trust in the Shepherd he makes visible, the archbishop kicked off the 2011 Stewardship Appeal, calling all of us who are the Body of Christ, the church in southeastern Wisconsin, to move forward with even firmer conviction than ever before. 

Reorganization under Chapter 11 means exactly that, not liquidation (Chapter 7). The court itself, in dividing up the pie of unrestricted archdiocesan funds, is bound by law to assure that essential ministries of the church can continue. The stated goals of the appeal flow directly from who we are as a eucharistic people, sent forth from Mass to serve families, strengthen parish programs, support Catholic schools and sponsor the formation of priests, deacons and lay leaders. All contributions are restricted ipso facto to the 2011 Stewardship Appeal to be spent sometime within the yearlong cycle.

Indeed, maximum care has been taken to safeguard these indispensable gifts by tying them down legally according to strict, donor designation.

Still, our motive to participate runs deeper than important practicalities. Like the (retired) lieutenant colonel that he is, Archbishop Listecki rallies us to look deeper. He points out eloquently how the worst of times is really the best of times when seen through the lens of cross-resurrection spirituality. While the sexual abuse of minors rocks the church to its core, the persevering dedication of true believers gives hope for healing. Where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Rom 5:20). The gates of hell may clang in deafening cacophony, but because the Risen Christ walks with us, they can never prevail (Mt 16:18).Now is the time to stand up and be counted, literally to put our money where our faith is and witness publicly that our mission as church carries on undaunted.

Please join me near the waterfall with renewed courage and determination. It’s cold outside. Ice is thickening on the glazed rope stretched across the pressing, many urgent needs of people all over southeastern Wisconsin. But there stands Jesus, the same Savior who has filled our pockets again and again with more blessings than we can count even if we’re on fixed income. 

His wheelbarrow is empty, though his call is crystal clear. “Get in,” he urges, as he challenges us to ride with him confidently. He’ll be steering the whole effort, exactly as he has so often before without slipping or teetering. It is he who will get us through. The more discouraging our circumstances, we know the closer he is to us, always empowering us to trust, if only we say yes.

By his unfailing grace, let’s “get in” and make it happen! The strength of his mercy is ours to imitate through your support and mine of the 2011 Stewardship Appeal.

Our faith is alive and well, thanks to the Lord of the Church. We cross that long, scary edge together – securely in his Name.