Burn the Ships
My 11-year old son, Ethan, studied the explorers of the Americas last year. He chose for his specialty the controversial Hernan Cortes. It was a good history lesson for all of us. Credited with winning Mexico for Spain, Cortes was, as a popular phrase would say, outnumbered and outgunned. Yet, he is attributed with conquering the Aztec empire. Some regard him as someone who sought to capture the wealth from the Aztecs, who was cruel and ruled with a heavy hand. Regardless of your thoughts about him, he was certainly an influential figure in history.
On a different note, my in-laws, Doris and Stan, bought a
house in Eastlake. On Wednesday, they moved out of our San Marcos house, where they’ve been living since January, and into their new house. Their move from Alameda to our house was part of a larger plan to be closer to their two grandchildren. This is the last phase of the plan – the move to the Chula Vista area. As a result, Christi and I are putting our now unoccupied San Marcos house on the market this weekend.
Back to Cortes, it is traditionally believed that when the explorer landed on what is now Mexico, he ordered that his ships be burned as a show of accomplish-the-mission-or-die-trying. It’s also widely believed that when he met resistance from his men about his plan that he said, “We’ll sail their ships back!” I don’t think this actually happened but it makes for a good story.
Now to tie Cortes and San Marcos together, it occurred to
me that my family is living into those words. With my in-laws securely in place
in the South Bay, and with our former house being prepared to be sold, we have
cut our ties with the North County. We have, in effect, burned our ships.
I had a previous ship-burning experience with my father-in-law. When Christi and I packed up our family and moved from Spokane to the Oakland/Alameda/Berkeley area for seminary, Stan helped me break down our moving boxes and recycle them. He said something like, “Well, you don’t need
these anymore.” It was a clear signal in my heart that we were not going back.
I performed two weddings last weekend. I asked each bride
and groom, “Forsaking all others, will you be faithful to him/her as long as you
both shall live?” Regardless of what Cortes did or said on the day he landed on
the soil of the Aztec Empire, he was forsaking any sort of evacuation plan; he
committed his life, and the lives of his sailors, to his mission not knowing
fully what the outcome would be. And here we are, Doris, Stan, Christi, Ethan,
Elijah and I, forsaking other addresses, committing ourselves and our lives to
the South Bay, to you and to the common life and mission of Saint John’s.
May the Holy Spirit who sets our hearts ablaze with love for Christ, help us and guide us in our journey,
- Fr. Marshall
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