This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.
I think you'll agree that I do a pretty good job of keeping the preacher in me submerged, but every so often, a sermon bobs to the surface before I can stop it. This one is titled "The Towboat and the Canoe." I saw both boats together the other afternoon out on the Mississippi.
The canoe and the towboat represent opposite philosophies of how to handle the cantankerous Father of Waters. The canoe and her kind—the first boats on the river—learned to survive by submitting to the demands of the river. Made out of native materials such as bark and logs, the canoes, flatboats, and rafts let the current take them along. The canoe's light weight and pointed ends made it easy to skim the surface and maneuver at will.
By contrast, the modern towboat succeeds by controlling the river, shaping the river to its needs. Is the current strong? Add more power. Is the river too shallow? Dam it up. Is that island in the way? Dredge it out.
It's an old dilemma. What did God mean in Genesis when he gave Adam and Eve dominion over the garden? Are we humans to be caretakers or controllers? Between here and Chicago, a few remnants of the old Sauk Indian Trail still exist within sight of Interstate 80. The Sauk Trail, one moccasin wide—Indian file—so as to disturb nature as little as possible. Interstate 80, four lanes cut through anything in its way. Which of those two trails does God smile on?
There is a third choice. Between the canoe and the towboat came the Mississippi steam paddle wheel, its paddle and flat bottom submitting, like the canoe, to river necessities, but with a mind of its own as well—a steam engine to propel it upstream against the current. The steamboat neither surrendered nor conquered.
And you. How are you traveling down the channel of your own spiritual Mississippi River? Are you a canoe or a towboat? Or are you living, like the steamboat, in an uneasy truce with nature?
Amen. Now, the ushers will pass the collection plate—or did you take care of that during the fund drive?
Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and Augustana College, Rock Island.