Thursday, September 10, 2009

Out to Sea

I am preaching this week on “The Risk of Faith” and I have had a nautical image in mind all week. Since it is Kick-Off Sunday and we are focusing on all-things-football, I am going to go in a different direction during my message and would like to develop that nautical image here.

When I was preaching in Los Angeles, one of my elders lived in Marina del Rey and owned a sailboat. He and his wife actually lived on the boat for a few years until they bought a house nearby, and they loved to sail (still do; they retired to Tennessee but keep their boat in the Bahamas). Several times they invited my family to join them for a sailing excursion on a Saturday afternoon, which was always delightful both for the sailing and because they are such good folks.

One of the things that my daughters especially liked, and which Angela and I always found interesting, was slowly cruising through the marina on the way out to the ocean and hearing from our friends which big boats belonged to which celebrities. There were some nice boats, let me tell you! The King of the Marina was probably the late Johnny Carson’s yacht, Serengeti. What a beautiful craft – 100+ feet long, bristling with the latest technology and oozing luxury furnishings. It was too big to fit in any of the available slips! Serengeti is the kind of yacht you can host a lavish party on one evening and then head down to South America in the next morning. (You can see a short video of it on YouTube posted by a passerby.)

While I was living in Los Angeles Mr. Carson was still alive (he died in 2005), but he was an extremely private person and few people in the marina ever saw him. Occasionally Serengeti would head out to sea, and the internet would circulate a few story threads of people spotting it in San Diego or Santa Barbara. But this was very seldom. Most of the time it stayed in the dock.

Here’s the image that I find so challenging: a powerful, fully-equipped boat with a full-time crew that actually spends most of its time in the quiet harbor and seldom heads out to sea; a magnificent ship whose primary function ends up being to offer a safe and comfortable place to host parties or enjoy private relaxation rather than to head out to the open seas for which it was built. Heck, if you want to stay in the marina, there are houseboats for that. A yacht is made for he sea.

The modern suburban church faces the continual choice between being a harbor-hugging houseboat or an open-water ship. This is not a one-time decision but a constant challenge that we address in small and large ways. Will we concern ourselves primarily with our own comfort and convenience, or will we hoist the anchor and head out to the often-choppy ocean waters to rescue the shipwrecked and reach the aimless?

One of the arresting things about the aforementioned YouTube video is that in the middle of the short clip, a man passes by the Serengeti in a kayak. Is he coming in from the ocean or heading out? Or is he just doing laps around the marina? There’s no way to know from watching the video.

But here’s the image as I see it: The man in the kayak is Jesus, heading in from and out to sea whether we join Him or not. But He wants us to join Him.


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