Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Voyage: The Captain & the Crew

September 13, 2009
Genesis 6, Jonah 1, Luke 5

The Voyage is a series of four
messages for the upcoming Sundays. I want to explore the faith life through the metaphor of a voyage at sea.

Have you ever paddled a canoe by yourself? It is possible for the skilled to do this well, but imagine you are in a single person canoe in a shallow pond and all you can do is paddle in circles? Not much of an adventure, is it?

Sometimes our faith life can be like that. Not much of an adventure, paddling around by ourselves, going in circles, trying to have an adventure in shallow faith waters.

God wants so much more for us! Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly!” God intends for our faith life to be an adventure, like sailing in the deep waters.

Volvo Ocean Race is a sailing race that through 10 legs of racing takes sailors around the world. The race begins in October and ends in April. Now that’s an adventure! The subtitle of the race is “Life at the extreme.” This is much more of an adventure than paddling in circles in shallow waters.

The faith life is intended to be like that…setting sail for deep waters. For the next four weeks we’re going to see what it looks like. We are going to remember who the captain is and decide if we’re going to be on the crew. We are going to realize how we can possibly survive the storms at sea. We’ll discover the importance of shipmates and determine to set sail for deep waters.

So this morning I ask you three critical questions.
1. Who is the Captain of your life?
2. Are you a passenger or a member of the crew?
3. Are you going to set out for deep waters?

Who is the Captain of your life?
When we say Jesus is “Lord,” that is to say Jesus is the captain of our lives; to let go of the helm and let Jesus steer our lives; to sing, like the faithful have a generation or two, “Jesus, Savior, pilot me,”; to live directed by Jesus’ ways.

Now the relationship a captain has with his crew is one of friend and fear. The same is true with those who make Jesus the captain of their lives. If Jesus is the Captain of your life he is your friend: someone you can go to when storm hit; someone you can trust; someone you talk to often; someone you feel closely connected to.

If Jesus is the Captain of your life he is also feared, in that Old Testament understanding of “The fear of the Lord.” That is a fear that means Jesus is to be respected for his position in your life, to know that Jesus is powerful in your life, to say that we have confidence and trust in him.

Who is the Captain of your life?

Let’s look at how did our Biblical characters answered that question.

In Noah’s time God is disappointed in humanity. God is grieved that God created human kind. God’s remedy for the situation is a flood to destroy everyone. But then God notices Noah who scripture calls a righteous man. The Bible says that “Noah walked with God.” God decides to start over with Noah and his family. God asks Noah to build the ark (a big boat) to save them. The scriptures say, “Noah did everything God commanded him to do.” Noah knew who the captain of his life was – God.

Have there been times in your life when you did exactly what God asked of you, no matter how silly and ridiculous you might look?

Jonah lived in the time of the Ninevites. The Ninevites were always unsatisfied – always trying to conquer more people, more land. God told Jonah to go there and tell them to change their ways. It was to be a warning. If they didn’t change their ways, they would be destroyed. If they did change their ways, God would be gracious to them. Jonah doesn’t like the Ninevites. He would prefer God skip the intermediate step and just get on with destroying the Ninevites. Instead of doing what God asked, Noah said no. He boarded a ship and headed for Tarshish. Can you get a picture of what this is like? Jonah went in the exact opposite direction that God called him to go. Jonah runs from the one who is supposed to be the captain of his life.

Have you ever run from God? Run in the opposite direction?

The scene in Luke 5 is before Peter is a disciple. There’s a crowd around Jesus and he needs to get some space to be able to speak to them. So Jesus climbs into Simon’s boat. Now Simon has been fishing all night long. He’s tired and wore out. The last thing he wants to do is go out fishing again. And besides that, this Jesus character is going to tell him where to fish? Peter’s the fisherman, not this guy, Jesus. But Simon sets out for the deep water, anyway. He says to Jesus, “Because you say so, I’ll do it.”

Ever feel like God calls you to do something you don’t want to? But for some reason, you do it anyway.

Peter had a sense that this Jesus could pilot him on the sea of life. Peter was willing to go out into deep waters, simply because Jesus said so.

Who is the Captain of your life? Which seafarer are you? We tend to be like each of them at some point in our lives. Sometimes we are running from God. Sometimes we are walking with God. Sometimes we do what God says, even though we don’t know exactly why. Who is the captain of your life? If Jesus is the captain of your life, and you follow his guide and direction, you will receive blessings you did not expect – like Peter and his big catch of fish or like Noah did when God saved him.

Who is the Captain of your life?

Are you a passenger or a member of the crew?
Think cruise lines, here. Passengers are guests on the ship. Everything you want as a passenger is delivered to you. You are expected to do nothing more than enjoy yourself. You are to lounge around, catch some sun, drink cool beverages and eat at endless buffets. And while this may appeal to you for relaxation and vacation, the real action on any ship is being a member of the crew! The Crew on the ship are there to serve. The crew on Jesus ship are to serve. It is as if we are saying, “These are my hands and feet, Lord. What do you need me to do?” That’s where the adventure is! Seeing where Jesus calls us and going.

Here’s the thing: you have to decide not to be a passenger anymore! No more “what’s in it for me.” No more coming to worship because the music or the message serves me. No more looking out for what I like or what pleases me. A crew member is looking to please the Captain. Is it all about you? Or are you serving and finding out your receiving at the same time?

It’s OK to be a passenger for a time – early in your faith journey. There is a time for receiving. But becoming a member of the crew is a sign of spiritual maturity.

So are you going to be a passenger or a member of the crew?

Are you going to set out for deep waters?

Staying in port is safe, but lacks any adventure. You can’t stay in port forever. We bring the ship into port 1 day out of 7. We get our provisions, are reminded of the captains orders. That’s what we’re doing this morning. But we are never meant to stay in the safety of the port. We called to venture out into the deep waters of our faith, to be about the work of God as members of God’s crew. We’ll talk more about setting out into deep waters in the weeks ahead. For now it’s enough to know that deep waters is where the faith adventure is. And it is also where the storms of life hit… which we’ll talk more about next week.

May you trust Jesus as your captain.
May you choose to be a member of the crew.
And may you know the godly adventure of deep water faith.

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead United Methodist Church

Rochester, MN

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