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  • Jim Lovelady

Day 10: Safe to Shore

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

"Hear all the bombs fade away

Hear all the bombs fade away…"--The Decemberists

I'm enchanted at the thought of spending a year at sea. The idea of a 360 degree blue horizon awakens in me adventure…and dreaded fear. The reality is that I would quickly go mad with fear because, to be honest, the ocean scares me.

The season of Lent can feel like a year at sea in many ways. Or maybe Lent actually reveals what your entire life feels like. "Yup, this is my life, lost in a stormy sea." Our lives may look more like suffering and violence are in charge but Jesus gathers us out of this chaos and offers us peace and rest.

Some went off to sea in ships, 

plying the trade routes of the world. 

They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, 

his impressive works on the deepest seas. 

He spoke, and the winds rose, 

stirring up the waves. 

Their ships were tossed to the heavens 

and plunged again to the depths; 

the sailors cringed in terror. 

They reeled and staggered like drunkards 

and were at their wits’ end. 

“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, 

and he saved them from their distress. 

He calmed the storm to a whisper 

and stilled the waves. 

What a blessing was that stillness 

as he brought them safely into harbor! 

Let them praise the Lord for his great love 

and for the wonderful things he has done for them. 

Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation 

and before the leaders of the nation.--Psalm 107:23–32

In Mark 4 Jesus seems like an unlikely captain when he is found sleeping in the little boat while a huge tempest is threatening to rip them apart and send them to the bottom of the sea.

I can picture Peter, in good Eeyore fashion, saying, "Yup, this is my life! Lost at sea."

In the intensity of the storm Jesus' disciples wake him up and say, "Don't you care that we are about to die?!" Jesus only has to say a word, "Peace, be still," and the waves die down and the sea becomes calm again. The response is classic, "Who is this that even the wind and waves obey his voice?!"

Jesus brought them safely to shore.

This song is about heaven.

Every time I hear this song I imagine the narrator is a joyful captain who is undaunted in his hope for bringing he and his people safely to shore. We have fled the violence and suffering of this world and seek a new land, a place to start over. Our ship has sunk and we have all crowded into this lifeboat and yet, fearless, the captain calls us to keep rowing. It will be worth it. It is going to be a place where everyone is well-fed and taken care of, a place where we treat others the way we would like to be treated, a place where we forgive each other and receive forgiveness. It's a place where "The Lord's Prayer" is a reality.

It's the home that we all long for; the moments where we can take a deep breath and the cares of this world fade away. Sabbath. Shalom. Peace. Wholeness. Oh God, give us rest! Guide us to peaceful harbors. Bring us to the place where YOU are in charge. Let your kingdom come!

Well, when I listen to this song I think about the Sunday Gathering of God's people as that lifeboat. Our weekly worship services are designed to be that rest in the midst of a violent world. When we gather, it's as if we get in that boat together and letting our captain lead us to peaceful shores (at least for an hour and a half) and then we will return to our lives again, a little changed, a little more like our captain.

Don't forget, we take our baggage with us onto the lifeboat. All the violence and brokenness of the world is not just "out there" but in our own hearts as well. That means that the lifeboat is going to get messy.

These worship services are far from perfect, very far from being the utopia that this song expresses and for many people, the idea of getting in THAT boat sounds like hell. The very thing that is meant to guide you to peace has been used to drop bombs on your soul. For that reality, I am truly sorry.

Yet, there is something beautiful about a group of broken and imperfect people coming together to try to make the world a better place. You can't knock someone for trying to follow their captain, however clumsily their attempts may be. The results...we repent of those. We can't be complacent about how we gather to practice this new life. We have to always check ourselves and keep repenting of our lack of love. That's actually the very heart of the journey that we are called to.

As we float along in our lifeboat, picking up stragglers from the storm, learning how to love and depend on one another and turn our fellowship into a beacon of hope for a broken world, we must never lose sight of the destination our captain has promised us. I can see his smile as he says, "I began a good work in you…I will bring it to completion…I will bring you safe to shore."

I confess that I am violent and I live in a violent world. We drop bombs and we live in the shell holes of humanity's brokenness and suffering. Let your kingdom come and your will be done. Gather us. Make us humble. Make us one. Bring us to peaceful waters. Give us rest. Amen.

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