From the archives – Is your life a ferry ride on a calm day?
A sermon from the archives from my Chaplaincy days – Secondary Chapel – April 2008
Readings: Jonah 1:1-4, 2 Corinthians 11:24-27
Jon 1:1 A message from the LORD came to Jonah. He was the son of Amittai. The LORD said,
Jon 1:2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh. Preach against it. The sins of its people have come to my attention.”
Jon 1:3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD. He headed for Tarshish. So he went down to the port of Joppa. There he found a ship that was going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board. Then he sailed for Tarshish. He was running away from the LORD.
Jon 1:4 But the LORD sent a strong wind over the Mediterranean Sea. A wild storm came up. It was so wild that the ship was in danger of breaking apart.
Second Corinthians 11: 24-27
2Co 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
2Co 11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
2Co 11:26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
2Co 11:27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
High performance. Are you a high performer? Are you an “achieved with excellence” person?
Do you have great exploits and conquests – do you win all the time?
There are some real dangers in the ethos of our school – because in our obsession with image, success, and achievement, we sometimes forget that there is a world out there of lots of failure, struggle and disaster.
And if failure and disaster never hits us, we probably never learn the skills required to cope in the real world. Something has to give eventually.
Ever been really hungry? Slept on the street? Been unemployed and walked the streets looking for work? Been thrown out by your parents, beaten, abused, and rejected? Ever faced murder of a friend, war that’s taken your family members away from you?
If you life has been a smooth road and a bed of roses, then you may well not be concerned by the 40 hour famine – the plight of others may not be your concern.
Or the beggar in the streets of the cities of the world.
Or the people who remember anniversaries of tragedies and deaths. Like the Wahine disaster.
I’m very nervous of ships really. We planned to go on the Oceanos some years back. A few weeks after visiting the ship at Durban harbour it sank off the wild coast. All 571 people onboard were saved. The weather was much kinder.
Then there was the Achille Lauro. It was high jacked by terrorists and later also sank after a fire. Cruise two cancelled.
The last ship we planned to sail on was arrested by the Sheriff of the City of Durban because its owners had not paid their bills.
I was pleased that my first Ferry ride to the South Island was on a calm day.
If your life is life a ferry ride on a calm day, then you may have some shocks coming your way. Listening to the stories of the survivors of the Wahine tragedy this week reminded me of the trauma of such events. Reflecting on the Anzac day history is a stark reminder of real failure.
What we need is resilience to cope with failures, and not just the buzz of each weekend’s highs and the endless accolades for our achievements.
An international resilience project indicated that the following challenges were experienced the most in students lives, in order of frequency:
- death of parents or grandparents
- illness of parent or siblings
- moving, family or friends
- accident causing personal injuries
- abuse, including sexual abuse
- poor health and hospitalizations
- fires causing personal injury
- forced repatriation of family
- disabled family member
- parent’s loss of a job or income
- murder of a family member
Parents report on these challenges:
- car accident
- adverse economic conditions
- illegal, refugee status
- migrant status
- property damage from storms, floods, cold
- political detention
- abuse by a non-relative
- murders in neighbourhood
- unstable government
And then I listen to conversations of children here at school who are always “annoyed” by some inconvenience, some responsibility, and some person who is a bit different and challenges their thinking. Someone tells them they have done wrong, and they wangle their way out of responsibility with such aplomb.
Life is not just high performance, fame and fortune! I apologise to you on behalf of your world. We have done you a disfavour by helping you want to win all the time.
The bulk of the world lacks the basics. They lose. Ask the people of Zimbabwe – especially the 4 million plus who have become refugees in the streets and cities of South Africa.
And how we grumble. Shame on us all.
In the readings today there were two characters in danger on the sea. One was Jonah – running away from his responsibilities that God had given him. There were reasons for the disaster that followed him. God was getting his attention.
Paul was the other – and we have a litany of disasters. Beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, bandits, hunger, cold and nakedness. Add in a couple of stints in jail like my fellow ministers in Zimbabwe and you get a most colourful life.
Some people’s tragedies are because of the tasks they take up. Others seem must more random and without obvious reason.
What really matters is how we choose to respond. Our ultimate freedom is the freedom not to give up, not to despair, not to try again.
I will spare you the lecture about how you can redeem your time to study. That’s not my job.
But I will suggest that you use your time to get out of your selfish world and look at what is really happening out there.
Draw alongside someone who is in the midst of the muck – the excrement of life – and ask yourself if you have any reason to really complain.
Listen to the stories of immigrants – of those who have been abused – of those who lived through tragedy and disaster.
Resilience is about overcoming adversity. Most people around the world understand the idea of overcoming adversity with courage, skills and faith.
You can sail through your education and make your millions, grab your stake of fame and fortune.
Or you could use your real tests in life – those tests of adversity – to grow into a better person, developing real strength of character.
You could grow your faith, in stead of being dismissive about the things of faith and paranoid about offending other people’s sensibilities.
The people who caught the Wahine on that 9th of April 1968 had no idea what would happen. The young men who went to war were excited about seeing the world. They saw blood and guts, and shattered bodies, and many saw the lights go out on their future.
May you sail your ship of life far more alert, far more wise, and filled with passion to make a difference even if you face the worst.