Summary: A sermon for my friend’s induction service, it uses a long analogy of a rescue ship with food and medicine, unwilling to share with others.
Ephesians 4:1-16 – A Slowly-Moving Ship
A ship rocked slowly upon the greasy seas. Its sails were tattered, its masts spliced, and its hull leaky with worm-eaten planks, but it still stayed afloat. It had been sailing for many years – for generations, actually. Many years ago it had been loaded with food and medicine, and dispatched to find and to help the people of a lost colony. As it traveled far and wide, all its original crew except one had died, their places taken by their children.
In the prow an old man, the last of the original crew, sat upon a coil of rope, his watery eyes struggling to pierce the fog.
Below decks men, women and children sat down in certain groups to eat. Although the fare was meager, it was adequate, and all their faces shone with health. The meal was almost over when both doors of the mess-hall were thrown open with a loud noise and a rush of wind. In the opening stood the old man, strange and wild, stronger than they had ever seen him, shouting, "We’re here! We’ve arrived at land!"
"Land?" they asked, not moving from the table. "What land?"
"Why, the land we were sent to when this voyage began. And the lost colony is there waiting. I can hear them shouting from the shore!" shouted the old man, stomping his feet with impatience. "Quick! Let’s make for shore and unload the food and the medicine."
The old man turned to run back up the gangway, but stopped half-way up when he realized there had been no movement in the mess-hall. Slowly he returned to stare at them with wide, incredulous eyes, his mouth agape. "Didn’t you hear me? Are you all deaf? I said we’re here! The people we set out to help are only a few hundred yards away. But we must hurry, for they are all hungry and sick."
The group known as the Spectators sat back and said, "Well, this should be quite something to watch. We should get good seats for it."
The group known as the Steamrollers wanted to push around the Spectators for their laziness.
The group known as the Squabblers wanted to fight with all the other groups on board about how their way was the best way.
The group known as the Separatists, huddled in the corner, was not even sure that it could work with anyone else on board. After all, the group thought it was the only group that was right.
The group known as the Thumbsuckers sat back and complained that nothing ever went their way.
The group known as the Spindrifters (note: spindrift is the water sprayed into the air by ocean winds and waves) wanted to let the current take the vessel somewhere else, somewhere more interesting, somewhere that they could "feel the Spirit."
And the group known as the Usurpers wanted to wrestle control of the ship from the old man, certain that they could pilot the ship and make decisions better than he.
"I’m sure we’d all like to help those people," said one of the men from the Spectators group, "but – as you can see – there’s hardly enough food and medicine here to take care of us and our children."
"Besides," said one of the women from the Separatists group, "we don’t know what kind of people they are. Who knows what might happen if we landed and went among them?"
The old man staggered back, as if he had been struck across the face. "But… but… it was for them that this voyage began in the first place so many years ago, for them that the ship was built, for them that the food and medicine were stowed aboard!"
"Yes, old man, I’ve heard many tales of our launching from my father and the other men who are now dead," replied one of the younger men from the Spindrifters group, following the latest thought from would-be philosophers, "but there were so many different accounts that how can we be sure which one is right? Why risk our stores and provisions, perhaps even our lives, on something we may not even be supposed to do?"
"He’s right! He’s right!" shouted many of the others from many of the groups, now quite excitedly involved in the conversation.
"But look," said the old man, trying very hard to contain himself, "it’s all very simple! As far as there not being enough food for us and them, much of what we have left is meant for seed. If we go ashore and plant it, then there will be more than enough for all. And on the matter of why the ship was launched in the first place – you merely have to look in the logbook. It’s all there."