Summary: We all need a desired haven, seafarers in particular; a forgotten highly skilled workforce who life apart from the rest of us. This is a tribute to Sea Sunday, and the hardship mariners endure.
This sermon was delivered to the congregation in Holy Trinity, in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 9th July 2017: by Gordon McCulloch
(A Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries).
The readings for today are:
Please join me in my prayer. Let the words on my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord. Amen.
Good morning … today is Sea Sunday … it is the one day of the year set aside by many churches all over the world to remember and say prayers for the 1.5 million brave men and women who work at Sea ... and being an ex-navy man myself … I have been honoured today to pay tribute to these daring seafarers. … But first, I must pay tribute to the Sailors’ Society, who for almost 200 years have strived to help these seafarers, by providing relief, education and of course, pastoral care.
Today’s sermon is based on Psalm 107, in particular, verse 30 which says, “he brings them unto their desired haven”. This is not a gospel sermon as you will soon realise, because I have been instructed by the society to discuss some of the problems these seafarers face … problems you probably may never have thought of … and the sacrifices they make … and by the end, with a bit of luck, you are ringing the sea water out from your clothes … and wanting to support that charity in one way or another.
So we will start with that well know verse from Psalms 107 verse 23 which says, “They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters” … and ask ourselves, why do people go to sea in the first place? … Well I think there are two main reasons … the first is for commercial reasons and the second, well because it is there … people just want too, nothing else, it is in their blood.
From a commercial viewpoint, it has been estimated that over 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea, and that includes our televisions, our mobile phones, the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, in fact most products that we can think of … however do we ever think of the seafarers who helped to transport these goods? … Me myself, an ex-navy man, no I don’t, or I rarely do, because unless you are living in a busy port, why should we.
But the reality is, that these courageous men and woman are part of an invisible workforce, a workforce almost forgotten by society … and so are the lives that they lead … and which I would now like to highlight this morning, and along with some of the hardship they have to endure before being brought to “their desired haven”.
2. Life at Sea
And that brings me to the second reason why people go to Sea and that is because “it is there”, the challenge of the sea. … Verse 24 reads, for they “see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep”. … For these people, the Sea is in their blood … they want to go to Sea, they may even be fleeing something on land … or they want the freedom from something that only the Sea can give. … They may want a bit of adventure and excitement, possibly from serving in the armed forces, but let me tell you, that “so called freedom”, comes at a price that I wasn’t prepared to pay … but thankfully … many people do like the sea, and are happy and committed to serve on the various ships around the world.
You see, these seafarers are far away from their homes and their loved ones for long periods at a time, some are away for six months of the year, some longer and some shorter of course, but that to me was a big sacrifice, particularly if you have a young family … because many of them don’t get the chance to watch their young ones grow and develop, and my heart goes out to them … as they miss out on many of the family occasions, not just the celebrations, but the “normal” day-to-day living which we sometimes take for granted. The longest voyage I made was 7 months in the Far East, and even today, I still feel I missed out on certain things at home during that time.
You see for the mariner, it is either the Sea or a family life at home … I could not see how you could have both, they are two totally different worlds, and to those at Sea, their fellow sailors become their family, and it is just your luck as to who your fellow sailors are. Mind you, you can’t pick your own family either.