C RUISE SHIPS START SAILING out of Mobile again next month. Perhaps you’ve already booked a trip. Some of you have taken cruises before. You know what it’s like. I’ve never been on a cruise so I have to read what others say.
USA Today had an article on cruises: “Cruises are like vacations where the scenery keeps changing, but you stay in one place. Cruises are like having your own private food court — only way classier. Cruises are like small villages where you and the other passengers and the crew and staff become acquainted and share all the public spaces.” [http://traveltips.usatoday.com/cruises-like-14290.html]
OK, so pretend you are on one of these floating resorts. Pretend you are on a big ship in the middle of the Gulf — somewhere between Mobile and Cozumel. Everything is going along splendidly. Between all the meals you’ve eaten, you have shopped in the boutique, gambled in the casino, gone to an afternoon dance class, gotten a spa treatment, checked out the library, practiced your putting, and maybe even watched a movie. You are dragging your stuffed, tired self back to your room when you fall overboard. A frightful thought if you’re in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico!
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WHAT MIGHT THE CAPTAIN of that ship do when she or he learns that you have fallen into the sea? What would the captain do? Let’s consider some possibilities:
● The boat’s still chugging along. The captain might gaze out across the dark night waters and shout for you to start swimming. Maybe the captain points in the direction of land and yells, “Port is only 400 miles that way!”
Do you think the captain, seeing that you were drowning in the gulf, might say something to you like that? No, I don’t either.
● What about this? “I’ll throw you the life ring but only if you can prove to me that you’re really worth saving.” The captain then quizzes you on your life. You’re bobbing up and down with the waves, taking in salt water, and el capitan wants to know what you’ve done with your life? Have you created any useful inventions? Have you won the Nobel Peace Prize? How about student of the month? What’s your relationship like with your family? Have you ever stolen anything?
Now really, do you think the captain, seeing that you are drowning, might ask you something like that? No, I doubt it.
● Let’s try something else. “If you can climb halfway up the side of the ship, then I’ll pull you the rest of the way up. I know you’re tired from trying to stay afloat but swim over here to the ladder. Come on, you can do it! Dog paddle. Freestyle, backstroke, whatever works. I know the waves are working against you. I know it’s impossible to accomplish but I’ll cheer you on as you try in vain to make it to the ship.”
Do you think the captain, seeing that you are drowning, would make you try to work your way over to the ship and up the side of the ship?
Of course not! The captain would rescue you, right?
THE CAPTAIN WOULD STOP the ship, and send out a rescue boat. The crew would pull you out of the water, and bring you safely to the ship and thus save you from drowning. Right?
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LET ME RE-READ OUR SCRIPTURE from this morning. One of the key Bible verses relating to the Reformation:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Like any parable, this one breaks down if we analyze it too closely. We are that person drowning in the Gulf of Mexico and God rescues us. God sends Jesus Christ to lift us from the high seas and fatigue of trying to make it safely by ourselves. God sends Jesus not because of anything that we do, but simply because he loves us.
We are saved by grace, just because God loves us. It’s nothing that we can brag about. It is simply a wonderful gift.
— Keith Cardwell
adapted from kidsermons.com/2008/10/reformation-sunday-childrens-sermon