A Sailor’s Tale

September 19, 2010

September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, honest it really is www.talklikeapirateday.com. And it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. This is the a repeat of the message I preached last time it fell on a Sunday. We started with a clip from the Veggie Tales Jonah Movie which I interrupted.

 That, not be the way it happened. And you won’t be getting far on yer voyage if you be learning your history from vegetables,

 Arrr mateys, shiver me timbers I have a tale to tell so settle down and pay me heed.
Me name is Omar and I be a sailor. It seems like I’ve always been a sailor, you might say I was born into it. You see me father was a sailor as was his father before him. So I am a sailor too, although not a very good one, I get a wee bit seasick if you know what I mean. But as long as I can remember there’s always been a deck moving beneath me feet. A sailor is what I’ve always been and a sailor is what I’ll always be.
When the Story began I was mate on a ship called The Wings of the Morning and a fine ship she was too, she had been built in Athens, on the shores of Greece and had beautiful lines and fine handsome rigging. A fine ship and she rode the waves, not rolling much, which was important to me, if you know what I mean.
We had been sailing the Mediterranean making stops along the coastlines of Greece and Macedonia as well as hopping amongst the islands. You know Crete and Cyprus. We were lying to in the port of Joppa while the Skipper was scaring up a cargo for us.
Joppa wasn’t a bad port to be tied up in as far as ports go, I’ve been in worse. It was in the country of Israel, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the water was crystal clear the sand was white and fine like sugar. The sights and the sounds of the market drifted down the streets to the wharves, the smell of fresh baked bread mingling with the smell of the tar that covered the pilings. The sun was bright and the women were beautiful. Arrr, I could have stayed in Joppa for a long time. But it was not to be. The Cap’n arrived and told us that he had found a cargo, that we would be taking a cargo of dates and olive oil to the shores of Tarshish. Tarshish, why Tarshish? There was no place further away then Tarshish. It was where the earth dropped off and even if you didn’t fall over the edge beyond Tarshish there were monsters and dragons and nobody who ever sailed beyond Tarshish ever came back. But that was where the cargo had to go so that’s where we had to go.
They gave me this thing and told me if I pressed the button it would show you a chart. Well shiver me timbers it works. This be Joppa, which is where we were and this be Tarshish where we were taking our cargo.
I put the boys to work loading the cargo and getting everything shipshape for the voyage when this landlubber showed up asking where we was bound for. I told him we were sailing to Tarshish on the tide. He asked if there was any way he could go farther then Tarshish, and I told him there were no further then Tarshish, that beyond Tarshish there be monsters and there be dragons and then you just fall off the end of the world. I mean you just have to look at the chart to see that it’s flat.
The lubber wanted to book passage with us and after talkin’ to the skipper we decided that would be alright and so I asked his name and he told me it was Jonah. For a moment I had some doubts about taking a passenger named Jonah, you see I have kind of a sixth sense, I don’t see dead people but sometimes things don’t feel right and this was one of those times. But a cargo is a cargo whether it be dates or people so we told the swabby to grab his kit and make hisself at home down below with the rest of the cargo.
Well we sailed on the tide and it was a beautiful moonlit night, the stars were bright and just enough of a gentle breeze to fill the sails, which was a good thing, if you know what I mean. And so for three days we sailed toward Tarshish and a beautiful trip it was turning out to be. It was not to last though, on the evening of the third day a storm blew out of nowhere and nigh on threatened to sink the Wings of the Morning.
It blew hard and it looked like it wasn’t going to let up so I ordered the men to throw some of the cargo over board to lighten the ship, better to arrive without dates and olive oil then to arrive without a ship, if you know what I mean. And as the men worked they cried out to their various gods and a lot of gods there were amongst the boys, but they must have been deaf gods because the storm didn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s no fun when you start you trip by sea and end up travelling by rail, if you know what I mean.
And then someone noticed that the landlubber wasn’t with us, the cap’n told me to find the bilge rat and get him to pray to his god as well. Alas we found him asleep in his bunk, asleep! The entire ship and its cargo were in danger of being lost along with all the crew and the scurvy passenger’s asleep. Know nothing fear nothing that’s what I say. So we woke him up, after all if the rest of us were going to be terrified then he should be too.
As the storm grew worse the Cap’n called a parley, that’s a French word you know, they invented mayonnaise the French did. And during the parley it was suggested that we cast lots to see who was to blame for the storm and you’ll never guess where the lot landed. That’s right with the Jonah fella, so we demanded that he tell us why the storm had come.
And what a tale he wove. He told us he was a prophet, from Israel, that be where Joppa is. And he said that his God commanded him to go to Nineveh and tell the people there that if they didn’t repent and turn from their wicked ways that God would bring Judgement upon them. Then I says “But Nineveh be in the middle of the desert, not in the middle of the ocean.” We’ll just pull up the chart again, here be Joppa where we be sailing from and here be Nineveh where the lubber was supposed to be. And suddenly it all became clear he was running from the God of Israel, oh that can’t be good. As Captain Solo would say “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Then he started rambling saying something about how he should have believed David and that he should never have tried to flee on the Wings of the Morning. And I said, “This be your fault, you bilge rat you, now stop your whinging and tell us what we have to be doing to make the storm stop.”
Well blow me down the swabby said that we needed to be throwing him into the briny deep if we wanted to be saved. Arrr I might talk like a pirate but I’ve never made a man walk the plank before and I wasn’t about to start with this Jonah fellow. So I yelled at the men to pull in the remainder of the canvas and break out the oars that we would turn the ship into the wind and hold her in place. But it was no use, the wind got stronger and the waves got bigger and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t sick anymore, arrrr I was too scared to be sick by now, if you know what I mean.
And I looked at Jonah, and I be thinking, if it works if we throw him over the side and the storm stops then we will have saved the ship, the rest of the cargo and all the men just by sending one disobedient prophet to Davey Jones Locker. And I realized how selfish and self serving that was; I knew that must be a way to save all of us, the ship and that mangy landlubber. There had to be a way I just had to figure it out, so I thought and I thought and I thought and while I be thinking the bosun and the rest of the hands threw him overboard.
And stove me in, it worked the wind stopped, just stopped and the waves stopped as well. In all me years at sea I’d never seen the waves just stop, the clouds disappeared and there was the moon filling the starlit sky. I yelled at the boys to throw the man a line before he became shark bait but suddenly the water erupted and a giant fish, or maybe a whale, it all happened so fast that it was hard to tell, just swallowed him right up. One minute he was there and the next minute there he was, gone, if you know what I mean. And there we were on the Wings of the Morning, alone on an empty sea with just the ripples on the water to show us where Jonah had been.
Arrr that should be the end of the story, but it t’wernt. A year later we be back in Joppa and one afternoon as I was making me way along the dock back to the ship I heard someone yell me name. I turned and looked and there was a man walking toward me, had a funny twitch, kind of like that fella Jack Sparrow and his skin and his hair seemed to be bleached and he had a pasty look to him. As he got close I thought that can’t be but it was, it was Jonah. I asked him, “What happened to you? We saw you get swallowed and then you was gone. Was it a whale or was it a fish? People will want to know” and he said “I don’t know they all look alike from the inside.”
He told me that he spent three days in whatever it be he was in, time he said he spent talking to God. Which seemed to me to be a pretty good thing to be doing if you’re in the belly of a fish, or a whale. And after three days the beast threw him up on a beach, I understand how the fish felt, Jonah didn’t much agree with me either. Must have been a shock to those on the beach. As he was laying there on the beach with sand in his ears and seaweed up his nose God told him to get up and go to Nineveh and preach his message. And smartly the lubber got up from the sand and marched himself to Nineveh, where he preached repentance and the entire crew of Nineveh repented and that’s the rest of the story.
It be a good story but unless we can learn something it’s only a story.
1) Ye can’t be running from God. Our first reaction when God asks us to do what we don’t want to be doing is to run and hide, and our first reaction when we are confronted with our sin is to run and hide. It goes all the way back to the Garden, not that I know much about gardens being a sailor and all. But the good book tells us that after Adam and Eve had done what they weren’t supposed to do, the good Lord came looking for them and then it says in Genesis 3:8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees.
I guess trees are good for something other then building ships. But Adam discovered the same thing that Jonah discovered and that is you might run but you can’t hide. And King David wrote in Psalm 139:7-12 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Arrr in the book of Hebrews God’s word be telling ye Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
All kinds of people have tried to run from God, perhaps ye be doing that today, but listen you scallywags you can’t be running from God.
2) Yer Disobedience be putting others at risk The boys on the Wings of the Morning had done nothing wrong, well maybe one or two of the lads had done some wrong things but it be Jonah who was running from God and it be his disobedience that put us all in danger. Ye not be knowing who your disobedience might affect and how.
Let me be telling you a sad story. It’s about a ship mate I once had, a man of the cloth, if you know what I mean. One day he leaves his missus for another swabbies wife. Before the summer had come and gone again his youngest daughter, she be but 17 and unmarried was with child and the older daughter all of 22 years had left her husband of 2 years and was carrying another man child. Ye see when their father ran aground on the rocks of disobedience he shattered their moral compass and they lost their spiritual direction. There were those who left his church and others who left their faith. And I be knowing that we all be making our own decisions to follow God or not, but we will also be responsible for the stumbling blocks that we put in front of fellow travellers.
It was Jesus who said Mark 9:42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. And when it comes to the end of the voyage there be those answering for the damage they did and be wishing that they was only being keelhauled or tasting the cat of nine.
When a marriage dissolves the fallout extends to the kiddies and grandchildren, yer ship mates are alienated and people are hurt, because of the disobedience of one or two. When God speaks to you about giving some of your treasure to his work and ye decline saying “It be my treasure” there are people that might never be reached because the booty wasn’t there and whose fault be that? Many of those who be making a sacrifice when they built this fine new vessel, weren’t doing it for themselves, but for others.
Before ye turn away from what the good Lord be asking of you or turning toward what he’s telling ye to leave alone ye best ask yourself “who else will this affect and how?”
Arrr ye not be travelling alone on this voyage and your actions will affect the others you sail with.
3) It’s never too late to be obedient When we tossed Jonah into the briny deep we figured the story was all over. But as that great philosopher Yogi Berra said “It ain’t over til it’s over.” And I be knowing that Yogi wasn’t a Pirate, he be a Yankee, but they lost the 1960 series to the Pirates, so if only then he probably wished he were a pirate. If you read the good book time and time again you see God giving people a second chance. Avast mateys, Moses, Noah, David, Samson, Peter and other’s too numerous to mention were given a second chance. The secret be repentance, being sorry for what you’ve done and be ready to correct it. And you need to do it smartly, don’t be waiting too long. Many a swaby who said they’d get it right at 4 bells went to meet their maker at 3 bells and never made it right, then it be too late. God may give us a second chance but it’s not worth anything unless we accept it. It would be like lost treasure
Perhaps ye be thinking, “I wish I could go back and start the voyage over.” Well you might not be able to start over but it’s never too late to start afresh. Jonah couldn’t rewrite the old story but he could write a whole new story.
I don’t know what fish you might be in the belly of today, but God can hear ye there. The secret? Jonah discovered the secret when he cried out in Jonah 2:7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.
Jeremiah was a prophet as well and he tells us in Jeremiah 13:16 Give glory to the LORD your God before it is too late.
Where be you at today? What is God asking you to do? Where is he asking you to go, what is he asking you to give? Ye be the only person who can answer for yourself, so I would tell you to make sure everything be shipshape in your life before the storms arrive.