2f.10: Life Attitudes: Cruise Ship

 

…… Life Attitudes: Cruise Ship …. a modern day parable on the current nature of the Western Church in the 21st Century ….

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This post looks at a modern day parable on the current nature of the Western Church in the 21st Century. This is a parable by Richard Fay ….. former lead Pastor at New Heart Baptist Church here  in Australia. We have been going there as a family since 2006. We are not Baptists but we are finding it a real Word and Spirit filled Church. The Church is a real spiritual family ….. a Spiritual Community. It not a Spiritual Corporation.

In contrast, I looked at the latest study …. “BACK TO THE FUTURE: “A TIDAL WAVE of Christianity” a study by Dr. Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University. Christianity is sweeping across the southern hemisphere and Asia like a tidal wave. “The scale of Christian growth is almost unimaginable,” he says. There is growing evidence that the centre of Christendom has moved. Read more on the post: 2g. The Coming Of Global Christianity

This post then looks at the difference between the two in an extract from the Message Bible: Luke 6:17 – 42: with regards to The Kingdom of God … as the Third Alternative …. the focus of Jesus Christ. There is a later Christianised Kingdom of God represented in the Holy Roman Empire which started in the 4th Century by Emperor Constantine. That Christianised Kingdom of God has come through to our day in all the various churches of our era. It is also represented in the American Democratic way of life. That Democratic way of life is present in many other countries allied with America. The stated quality of that American Democratic way of life is that we are good and those that are not with US are evil. However the central teaching of Jesus Christ is that evil is within all of us and not in some group out there who not with us.

I had a severe brain injury falling off a boogie-board in shallow water in the surf at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia in December 1995 …. as simple as that. This was over twenty one years ago in 2017. Even though I have had a severe brain injury … I have moved from seeing myself and others as brain injury survivors to seeing the possibility of being brain injury thrivers and being restored people like myself.

The outworking of this life is told in my recent story  The Recycled Man as at December 2016.(Just click on the story and and it will come up to screen size).

I trust this post is a great blessing to you all around the world …… that it encourages you to take into account Jesus’s story when he says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honour and praise and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16, Amp).

In contrast we can live like the Cruise Ship as described below:

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Life Attitudes: Cruise Ship:

There is a ship that is sailing the warm ocean. Large, white, clean, she idles her way through paradise. But paradise is the illusion painted on the inside of its windows. Outside, it is cold and dangerous, dark and icy. Inside, it is climate controlled, muzak floating through vanilla essence filtered air, the soft cream walls and lighting and furniture. Nothing offensive, all safe and calm and secure.

There are countless more in the freezing ocean surrounding the ship, each wondering “why does nobody care about me?”. Hypothermia is lulling them to the grave. Some have made their way to pleasure craft, but these vessels are sinking. Some have made their way to slave ships, where they are forced into hard labour. These ships too are sinking.

A few brave passengers from the cruise ship occasionally venture out onto the decks and invite others to join the passengers in the safe enclave of the ship. They even throw lovely coloured brochures to these souls, showing them smiling faces on the inside, serene and pleasant, Prozac painted perfection oblivious to the tumult beyond. “come and join us this weekend” these passengers call. But the ladders they throw down are clumsy and hard to climb. The passengers never seem to wonder why nobody comes. Why nobody else wants to share in the illusion.

Some passengers find one of the few lifeboats to rescue others, but they don’t get much support. Some send used tea bags to those piloting the lifeboats, others give old stamps to the captain to fund the cost of lifeboats.

Inside the boat, many people mimic those in the sea outside, but in a safer way. They get into the ship’s pool and live the same self-absorbed lives of those on the pleasure craft, but in the safety of the ship. If asked about the present reality for those outside, they will simply shrug and say “nobody wants to join us anymore.” Many become so bored with the whole scene that they jump overboard and join those in the sea.

For those on the outside, the view looks quite different. The ship is drab and grey. It seems lifeless, and its passengers are different in bizarre but not enticing ways. Some wear strange clothes and listen to strange music and have strange, colloquial language. They seem only interested in what they are doing and don’t really care about the lives of those who look on. There seems to be no point to the ship, except to look at lovely pictures of the ‘future hope’ the passengers keep talking about.

That might sound like a bleak description of the church in the West, but it is dangerously accurate, with a few notable exceptions. Consider this warning:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honour and praise and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16, Amp).

Nobody goes to the trouble of lighting a candle and then putting a cover over it. For a start, the candle will go out in the depleted oxygen, but it is ridiculous to suggest anyone would buy a candle, light it, and then obscure the only light in the house. People used to put mirrors around a lamp to amplify its effect. Yet for Jesus to draw this parallel, he is saying that people will be tempted to do the ridiculous.

What I have described above is the very absurdity that he warned against. We have done this. We have hidden the only light in the house. We did it because we thought it was for us. We warmed ourselves with it in order to accomplish moral excellence, thinking moral excellence was to please God. In so doing, the excellence he sought – generosity, kindness, humility, compassion, selflessness – became compromised by the failure to express these same values to those who needed them most. The ‘sea’ became a bad place, the ‘ship’ a good place. But the ‘house’ that Jesus spoke of in this parable is not the church. The house is the world. The world he loves.

Odd that we sought to please God with moral excellence (a work), but failed to do the same with good works because, in some amazing act of logical contortion, we said that we are saved by grace, not works. In our ingrown state, we forgot that we are now free to express noble and good deeds and moral excellence because we have God’s favour. And if the purpose is not to earn his favour, then the only reason for moral excellence and good works, according to this passage, is so the world would know the hour of His favour was also upon them.

The purpose of the ship is to bless those in the ‘sea’. She was not designed to meet the needs of her passengers or even for her architect, Jesus. His desire is that she would be given over to this cause as much as he was.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21b, NLT). Her funnels are marked red to remind her crew of the sacrifice her architect paid to rescue her manifest. She is the SS Rescue. She happens to be the only rescue vessel afloat out on the vast sea of humanity. She has no passengers, in fact. She only has crew. I am one of them. I pray you are too. Man the lifeboats!

Copyright 2006 Richard Fay. All scripture ‘The Message’ translation unless otherwise noted.

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