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15.3.14

Unfurling the Sails

A minister capsized and sunk his little sail boat. He was thrashing around in the water when another yacht sailed up.

"Jump in, we'll save you" - they yelled.

"No" cried the drowning man, "God will save me".

Treading water, soon a motor boat came along side.

"Jump in, we'll save you" - they shouted.
"No" cried the drowning man, "God will save me".

Growing tired the man continued to tread water, until a fishing boat came alongside.

"Jump in, we'll save you" - they called.

"No" cried the drowning man, "God will save me".

Finally the man almost exhausted a helicopter came overhead.

"We came to rescue you" yelled the pilot.

"No, God will save me" was the response again.

The man’s strength gave up eventually. And as he crossed the Pearly Gates, he ran straight to Jesus.

"I placed my faith in you, and you let me drown?!

""Hey!" said Jesus.” I sent three boats and a helicopter".

Jesus Said: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

If you have ever been sailing you will know that the wind is very important. The wind dictates how fast you can go, and in what direction. Although modern sailing yachts can sail very close to the wind, it is not long ago that the sailing ships were far more limited.





You went with the wind or you didn’t go at all.

For the early Christians the ship was a symbol of the Church. They drew from the imagery of Noah’s ark being a safe place of salvation, and from the stories of Jesus and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. In times of persecution it must have felt like they were in a mighty storm, calling out to Jesus to calm the waves.

And where is the ship of the Church today?


When I was young we used to sail in a small yacht from Kent to Calais. The first time my father came into Calais harbour we found ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time in the path of a cross channel ferry. Grabbing the VHF my dad made the call:
“Calais harbour, Calais harbour, this is yacht Gypsy Dawn – where would you like us, over”

After a few moments of silence the reply came back.

“On ze bottom”

Less people come to church now than they used to. We are surrounded by a culture that values so many others things higher than faith and life with God. Even if we don’t subscribe to the idea that the western Church is a persecuted minority in the midst of a bitter culture war – and I don’t – it can still sometimes seem that the wider church is heading to ‘ze bottom’. A sinking ship.

But I do not believe the Church is sinking. Certainly not here at All Saints, where God is at work in so many lives from so many different backgrounds. We are a Christian family born of water and Spirit through our baptism.

And Jesus says: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

If the church is to continue to grow and thrive in the future we must be open to the wind of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an optional add on in the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is active in our baptism, in our confirmation, in our communion.  The Holy Spirit is active in our study of the bible, in our worship, in our prayer. The Holy Spirit is active in different forms of spiritualty, prayerbook, celtic, catholic, liberal, traditional and contemporary.

But sometimes we may need to ask God to make us more aware of how the Spirit is blowing. Sometimes we may need to be honest and unfurl our sails.

As we come to Communion this and every Sunday morning was ask for the Spirit to meet with us.

Especially today where we have space for healing. There is also space to come and ask to become more aware of the Spirit in our lives.

To unfurl our sails a little more.

Amen