The Passengers on the Mother Ship 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9

Some might say the most important piece in the sanctuary is the pulpit in good reformation form.  Others might suggest the altar, where the means of grace are dispensed.  Others might point to the lectern, which holds the words that point to the Word of God, Christ.  Some might speak of the stain glass or high nave that lifts our heads up.  No architectural feature can draw persons closer to God than the pew, where the passengers sit for this is where the action is.  But the word of God has never forcibly implanted itself into any person sitting in the pew.  Passengers on the mother ship must come ready, willing able to know the joy of life on the boat.

Paul was concerned about the passenger’s in the Corinthian’s pews.  The people in those ancient pews were not playing well together; they were a divided church.  Yet, in the letter’s opening, he thanks God for them, telling them they were always on his mind.  He goes on to call them saints; believing they are called.  Yet, they were cantankerous, bickering, litigious, fornicating and selfish folk, just like us 21st century folk.  Paul rebukes them later about their harmful attitudes and behaviors.  Here, he acknowledges, like us, they are a God’s children, made of sacred material.  Paul begins with this high idea; speaking to a partnership in the work of God.  These are good words as we think about the passengers on the Mother Ship, FUMC, Irving.  Passengers, all aboard, take your seat on the deck, we are set to sail!

Every passenger is equally needed and important on the Mother Ship.  Paul addresses the value of each part of the body later.  In the opening words, Paul says they’re saints with a calling.  Each passenger has a calling and a purpose on the ship. The passengers must not allow anyone to rob them of the joy of contributing to their journey, which God has called.  Knowing you’re called here makes a big difference.

The ship is not complete when someone is missing either by their choice or by our discrimination.  If a person chooses sets aside their call and chooses absence, they make it more difficult for the mother ship to stay on course.  If persons on the ship are less than hospitable; making it more difficult for some to feel welcome, we exclude needed parts, making it more difficult to keep this ship afloat.  Each passenger is needed and important in helping the mother ship sail into the seas of challenge ahead.

The first reformation of realizing we did not need a priest, but we could assure our own salvation with our personal confessions was never completed.  We rested in our salvation, and continued to selectively decide who is worthy to be a passenger on the boat based on our preferences of people rather than the purposes of the grace of God.

One of the major contributors to the stalemate of the reformation is we maintained an invisible wall that separated clergy and laity; harboring the notion clergy and staff does the ministry of the people, to the people, and for the people.  And, persons of the cloth like it that way, thank you very much.  In our hearts, we know we’re not the church; nor are we up to doing it alone because it exhausts us even if we are called by God and buoyed by passenger’s prayers.  Yet, we try.  Passengers are equally complicit, they have secular responsibilities that are demanding, and so they will just pay their tithes and go along for the ride, expecting good service from the crew.

A new reformation is underway.  It is taking place out on the edges of faithful passengers, doing the ministry of the church without the help of the church.   New signs of hope are springing up among laity and clergy who are not fearful letting go of old ways, and in faith embracing this new day.  It will gain strength as paid Christians celebrate the ministry of the unpaid instead of doing it.  It will grow as passengers stop defaulting the work of the ship to the crew.  We are to help each other in fulfilling our calling in making this vessel more sea worthy so we have many places to sit together and can invite new passengers aboard.

Passengers sit together on the Mother Ship.  Being passengers on the mother ship unites us, simply because we sit together.  Sitting by someone makes us prone to treat others with dignity and respect, even more so than a passing stranger, for strangers become friends when they sit together. 

Last year, I was sitting on my front porch as it began to rain.  I noticed a person standing under a tree to stay dry.  I invited him to the porch to wait.  It began to rain harder, so I invited him to sit down.  Terri brought a towel and we sat together.  I learned he lived in a nearby halfway house and had gone for a walk to escape the mayhem.  He did not feel as threatening as he might have in another situation because we were sitting together.  The rain was not going to stop soon, so I offered to drive him home.  This stranger would become my friend because we sat together.

The real action happens when passengers sit together in strategic ways.  It happens when Evangelism Committees sit together thinking how to make others feel welcome.  It happens when Finance Committees planning budgets that are offered to God for the sake of building the kingdom.  We need to sit together in Sunday School classes, praying each week we hear the Spirit’s call.  We need to sit together in worship, belting out another hymn to their creator, redeemer and sustainer.  These are some of the ways God-things happen when passengers sit together.

There is always room for more passengers on the Mother Ship.  There are those who feel they don’t belong on the ship.  Life has caused them to feel apart from the or their choices have ostracized them from the mainstream.  They think they need to be worthy to be on the boat.  There are those who thinks what happens on this ship is irrelevant.  So we have made a deal, those who don’t think they belong stay away and we don’t think about them.  All are needed, particularly those who don’t belong.

The star of Free Willy was Keiko, a killer whale.   After retirement, he was flown back to his natural habitat near Iceland.  When they released Keiko back into the ocean, he wouldn’t go.  He was attached and dependent on his handlers, so he kept returning to human companionship.  They would lead him out to a school of killer whales and he would follow the boat back.  Four years after training him to live in the wild, he makes a break for it with a school and travels 1000 miles to Norway.  Once he reached Norway he followed a fishing boat into a fiord, where he didn’t want to leave.  Within months, Keiko died of pneumonia with human companionship by his side.  Keiko died because he was dependent on the ways things were.

The church that sails well into the 21st century will need to break its dependency on the old system that limits the grace of God based on personal preferences and cultural beliefs.  The purpose of God’s grace, which has been extended to us, is so we will extend that same grace to an ever growing circle of new passengers.

Some passengers are gifted at making room for other passengers.  They recognize the differences life has brought to some, justly because of things they have done, some unjustly because of things done to them.  They come along assure those who think they don’t belong they are needed.  They know this is Christ’s Ship, not theirs.  They throw open the doors, declaring there are no classes of passengers on this Mother Ship.  They know the ship is not full and everyone is needed for this journey.

We’re with family at the lake and their dog Romeo escaped after her owners left the house.  Terri and I feeling responsible began the pursuit.  She ran one way and then the other way until she finally made it to the road and headed up the hill.  We jumped in the car to continue the chase.  We soon realized we were not going to find her in the car, so we returned to the house.  We stepped out to the backyard, which looks over Possum Kingdom Lake, two fishermen were pointing to the whereabouts of Romeo.

She had jumped into the lake and swam to the other side.  These two fishermen had parked their boat on the cliff; trying to catch her as she danced through the rock overhangs.  Terri jumped into the car to find Romeo’s owners and to go to the other side to help in the search.  I remained on binoculars shouting encouragement from the other bank.  Soon neighbors joined the search.  Finally, when his owner arrived, the chase ended as he willing followed the one he trusted.  My post reflection on this harrowing experience was what if the church pursued the frightened and fleeing as vigilantly as we pursued a runaway canine?

A word to possible new passengers-Don’t deny the creative genius of God by hiding the gifts God gave you.  Worry not about what God wants you to do.  God calls you according to your gifts, so you may flourish rather than be frustrated.  Your status on the ship is based on who you actually are, not on what others think you should be.

We will ignite this new reformation if we fill this ship with new passengers needed as we set out to sea.  It will take a reforming faith that may feel unnatural, but it is what is uniquely needed for these coming days.  Pastors, staff, and leaders of this church will need to be engages in helping people be equipped for sailing these seas of service to the world.  We need you to put your name down on the passenger log and report here each week, taking a seat on this ship beside other passenger, ready, willing and able to offer your gifts of service to the world.  All hands on deck; we are setting sail!

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Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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