“When God’s glory alone is at the center…His presence changes us.”
A ship is an ancient Christian symbol. It’s a picture of the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution yet finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of human souls. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood, or Jesus protecting the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee. It was a great symbol during times when Christians needed to disguise the Cross, since the ship’s mast forms a cross in many of its depictions.
It’s not a cruise ship. It’s a work boat to take passengers safely to safety. That’s a vital distinction. Those who travel by cruise ship are passengers, a very passive role. All the important decisions and work are handled by others, trained professionals called the crew. Ancient mariners weren’t passengers; they were the crew. Raising sails. Tying knots. Pulling oars. If they didn’t know how to do such tasks, they watched and learned from others. To safely arrive at their destination, they must share the workload.
Recently, I read, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. In it Brown recounts the history of the 1936 American Olympic rowing team, made up students from the University of Washington. To succeed at the Berlin Olympics, they had to learn how to work together to achieve a common goal—a gold medal. Prior to going to the Olympics, the Washington team had to defeat many other stateside rowing teams.
In many ways that’s us! How exciting today to celebrate our Grand Opening~Building Dedication! To arrive here, we’ve had to win several other events, purchasing and paying for our property, raising money and finally building our new building.
Rowing is one of the most collaborative sports. On an eight-oar rowing team, all eight rowers must move in near-perfect synchronization. Even a tiny mistake can throw off the delicate rhythm of the team. Because oarsmen need to move together so precisely, they must develop a close bond of friendship and respect to succeed.
The Boys in the Boat isn’t just the story of how the 1936 Olympic rowers perfected their technique and power; it’s about how the nine teammates (eight oarsmen plus a coxswain) learned to work together and became lifelong friends in the process. And isn’t that our church? During this building process, we’ve learned to draw closer to God and learned to work together. Many have become lifelong friends. It’s stretched us spiritually. We will never be the same. We’re a mix of various personalities from varied walks of life. Some on that Washington rowing team had tragic stories of hurt and heartache. What brought them together was that they were all enrolled at the University of Washington. What bring us together is something far greater – the Cross. We’ve committed our lives to Christ. We are not just teammates, we’re brothers and sisters in Christ.
They were all poor. Each man desperately needed to make the team to win a scholarship to be able to stay in school. During the Great Depression a scholarship was critical. As believers, we’re all destitute spiritually. None of us are good or moral. Our spiritual debt is unpayable. None of us is qualified to make the team or be in the boat. It’s all of grace, God’s grace. We’re in the boat only because Jesus paid our passage for us with His own life on the Cross.
We are here today because we share a common vision. We’ve been given a new tool to make an eternal difference. We’re surrounded by those who are hopeless and drowning. All of us have family and friends who are “drowning.” They’re attempting to tread the water of their own morality or religiosity, and it’s futile. Like us, they, too, need to be rescued by the Lord Jesus, even though they may not even know they’re drowning.
We must continually adapt and have the courage to change strategy. On their way to the Olympics, this 1936 team needed to win major collegiate races first. In one decisive race, coxswain Bobby Moch hangs behind rival Cal State for the bulk of the race, waiting to strike as they close in on the finish. The coach, Al Ulbrickson, didn’t tell him to do this. It definitely wasn’t part of the race plan, but Moch read the situation as it unfolded and changed strategy on the fly. The result was an updated strategy execution and a huge win that led to Washington’s Olympic berth. We’ve had to do that with our building and must continue to adapt in the future. Our world and culture are continually changing. While the map of God’s truth never changes, the waters we’re sailing through continually change.
There are no small members on the team. Each one is essential, from the lead rower to the coxswain. In a church, there are no big or little people – just an awesome God who gives us the wisdom, grace and power we need.
We have a common Enemy. Hitler used the Berlin Olympics as a massive propaganda machine. The Olympics helped buy him time to convince the world of his “peaceful” intentions, as he rebuilt Germany’s military power for his diabolical plot. We, too, have a common Enemy. We are enlisted in the conflict of the ages and are called to storm the gates of Hell. Yet, unlike that U.S.A. Olympic rowing team, we know the outcome. We win! We may come through battered and scarred, but King Jesus already won the victory 2,000 years ago!
Today is an exciting day! It though is only the first of many victories that the Lord has for us! Let’s relish and celebrate this day! Let’s anticipate even greater things that the Lord has for us as we are faithful!
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.