8 February 2023 Anno domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. (Psalms 107:23-30)
The sea is prominently mentioned in Holy Writ in a variety of ways. First of all, it is the largest cemetery in the world containing millions upon millions of lost souls some of whom whose names are not known to men but whose resurrected bodies shall be reconstituted and raised from the watery grave at the last day: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it.” (Revelations 20:13; all scripture quoted is from the king James Version)
The sea was looked upon as a medium of escape by the rebellious prophet, Jonah. He is perhaps the first to be risen from the sea even if by means of an angry whale whose digestive constitution could not abide such a one in his belly. The sea is also a source of sustenance by millions who thrive upon her treasures of seafood.
The Lord Jesus Christ found the shores of Galilee to be a remunerative retreat for preaching and healing the afflicted. He used it as well to teach his disciples lessons on how to fish for men. At one point, He sent forth a great storm upon the Sea of Galilee to pester His disciples into rigorous terror when they were forced to wake Him and reveal their lack of faith. Likewise, the Lord illustrated His power over the sea, which He had made, by walking on its glassy surface. When Peter beseeched Him to call him also out onto the sea, he walked well until he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the turbulent waters. Peter’s three-worded prayer revealed that lengthy and fancy prayers are not essential to the desperate one seeking in the waters of the world: “…Lord Save Me!” (Matthew 14:30)
Viewing the sea from the shore we are overwhelmed by its mystery and beauty. It is a perfect example of peace, yet, constantly in turmoil to break out from the pre-determined barriers decreed by God. “...who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? 9When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 10And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, 11And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?” (Job 38:8-1)
Viewed from the security of the shore, one is not privy to the great storms in which ships, at some points, are struggling to stay afloat upon its billows, or the great tidal forces working unseen beneath its tranquil surface where many varieties of sea life must do battle daily against her currents as well as larger predators.
I believe the sea gives us an excellent understanding of true faith in God, We do not understand its mighty mysteries, but we trust that they are under the providential control of its Maker. When sailing vessels of wood construction sailed the ocean seas, there was always a great dependence upon God to bring them to the safe harbor of their destination. Raw and manly effort was required to safeguard against the perils of her gales, the shoals of her shorelines, and the mighty winds that threatened her canvas.
In a certain sense, those ships of the sea represent the Church which is comprised of too many divisions. This is unfortunate since all who are in Christ Jesus are of One Mind with Him. But her under-shepherds seem very much like the captains of those sailing vessels of old. The fate of the ship depends on his ability to set a true course and hold it. His chart and compass of the spirit must be true and relied upon, and a thousand perils can threaten at any moment if the watchman atop the ‘crows nest’ fails to sound the warning.
Just as the ship is made to sail the seas and carry necessary provender and treasures to far shores, so is the Church intended to sail the turbulent seas of political and social ruin to carry the Gospel to the four quarters of the earth. The ship, too, is made to sustain itself by sailing ON the sea, The sea, however, must be kept out of the ship else it perishes. The same is true of the Church. God has clothed it with beauty and just enough mystery to keep the faithful searching her papers. She is made to sail through the waters of a sin-laden world. But when the world, like the waters, get into the Church, she will sink as certainly as a stone to the depths of ruin and shame. The Church MUST be IN the world, but the world must not get into the Church! Do we not see this happening before our very eyes today?