2012-01-12 Service

4 02 2012
Boat Sermon
by OriKosh

I’ve had a love of water, boats and ships for as long as I can remember. Just to give you an idea…one of the first pictures ever taken of me that I have seen is me with a white sailor’s cap perched atop my head.

I remember when my folks owned a sailboat and we would join friends of theirs for many a sailing weekend. Better yet we would use their houseboat or the speedboat that we always seemed to have in tow to jump sandbanks in the waters of the Mississippi River.

I know many people rant and rave about the fun of spending time skiing or snowboarding in the winter but give me water skis or a surfboard…the feel of the moving water below me and the whipping wind through my hair are my delights. That was in my “California days,” but I digress no surfing or scuba diving allowed in this sermon (or even a dip here with the squid).

Maybe the important anchor in this sermon begins when a few years later my folks bought a farm and we would spend weekends there instead. I have to admit that I sorely missed the river, the tides and the flow of the water and half-heartedly took to this change.

My brother and Dad would take off into the woods doing whatever it is guys do together, while Mom and my sister would saddle their horses and take off into the sunset – so to speak.

I would take off down a long, rocky, winding path to the lake on the property, swimsuit, snorkel and mask in hand.

I use to pray a lot for a boat of any kind (I would have settled for a small rubber dingy or even an inner tube!) to play with but made do with pretending the wooden platform was the deck of a ship with a ladder reaching over the side to help me get on board and sail off for parts unknown.

My life was always yearning to be near the water so it shouldn’t be surprising that when my partner and I decided to purchase a home…she wanted to be as close to Maine as we could get and have off street parking, and I…I wanted to be able to easily get to water and hear trains, but like surfing, trains are a different story.

What is it about water? … the water feels cleansing to my soul.  I hold an appreciation for the ebb and flow of the tide with its sameness and change intertwined together. The water makes me feel secure, knowing that no matter how turbulent things on the surface may become, there is a calm place way down deep inside.

A few years ago the Coast Guard Eagle landed in our harbor. The minute I heard it was there I was planning on how to get onboard. I was giddy with excitement. I called the number of the ship but just got a recorded message…it being a Friday evening – RATS!

The next morning after breakfast a friend of mine and I went over to see when tickets would be available. I was chomping at the bit already. The boarding started at noon. You may have guessed it, my friend and I were one of the first to get tickets. I was going on board in only two (what seemed very long) hours.

I went home and followed all the directions. I made sure I had my ticket and picture ID, rubber soled shoes only (wooden deck and all), no carry-on baggage or even a purse….

Of course when was the last time you saw me carrying a purse. I did worry that having my cane with me may stop me from being able to board. I had an answer all prepared.  “You can keep it here while I’m onboard.  I can do short amounts of times without it.” (I had a collapsible cane that could fit in my pocket.).

Something inside me was pulling me to get on board at any cost and I wasn’t going to ignore it.

Finally the time arrived and I walked the long winding path to the Eagle in the blazing hot sun. As some of us came around the corner into sight of it, people commented on how large it was…

I thought it’s not that large, I’ve seen larger but it isn’t the smallest I’ve seen either, there was Jean’s sailboat, Jim and Gail’s kayaks, the house and speedboats, the starkness of difference found within the familiar, the starting of a theme for later.

There was water available at the entrance to drink before and after.  How considerate these folks were for people they didn’t even know coming to see them….like new visitors coming to church or UUtopia. That experience makes me think about what kind of a welcoming we give to newcomers?

I boarded at the lower of the two gangplanks, the longer, steeper one for crew more familiar with it. That boarding for me is similar to the taking on tasks around a church when one has been here a while.

The on deck wood of the ship was smooth, well worn and the brass was polished.  Similarly, our church has it’s carpets vacuumed (or in our case prims put away), polished wood floors and painted doors giving off a sense of pride of being open and inviting for all who may enter.

I headed up the steeply angled stairs to one of the upper decks. They, thank God let me keep my cane. Ropes of various types all labeled and neatly put away, could be seen, each having a specific place and specific purpose.

There were instruments in the wheelhouse in working order and not one but three wheels together for steering.  They say six people handle them in serious weather to hold the ship on course and steady…

I likened it to having a board of trustees or standing committee leading a church.  When weather is calm less work is needed to keep us on course but for those bumpy moments within the journey it takes many more hands to hold us on course.

That is if they all are steering in the same direction! Is it just me or are we all trying to maintain smooth sailing, and an even keel to reach our prospective destinations.

I found/find myself looking at some things others just passed by overwhelmed by all of the things having to work in harmony and together.

I noticed rivets holding the sheets of metal together, the paint job, and the railings. I imagined and knew that if I’d been able to get away with it I would have climbed up one of the masts and helped with unfurling the sails after it leaves port.

And once again, I made a comparison and wondered how do we stay connected once we’ve left a church on Sunday morning or turned off our computers after a service here? I wanted to see everything and stuck my head in the kitchen watching the dishwasher hard at work (just like our kitchen for coffee hour) and the crew stopping by to grab some chow was like our coming together after a service for coffee and conversation or our own dancing fellowship here in SL.

I knew that even though it was currently hot and open to the elements up top, below the ship had parts that were air-conditioned, some carpeted and sandwiched in among some very cramped mechanical rooms and living spaces.

A ship with a mix of parts and pieces all put together to make one glorious whole…. and hum, I thought again just like our church…from the wood, the classrooms, the sanctuary, places for information and windows (plain and fancy).

I went up and down stairs, stuck my head in any place I could and then from time to time looked out, away from the ship…out to the horizon and my thoughts turned to places and people out there. I felt the vast grandeur of the world. I was back on my childhood dock seeing the possibilities beyond this one port.

I viewed the ship having a mission of helping people and providing safety and stability on the open seas and I realized the connection… isn’t that why we attend a church? To find a place of safety during the roughness of our lives and church is here to help people and isn’t it satisfying to help others come into their own?

I thought of the view of safety (rescue) that the vision of the Coast Guard represents for some.  And once again I shifted back to the feelings of the safety that one can feel within this sanctuary and how we can help to facilitate this for one another.

Yes, I know things don’t always run smoothly, that sometimes there is rough water, and sometimes people are disgruntled with one another but that happens in life and on board any ship as well, loose boards, frayed rope, tight quarters. How do we work together to make smooth sailing from our ports of call?

As I stood on that dock as a child and as I virtually stand before you now I think of a wider vision, of all the different ports of call we can visit, what we bring and what others bring at our various stops along our travels/journey.

The Eagle visits many different types of cities, people and cultures. We at our bricks and mortar churches (or here in UUtopia) hopefully provide safety, even rescue at times as well as learning with each port of call a different way of being in relationship with one another.

Opportunities to connect abound from RL food pantry, choir, visiting the homebound, or here in SL sending a friendly Instant message, attending a service or inviting or attending a party, a meditation group or any number of other things we create for each other.

Each of us brings to this place something that is needed and important.  We together build and maintain our churchy vessel comprised of different parts that make up our whole community.

Like a commissioned ship, Tom Owen -Towle says, “Ministry is composed of tasks, or what I call ‘commissions’ – responsibilities that have been assigned by powers and history beyond merely our own personal predilections”.

What commissions are we of this community now called to do so that we may set sail in an elegant seaworthy boat?

What does being a member of this UUtopia crew mean to each and every one of us on board?

All these questions are important for us to think about as we continue to build our UU community.

As we set sail once again may we all enjoy smooth seas but let us also prepare for rough ones just in case making our UU boat as wonderful, welcoming, and seaworthy as possible.