Scripture: This passage is the very end of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus has given the "rules for living" in a number of parables. He condemns not only harmful acts, but also anger itself. We are to love not only our friends, but also our enemies. We are not to pass judgment on friends or enemies. At the very end of the sermon Jesus tells this last story. Listen to God’s word as written in Matthew 7: 24-27.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came and the winds flew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds flew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!”
Herein is good news.
Response: Praise be
Witness to the Word:
Let us pray. May our words and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, our rock, our redeemer. Amen.
Taking a literal inperpretation of Matthew 7 24-27 rather
than the normal metaphorical view, Jesus’ advice is to build your house on a
rock rather than sand. Well, what advice would he give to us, when our
house is not on land at all? No mention
is made of building a house on the water; is it / can it be as sound as a
rock-built house, or are we foolish?
What would Jesus do?
First of all, we should given you a bit of background. Ten years ago we decided that upon retirement we should sail around the world. We both like to sail and love being on a boat rather than land. We knew we would have to upgrade our skills, our boat, and test our plan before embarking on the voyage. We upgraded our skills by taking advanced marine first aid courses, became licensed as HAM radio operators, took courses in off-shore cruising, celestial navigation and diesel mechanics. We read books about weather and storms, survival techniques if the boat sinks, and tales and tips from other people who cruise the seven seas. In 2001 we upgraded our sailboat from a 33-foot sloop with one mast designed for Lake Ontario racing and cruising to a 42-foot ketch with two masts build in Whitby Ontario in 1983 with sufficient fuel and water capacity and stability to cross oceans … a veritable rock of a boat. We named her Pilgrim and designed a logo with the Peregrine Falcon, the pilgrim bird, soaring in front of the sun. But have we done enough? If we have a good boat, have taken all the courses, read many books, and practiced what we have learned for the past five years, do we have a floating home that is built on a rock?
We have also focused thought and attention on HOW to live on the water. We decided early on that it is wise to be as self-sufficient as possible. All of our electrical equipment runs off batteries. We have a wind generator and solar panels to help us avoid running our engine or a gasoline generator to keep our batteries charged. Any excess solar or wind power heats our hot water. Like any wise homeowner, we have invested in energy-efficient, well-insulated refrigeration to prevent spoilage of food supplies that we pick, catch or grow.
This winter we installed a water desalinator. It converts salt water into fresh water (we never found the model that also produces beer and wine). Because there are so many cities, towns and villages that no longer have unpolluted water available to boaters, we felt it was good to be able to use off-shore water and desalinate it. We have enough capacity on board that we can share this precious resource, especially if there is a critical humanitarian need in the places we visit.
Last summer we spent 6 months aboard Pilgrim. We circumnavigated Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, and crossed Lakes Huron, Erie, Ontario and Georgian Bay, as a shakedown cruise before we go down the St. Lawrence and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Superior was a good teacher. There are few cities and towns, especially along the north shore. We had enough yeast, flour, powdered eggs and wheat germ so that we could bake bread twice a week … the hand-kneaded way. During the three weeks we took to get from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay, we ran out of fresh vegetables, so now we are learning how to sprout our own beans and have a fistful of recipes for bean sprout salads.
We knew garbage would be a problem. Pilgrim is a large boat, but three weeks of
rotting vegetable matter and chicken bones could be enough to cause us to
mutiny. We minimized the packaging we
had on board first of all. (One good
suggestion is to take excess packaging back to the grocery store to make them
aware of the over-packaging problem with their products). We kept a plastic container with an
air-tight lid in the galley/ kitchen and put any biodegradable item in the
container. Every morning, Jane/I
emptied the container into a large square of cheesecloth, and put a good-sized
rock in the middle, then tied up the package.
When we were in about 50-75 feet of water, over the side it went. A nice feast for the fish. We adapt our diet to what is available
locally and make most things from scratch.
We both react badly to commercially prepared foods due to the
preservatives and flavour enhancers.
When we live on land, we only notice the weather when it rains or snows or there is some dramatic change happening. On the water, the weather forecasts start and conclude our days, with several checks along the way. Have you noticed how “wrong” the weather forecasts are these days? We certainly have! Weather forecasting is based on historical data along with current observations. We are good at the observations, and have good computer models based on historic data, but the forecasts are so badly off. The problem is that there are changes happening in the biosphere, mainly ozone layer depletion and global warming. Weather observations for the past 100 years form the basis of pilot charts used by mariners all over the world to predict wind, waves and currents. These pilot charts are quickly becoming unusable due to the rapid changes caused by global warming and impacting the world’s weather systems. The past is no longer an accurate predictor of the future. We listen to the forecast, but also to the current weather observations in our vicinity. We “read” the clouds, we watch the birds, we look for colours in the sky and water and how the wind sounds in the trees. We watch the waves; are they flowing from one direction or are they confused and coming from two or more directions? In short, we have to be at one with the earth; we have to listen, watch, smell her to keep our floating home as safe as a house built on a rock.
And once your safety depends on such an intimate partnership with the earth, you begin to be enchanted by events that the secure rock-dweller may never notice. We were mesmerized last summer for 45 minutes watching the moon rise above Fraser Bay Hill in Baie Fine, while the nearby cottagers could be seen watching television. A whole 2 hours was lost one evening at dusk watching mayflies hatch. We had read about the 4 stages of life of the Mayfly: The eggs are laid and sink to the bottom of the pond or lake, where they develop over two seasons. Finally the egg changes into a larva, and it slowly floats to the surface of the water. Just as it breaks the surface of the water, the larva hatches into the winged mayfly, and it flies away for its 24 hour existence as a mayfly, mating and laying eggs before dying. As we watched the little larvae hatch, a flock of seagulls became aware of the delicacy of unsuspecting mayflies. As the flies hatched, the seagulls swooped down to catch the unsuspecting insect. We applauded the few mayflies that escaped to complete the life cycle.
During our cruises for the past five years, the population of loons has become noticeably less and less. Cormorants have flourished, while fish and loons have declined. This summer we were aware of a change in the cycle. More loons. (But no upswing in fish that bit lures) On Isle Royale in Lake Superior we saw a flock of over 20 birds, and two nights we were awaken at 2:30 AM by a single loon call, answered by loons throughout the anchorage.
[sound byte of loons]
Sailing in the remote waters of the Great Lakes has helped us understand that living with respect in creation is a multi-faceted, complex endeavor.
During the last half of the 20th Century, the pace of life seems to have speeded up. As professionals, we have been encouraged to fill every moment of time with productive activities. Our language is full of such words and phrases as profit and loss, efficiency, high output, productivity, power nap. We experience aggressive speed on the roads, semi-jogging along the sidewalks and impatience waiting for elevators are common. We long for “a quite centre” as described in VU Hymn 374.
Come and find the quiet centre in the crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be
Living aboard a sailboat, we must be governed by God’s clock. Traveling at 15 kph is FAST. We must wait for the right weather window, or pay the consequences with a long, rough voyage. We progress slowly, and this slowing down enables us to find quiet centres. Perhaps we have had the discipline and incentives, we could find this slower pace in the city, but we have not learned how to live on God’s schedule in the city. Deciding to live our retirement years on Pilgrim, exploring God’s world on her timetable will give us eyes, ears, and spirits to both care for and appreciate the wonders of the Earth, including not only the insects, birds, the starry sky, but also our fellow humanity of all colours, cultures, histories, and experiences.
As we expand our journey we will continue to tread lightly on the earth and leave no trace behind us – a clean wake.