Guest Presiders, Captain James Ashton (Sermon) and Rev. Brigid Beckman (Meditation)
I am so happy to be with you this morning and to be alongside my friend Rev. Brigid as we reflect upon our scripture reading. I will be sharing with you a short sermon, and then Brigid will follow up with a guided meditation, to allow us to go deeper into reflection and to feel the harmony of our body, mind and spirit.
In our scripture reading today from Romans, we hear in verse 4 “For as in one body, we have many members, and not all members have the same function, we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us”.
Given these times of deep division in our country on so many levels, this reading I find to be a profound reminder of our true identity as one body, in Christ. It seems these days that the emphasis is on what separates us and for whatever reason, we forget all too often all that binds us together as one family, every one of us, as children of God.
For as in one body we have many members, many countries, many cultures. Our one human family expresses the inherent diversity that is present in all of God’s creation. We, each a member of the one body, are unique expressions of a creative and loving God. Diversity is gifted to us, by the Grace of God.
Now in nautical terms, let’s reflect about this idea of “one body, many members” in the context of a ship bound for a distant destination. The ship itself and its crew, can be thought of as one body. Now for that vessel to be sailed with mastery, upon the sea, with the changing conditions with the wind, the waves, the weather, each member of the crew, is called to perform their function to the best of their ability to propel the ship forward. Each sailor shares, as verse 6 reads, “gifts that differ according to the Grace given to them”. The helmsman steers the boat with a keen sense of feel for the rudder, the navigator with an eye to precision, and the deck crew with strength and agility. All work together as one, realizing their separate roles are integral to the safety and mission of the vessel.
And so, like the crew of a ship, we are each, by the Grace of God, given our unique function, our own medicine, to serve the good of the whole body of Christ. For you may, be as scripture reads, “a teacher in your teachings, the exhorter in your exhortation, a giver in your generosity , a leader in your diligence, or are you compassionate in your cheerfulness” Friends, our medicine for the world does not need to be something grand, it can be a simple act of Love. As the Bishop, Desmond Tutu once said “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
So when we find ourselves feeling lost in our separateness, and the storms of conflict are raging, Romans call us to remember that the way through any kind of weather, is to share our gifts, humbly and in service to others, remembering our part in sailing the ship. For it is when we perform our function, in service to the greater good, that we feel the Grace of God working in our lives.
What are your gifts as a member of our human family as we sail upon this ever-changing sea of Life, on our way home to God?
Now when I teach people how to sail, they often comment about how sailing ignites their senses – they gain a new awareness of the elements, the direction of wind, the direction of the current on lobster buoys and even learning to read wind gusts on the water. For reading the elements, in particular the wind, is critical to sailing.
So with an image of sailboat, perhaps off the Gloucester shore in mind, I would like to share with you how I have observed sailing as a metaphor for how God’s Will functions in our lives.
St. Augustine, one said “God made the winds, but we must raise the sail.
For in hoisting our sail and harnessing God’s wind, we are called to move forward in life, to fulfill our function, all while tuning into to ever changing elements, the winds, the waves and weather, sometimes favorable, sometimes not so favorable in finding our way home to God.
Sailing teaches us to tune-in to the elements and to work with them, just as they are. God’s wind cannot be controlled so we align our sails with it to keep moving forward, even though it may take us on an indirect path to our intended destination. And, sometimes, an indirect path can lead to God’s Grace showing up in our lives in ways we could never have imagined.
You may have heard “We can’t control the winds, but we can adjust our sails”; a quote that resonates with people whether not they have ever set foot on a sailboat and for good reason.
This reminds us that there are just some things that we cannot control, and with faith, we do our best to steer the best course we can, toward the life our dreams.
Are there winds or currents moving through your life, that cannot be controlled? What would it look like to simply work with them, just as they are?
Let’s face it, in sailing as in life, sometimes it feels like all the elements,are going against us. Life can feel like an uphill battle.
In our lives today, the currents of racism, of political opportunism, economic upheaval and the destructive power of this corona virus feel like headwinds that are quite insurmountable. But God calls us to keep moving forward, in the direction closest to his True North with is Love. We can fulfill our function with one act of service at a time, serving the greater Good.
Now as many of you know, a sailboat cannot sail directly into the wind. It can only move forward when the sails are providing proper flow against the resistance of the keel in the water. So even if the wind is from the “wrong direction”, a skilled sailor finds the closest angle to the wind as the boat can manage, with a light hand on the wheel, manages this delicate balance of flow and resistance. When the vessel has found its harmony with the elements, it will dance upon the waves with stability and forward motion even in a rough sea.
Sailing as in life, is a balance of flow and resistance.
How might the balance of flow and resistance work in your life?
How often do we hope the wind would different than what it is?
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is perfectly correct to resist something that we know is wrong and that can be changed. Like the skillful sailor, we can be intentional with the use of resistance and also with acceptance, so we may find flow and harmony with Life.
I tell my students, to learn how to be a good sailor, is important to make mistakes, to fall off course, to luff the sails and to even go backwards until we can pause, tune in, read the wind and start again.
Life can feel like an uphill battle, but God’s Grace will see us through. In the words of the saint and mystic Catherine of Siena, “God’s Grace unsought and unearned blows through my life and I all need to do is raise my sails to catch the full wind”
Today we remember through the Grace of the scripture that we are one crew, one ship and one body in Christ, each of us with our own function, headed home to God.
So wherever you are on your sailing journey my friends, I wish you fair winds and following seas.
Amen! Namaste! Thank you James for the beautiful sailing imagery and stirring message of your sermon.
Now, as we come into a few minutes of guided meditation, I invite you to notice those images that linger in your mind. Notice where your heart and spirit feel stirred. Feel free to close your eyes, or to let your gaze soften.
And now I invite you to feel the wind of God in your own body.
Take a deep breath in…. and out…and in and out… and now just begin to notice the natural rhythm of the waves of your breath.
I breathe in…this very breath of God…just as it is.
I breathe out…this very breath of God…just as it is.
As you sense the flow of your breath in and out, gently bring your attention to the soles of your feet, the palms of your hands. The crown of your head.
Sense the places where the back of your body rests on your chair, or your couch and let your body surrender into that support.
As you feel your body supported, and the waves of your own breath, I invite you to notice with compassion any areas of your body where tension is held.
Is there a current in your life where tension or fear or worry is holding you tightly? Can you imagine “God’s grace unsought and unearned” blowing gently into your life, inviting you to lift your sails?
Gently bring your attention once more to the physical sensation of your body and your breath. Sense the whole back of your body. The whole front of your body. Sense the ebb and flow of your life-giving breath. Imagine your whole being– your body, your mind, your unique spirit– is a cell in the body of the world.
“For as in one body, we have many members…we have gifts that differ according to the grace given us.”
What grace-given gifts are you using to bear light to the world? Can you imagine yourself being medicine for a broken world?
Come once again to awareness of sensations in your body and breath, wherever you are sitting. Are there areas that feel resistant to stillness, that are itching to move? Are there thoughts swirling in and out, resisting stillness? Can you bring your compassionate attention to those places?
Is the keel in the boat of your life using resistance to move you forward with God’s wind? Can you imagine feeling the balance of resistance and surrender at work your life?
I breathe in…this very moment, just as it is.
I breathe out…this very moment, just as it is.
I breathe in, this very life, just as it is.
I breathe out, this very life, just as it is.
“God’s grace, unsought and unearned,
blows through my life,
and all I need to do
is raise my sails to catch the full wind.”
May it be so. Amen.