JULY 31, 2006

by Pastor George Van Alstine

There’s a ship in the sanctuary! A cleverly-built 25-foot-long model of a double-masted seventeenth-century schooner sits on the platform where the pulpit used to be. I was tempted to preach from its bow last Sunday, but thought it might be too gimmicky for a serious sermon.

“Gimmickyâ€? is exactly what we need to attract kids to Vacation Bible School, and that’s why the ship’s in the sanctuary. This year’s VBS theme is “SonTreasure Island,â€? emphasizing the fact that Jesus is a safe harbor from life’s stormy seas.

As I was thinking about this, a familiar hymn went through my mind:
“Though the angry surges roll
On my tempest driven soul . . .�
The chorus affirms triumphantly
“My anchor holds!â€?

And then, I thought of many other familiar hymns built on the storm-at-sea theme:
“The Solid Rockâ€?
“A Shelter in the Time of Stormâ€?
“The Haven of Restâ€?
“Sail Onâ€?
“Send the Lightâ€?

And I realized that dramatic storms-at-sea in the Bible were experienced by Jonah (Jonah chapter 1), Jesus (Mark 4:7) and Paul (Acts chapter 27).

Then I had a flashback from my youth. A traveling evangelist who came to our church sang a gospel song about a lost soul drifting on a raft in the sea who saw a ship, and with renewed hope for salvation called out “Ship Ahoy!â€? I remember that the evangelist sang it with a great deal of dramatic flair, and when he got to the call, he cupped his hand to his mouth and bellowed

The image has stayed with me as an example of how loud and insistent a person crying out to the Lord for rescue would be.

I haven’t heard the song in years, but I managed to find it on a Website that features obscure old hymns. Maybe some of you have heard this song. If you haven’t, try to imagine the evangelist from my past cupping his hand and shouting

Then at the end of the last two stanzas do the same for

Words: M. J. Cartright, before 1900
Music: Daniel B. Towner

I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea,
And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be,
When away at my side, there I dimly descried,
A stately old vessel, and loudly I cried:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!â€?
And loudly I cried: “Ship ahoy!â€?

’Twas the “old ship of Zion,â€? thus sailing along,
All aboard her seemed joyous, I heard their sweet song;
And the Captain’s kind ear, ever ready to hear,
Caught my wail of distress, as I cried out in fear:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!â€?
As I cried out in fear: “Ship ahoy!â€?

The good Captain commanded a boat to be low’red,
And with tender compassion He took me on board;
And I’m happy today, all my sins washed away
In the blood of my Savior, and now I can say:
“Bless the Lord! Bless the Lord!â€?
From my soul I can say: “Bless the Lord!â€?

O soul, sinking down ’neath sin’s merciless wave,
The strong arm of our Captain is mighty to save;
Then trust Him today, no longer delay,
Board the old ship of Zion, and shout on your way:
“Jesus saves! Jesus saves!â€?
Shout and sing on your way: “Jesus saves!â€?