← back to list

    Jun 18, 2017

    CSI: Ship and Boat ("Even the Mosquito")

    Passage: Genesis 6:5-20

    Speaker: Michael E. Karunas

    Series: God

    Category: Faith

    Sermon Delivered at Central Christian Church June 18, 2017 Rev. Michael E. Karunas Text: Genesis 6:5-8, 13-20 CSI: Ship and Boat (“Even the Mosquito”)

    I wonder if anyone here has Thalassophobia?  According to research, this is something that affects 4-5% of the population at most.  Thalassophobia is fear of open water.  Not just water – as in a swimming pool.  And not just “can you swim?”  But can you swim – or simply be in – open water without fear?  Why is it that people would be afraid of the open water?  Psychologists point to a few things: 1) the water is dark; 2) because of that we can’t see what’s in the water; and 3) the fear comes from thinking that something might be moving beneath you.  And it’s not irrational.  It’s primal.  As humans we rely on our eyes for protection most and when we can’t see, our other senses have to kick in.  But in the open water those other senses are compromised and thus the greater likelihood we’ll be afraid.

    Thalassophobia is a actually a good way to lead into our sermon today, because the Sea (or open water) in scripture was also a place of fear.  It is portrayed as a place of chaos, mystery and upheaval.  Before there was anything else in creation, there were dark, chaotic waters.  And the first thing God did in creation was bring order to the chaos.  God created light in the darkness and separated the water from the land.  And the ancient people learned to fear the open water because they, like us, couldn’t see what was in the water and they imagined the worst.  In fact, in Rev. 13:1, the Anti-Christ emerges at the end times as a beast rising out of the sea.

    We see clearly in Mark 4 how people feared the sea.  Jesus and his disciples were sailing on the open water.  A great storm blew up, causing the disciples to be terrified that they would all die.  But Jesus said, “Peace, be still” and the sea obeyed him.  And the disciples were amazed, asking, “Who is this that even the wind and seas obey him???”  This is a powerful person if he can control the open water!

    We see the people’s fear of the sea in the book of Jonah.  Jonah was a called to preach the Word of God in a city called Nineveh.  But Jonah didn’t want to do this, so he ran away in the opposite direction to and hopped on a ship.  Again, a great storm rose and everyone on the ship was afraid.  They thought God was mad at someone on the ship and the storm was a sign of God’s punishing them.  When they found out how Jonah was running away from God, they threw Jonah into the sea, thinking that sacrificing him in this way would calm God’s anger and the storm would stop.  This is, of course, incorrect thinking (that’s why God had a whale swallow and save Jonah from drowning).  But this story is an example of how the sea was viewed as a place of danger – and how God used the seas to deal with people.

    Over 2000 years later, we still look at the sea and open water in a similar way.  After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005, there were widely diverse interpretations of what that storm meant.  It was viewed by some as a warning from God to us to get our act together and stop global warming.  Or it was viewed as God’s judgment against corrupt levee boards; or as judgment against lazy people unwilling to evacuate; or against the debauchery and promiscuity of the French Quarter.  In all of these differing interpretations, two things are constant: 1) Open water is still something we view as mysterious, and dangerous; 2) When it comes to stormy seas, there is much we can learn from the story of Noah and the Ark.  Read Genesis 6:5-8, 13-20

    The flood story of Noah is admittedly difficult, because we are told that God did will the flood and we don’t have access to everything going on in God’s mind.  But several things are clear to us from what we do find in scripture.  First, the flood wasn’t due to the sinful actions of a few people.  It wasn’t punishment against immigrants or homosexuals or Arabs or the poor or corrupt politicians or anyone else.  It was due, in anything, to an overall sinfulness in everyone.  Second, God did not bring about the flood with a judgmental attitude of spite or anger.  On the contrary, we are told that God “grieved” and was “saddened” by all of this.  God comes across like a grieving parent whose child has messed up and now has to suffer painful consequences.  Third, God promised never to do this again (in Gen 8:21) which is why we see rainbows after ever rainfall.  So storms today, like Hurricane Katrina, can’t be seen as God’s judgment or wrath against anyone.

    But most importantly to me is that the story of Noah shows us how God went to great lengths to save people, not harm them.  We are given so many details about the ark – which will save Noah’s family and the living things.  Noah worked long and hard to build it and God was patient while Noah did.  The ark was to be 450’ long x 75’ wide x 45 tall!  Monstrous!!!  The ark was to be this big because God intended to save every kind of animal.  The boat needed to be big enough to house them all.  That means the ark was to be IN-clusive and not EX-clusive.  It was to reflect God’s desire that every living thing have a place inside… even the mosquito.  Even the creatures we’d rather not save or have around; even those we don’t think to be valuable; those we’d rather do without.  Room for all meant for them too.

    In many ways, the flood story is not a destruction story but a salvation story; not about how God judges but about how God saves.  And the method God uses to save us is by a boat – a ship.

    Today is week two of our new sermon series, CSI: “Christian Symbols Interpreted.”  Each week, we’re looking at a Christian symbol that we see on a regular basis in worship at Central Christian and talk about what it means in a way that helps us experience God’s grace and love more fully.  Last week’s symbol was light.  Today’s symbol is ship (or boat).  As we’ve said, the symbol of the sea represents life.  Sometimes it’s calm and peaceful.  But it’s also capable of bringing us storms that cause us to be terrified, and afraid that we won’t make it.  But the boat (or ship) is a symbol of God’s promise to save us; to protect us in the midst of the storm; and to carry us safely.

    Throughout history the boat has been a symbol of the church.  God chooses the community of Christians to be our source of protection when the storms of life rage against us.  In the earliest days of the church, when Christians were persecuted, the symbol of the boat reminded them that even though the world could be dangerous, there was safety and support and refuge inside the church.  And today… when we are in the midst of a personal storm; when it feels that we are being tossed about; who do we turn to for strength and support?  The church – our fellow Christians in the boat with us.  The Christian symbol of a ship reminds us that the storms of life will come.  But in the midst of those storms, God will protect us and God will use the church (the Christian community) to reveal that to us.

    Every time we come to worship and enter our sanctuary, our high ceiling invites us to look up.  And when we do we see that the architecture of that ceiling looks like the inside of a ship.  It reminds us of God’s promise to protect us in the storms of life; that God always puts others in our life to help us carry our burdens, if we trust enough to share our burdens with them.  And our high ceiling in the shape of a ship reminds us that all are welcome in this church; that the church of Jesus Christ is meant to be inclusive and not exclusive.  Even the mosquito had a place on the ark.  And that means that our church is strongest when there’s room for everyone – for those who may seem as mosquito's to us, and for each us of us, who is seen as a pesky nuisance to someone else.  So, we give thanks that God has chosen the church as the agent of strength in the storms of life – and that there is room for all of us in it.