Easter, 16 April 2017
This sermon includes the Easter Pirate story.
by Brad Boydston
It is near impossible to offer a simple explanation as to why so many souls boarded the HMS Christus on that fateful day -- Not that there was any kind of capacity problem. Some had heard that the food was good -- and as you know, on cruises there is lots of it.
I’m sure that some were just looking for an extreme adventure on the open seas and a unique sailing ship. The extraordinary design of the Christus -- with huge masts and the gopher wood construction definitely appealed to the romantic and adventurous.
Some had simply followed the captain on board as though they were under the spell of a pied piper. He was popular on both land and sea.
Some signed on as crew members because they’d been listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio and they figured it would be a good second job to pay off their debts. There were lots of indebted people onboard.
I signed on because I wanted to see the world as it really was and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of some needy people. If anyone was ever going to change things out there it would be the captain.
And I can remember the excitement as people boarded for that fateful cruise. The band played. People on the dock were waving flags and chanting. The crew filed on -- one by one -- followed by the passengers, who tended to move in clumps because they lacked sea experience and needed each other for balance with even the slight the motion of the docked ship. For even as everyone boarded -- the waters were choppy, the winds were starting to blow, and the sky was darkening.
“We better get underway -- without delay” the captain shouted to his first mate. The order to cast off and hoist the sail immediately followed. And we could all feel the ship lurch as it turned away from the dock and toward the opening of the bay.
Because of the winds, within minutes we were out on the open sea. Very few, including the captain, could contain themselves. For we all by hunch or revelation sensed that this would be a momentous voyage.
Even though the seas were choppy, repainting the ocean backdrop from pacific blue-green to angry white, it was pleasant enough sailing -- for the first three hours or so.
But then suddenly the captain gave the order to drop sail and the ship screeched to a jostling halt. Passengers and crew all moved onto the deck to reconnoiter the situation.
And it wasn’t so hard to figure out the predicament. There sitting no more than 100 yards off the bow was the darkest most evil ship you could imagine. And while very few had ever seen the ship before, everyone instinctively knew that we were on collision course with the pirate ship Golgotha. The white skull and crossbones were not just evident on the pennant but they decorated the whole of the huge black mainsail.
With the darkening skies and the choppy waters -- it was an ominous moment -- and not at all in a good way. Suddenly, there were flashes of fire from the deck of the Golgotha. The captain of the HMS Christus sounded general quarters and as the crew scrambled to their places, cannon balls dropped in the drink, 15 feet from the hull of the Christus.
The first mate, tired of waiting to hear from the captain, ordered the crew to return fire. But then he realized that the Christus had no maritime weaponry. For the captain had personally pushed the cannons of the good ship overboard as they left the bay.
And the crew, with panicked looks, held their hands up in disbelief. No cannons? What kind of a crazy harebrained ship was this? What were they going to do?
Just then, the captain ordered the passengers below deck -- and to prepare for a rough ride. He called for the sails to be hoisted -- and the ship lurched forward toward the Golgotha -- just in time to catch a cannonball that crashed through the starboard side of the hull. The Golgotha tried to come about but the Christus was picking up speed and it was pretty clear that the captain of the Christus intended to ram the Golgotha. He strapped himself to the mast.
And just as the bow was about to penetrate the side of the pirate ship a mighty wave caused by the stormy seas tossed the Christus 45 feet into the air so that when the contact came, the keel of the Christus was slicing across the deck of the Golgotha.
And the pirate ship was irreparably split in two -- with both sides suddenly listing as the pirate crew scrambled for footing on the remains of their balsa ship.
In some ways, the fact that there was cheap balsa wood under all of that threatening iron, worked in their favor. The pirate crew would be able to float for a long long time.
The Christus, though, suffered a terminal breach when the keel ripped into the Golgotha. A gaping 35-foot-wide hole in the hull invited the salt water to rush in and the good ship was quickly filling.
Meanwhile, the panicked souls on the sinking HMS Christus could hear the taunting song of the defeated pirates who were boldly standing on the debris of their ship as though they were at the helm of the world.
“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.No visible signs of remorse -- and certainly not repentance.
We pillage we plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
“We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villians and knaves.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.”
The Christus was going down after an encounter with an inferior balsa wood Golgotha.
And I can tell you that there was lots of screaming below deck -- but the deeper we sank and the more water there was -- the less we were each aware of each other.
After dropping for what seemed to be an eternity, there was a mighty thud as the ship hit bottom and people toppled, then rolled toward the stern. Panic the thought. There is no way anyone could ever swim for it. We were too far down and the cold ocean water was rising and filling our rooms until the air was drained. It was glowing black.
Gasp for air.How long we were down there -- it’s hard to say -- two days -- three days? But at one point I suddenly became aware of being awake -- being alive -- breathing. There was once again air filling the rooms. Water was shooting out the portals and back into the sea as the HMS Christus was slowly -- then quickly -- floating toward the surface.
One last gasp.
And there were people. The ship was filled with lots and lots of people. Somehow we had picked up passengers while we sat down there -- thousands of new passengers from the bottom of the depths -- souls who swam in through the hull breach.
Yet, in spite of the added weight of new souls the HMS Christus was rising. The breach was now completely repaired and the new Christus was stronger and more commanding than even before.
Even the glowing white paint was new and somehow set before we broke the surface with a mighty swoosh -- not 50 yards from the floating pirate debris.
Christus’ crew and passengers -- old and new -- rushed to the deck.
You should have seen the faces of those pirate survivors -- still clinging to the debris of their dead ship -- oblivious to the wake created by the surfacing of the Christus and the reality of the situation. The Golgotha would never again wreak havoc on the high seas and the soggy pirates were reduced to a lot of hot air.
Amazingly they still sang their taunting pirate song -- even though they were obviously waterlogged and even the most evil pirate musician would say that they were hopelessly off-key.
In contrast, the new Christus was beautiful -- more whole and brighter than even before the battle of the Golgotha. The Captain was no longer strapped to the mast but was standing on deck in his dress whites, surrounded by souls who had been lost, but who were now alive as never before.
The captain offered to rescue the pirate survivors -- but not a single pirate agreed to board the Christus. They’d rather take their chances clinging to the dead Golgotha and with the uncertainty of the high seas, than to launch out in a new direction with a new captain, a new ship. Evil is stubborn that way.
When the new HMS Christus sailed into the harbor it was a stunning sight -- a ship as never seen before. And as she came to dock -- not a single person who had died with the Christus was willing to step off the ship -- not even to stretch their legs on dry land. They didn’t really need to, for now, they had new legs which didn’t require the stability of the land.
There were some folk on shore who couldn’t resist the draw of the HMS Christus -- the ship that had broken the hull of the pirates. They boarded to take the tour but stayed to join the celebration. They were received as though they had gone down with the Christus, too -- and were now alive again in the Christus, as well.
The newbie passengers and crew members were welcomed with a watering ceremony so that they might fully grasp the event into which they were becoming full participants. For they were now fully into the death and life of the HMS Christus and in the future it would define everything about who they were, what they did, how they thought -- the entirety of their very lives.