Sermon for 2010: Year of the Seafarer
Mission to Seafarers, Tsimshatsui
Text: Mark 4:35-41
May I speak in name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We gather together this afternoon to celebrate the Year of the Seafarers proposed and organised by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the purpose of which is to provide an “opportunity to pay tribute to the world’s seafarers for their unique contribution to society and in recognition of the risks they shoulder in the execution of their duties in an often hostile environment.” According to the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation, the hostile environment in which seafarers work today refers to “pirate attacks, unwarranted detention and abandonment, coupled with the predicted looming shortage of ships’ officers, make it ever more incumbent to take immediate and effective action to forestall a situation from developing in which ships are not manned with sufficient skilled personnel.”
The gospel reading today adds another factor to the list contributing to the hostility of the environment which is the unpredictable and merciless temper of the sea experienced by the disciples of Jesus. One biblical scholar comments on the freakish feature of the Sea of Galilee in these words, “it isn’t only boats that are in danger on the sea of Galilee ….. the car parks on the western shore have signs warning drivers of what happens in high winds. The sea can get very rough very quickly, and big waves can swamp cars parked on what looked like a safe beach”. In regards to the danger on sea the Chinese have a saying that “there is thirty percent risk of traveling on sea or traveling on horseback.”
St. Marks tells us the disciples were terrified by the suddenness of the violent storm but were even more amazed that the sea responded obediently to the command of Jesus to calm down.
This is a wonderful story telling us how an actual storm was stilled by Jesus. But it will do more justice to the story if we look at it from a symbolic perspective as it teaches us a valuable and significant lesson that Jesus brings peace to our lives. The disciples realised that the sea was calmed when Jesus was there with them. They felt there was fearless peace entering into their hearts. They realised to voyage with Jesus was to voyage in peace even in a storm. This is not something that only happened to disciples it can happen to us. In the presence of Jesus we can have peace even in the unpredictable violence of storms of life.
This is the gospel message the church is called to bring to all people. This is the ministry of the Mission to Seafarers which is to bring the peace of Christ Jesus to every single seafarer who needs help in the storms of life regardless of their race, faith and status. It is because in the eyes of Jesus everyone is precious and loved by God. They all need peace in their hearts and minds in the storms of life.
Princess Royal of England has rightly said that, “Seafarers are not merely a workforce or a human resource but vulnerable and valiant human beings who endure much to bring us our home comforts ….. no company can have a welfare officer in every port, but the Mission is on hand around the world.”
Our Mission in Hong Kong has been serving the seafarers and their families for many years since 1884 and has been at the present site since 1967. The Mission recognizes the dangers to the mind and spirit involved in long voyages and separations. Those are what this mission is here to help individual seafarer with when they dock in Hong Kong. The loneliness, the separation from loved ones, the exaggerated worries, the fears of changes happening out of sight are major problems which they face in addition to the list of problems we have heard about. As one comments, “The Mission to Seafarers offers something much deeper than the beer and skittles, or tea and sympathy, we are, if you like, the ‘Samaritans of the Sea’ providing a listening ear and a practical hand.
It seems that the size of crews needed to sail great ships on long voyages is actually smaller than in times past. Out there alone, their problems are just as great. The mission here offers Hong Kong as a pearl of great value, a home filled with the peace and love of Jesus. Far out at sea, it is a landfall they can look forward to in need. Long may our mission to them grown. Amen.