The Weather Channel displays a great aptitude for obtaining not only amazing videos of awe-inspiring or incredibly-destructive natural catastrophes, but sometimes, they manage to gain footage of weird human- interest events that capture people’s attention. This week they featured film footage of a speed boat whose driver had been bounced out of the craft, leaving the boat to career through the water on its own, with no helmsman – until it smashed dramatically into a large sailboat. Miraculously, only one person was injured in the accident, and he but slightly. Nevertheless, it brought to mind a terrible mental image from my own life.
Our family owns a little Boston Whaler, a small flounder boat in which I have had many adventures – and misadventures. I have had something of a long love-hate relationship with this boat, and have learned a lot of lessons the hard way with regard to this little boat. For example, even when you are sure there is gas in the tank, check it anyway before you go out fishing – or you might find yourself floating helplessly on the sea. And don’t put too many people in a little boat on a choppy ocean, or you may find the waves crashing the boat onto the bottom as you head to shore, killing the motor and beaching the boat on the sand. And if an earth mover offers to tow you free from the sand, decline the offer, because a powerful earth mover tugging a boat with a fiberglass hull can prove a fractious combination.
I offer these tidbits of advice as a way of explaining the anxiety that always pervades my use of the Whaler. And several years ago it so happened during our beach vacation that amidst the summer heat our rental house’s air conditioner had stopped working, so we were sleeping with our windows open. Melissa and I were suddenly awakened by the rush of a mighty wind violently rattling our shutters. We could hear huge waves lapping hard against the lagoon’s shore where my little boat was moored, and fierce lightning flashed across the lagoon, heralding the coming of a storm. Suddenly, I had this mental image of my boat breaking free of its mooring and being ferried by the tide down the lagoon and out the pass and into the Gulf of Mexico. Irrational, right? Nevertheless, I bolted upright in the bed, threw on some swim trunks and ran down to the lagoon. In the dark I saw huge, frothy waves coming across the lagoon, seemingly fueled by some demonic energy. What I didn’t see was my boat! It was gone! There was no Whaler to be seen. A wave of self-loathing washed over me. You idiot! I asked myself, “Why didn’t you double anchor the boat?” My mind actually leaped forward to that inevitably awkward conversation I would have with my father, the one where I would say, “Hey, Dad, you know how you’ve been wanting a new boat? . . .”
Then, as the lightning flashed again, I saw the gleam of something metallic, the shine of a boat motor. The wind and waves and tide had conspired to move my boat within a large clump of sea grass. I checked it: the rope was taut; the knot was secure. And a phrase like a flash of lightning coursed through my brain: my anchor holds. My anchor holds! I felt a wave of peace wash over me like the wind coming off the lagoon. My anchor holds!
When Jesus looked around at his friends gathered about that table on the fateful night of their Last Supper, he had to wonder about the future viability of his ministry. His disciples had not distinguished themselves by the clarity with which they had grasped his vision. They had not always comprehended the purpose of his mission. They had not always competently manifested his desires. And our Lord knew they were about to enter a storm for which their faith was insufficiently developed, inadequate to the task at hand. He had to have wondered how these disciples would respond to their failure, how would they recover and rehabilitate their faith once they had fled in the moment of truth. He had to have wondered as he looked in the faces of his friends in anticipation of the gathering storm, how secure was his mission?
Yet he looked beyond their faces to the trustworthiness of his heavenly Father. Yes, his disciples were fallible. But he knew his heavenly Father was infallible. His Father’s promise and plan was sure. His anchor would hold! Yes, the coming storm would be hard to weather, but His Father’s promise and vision would be secure. So he could say to his friends around that table, “This bread represents my body which will be broken for you; this wine represents my blood which will be spilled for you.” Yet he could look beyond those images of violence, beyond the betrayals and failures, even of his own friends, and could see that the anchor of God was sure. So he could say to those gathered around his table, “When you eat this bread and when you drink this cup, you proclaim my death – until I come again.”
This Supper is a supper of sorrow. Images of broken bread and poured wine symbolize the violence and hatred poured upon our Lord. But if this is a Supper of sorrow, it is also a Supper of strength. We sing that old hymn, “When darkness comes to hide his face, I rest on his unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
With the assurance that our God is an anchor that holds, we approach this table this morning. In so doing we claim afresh the great truth that the anchor of our God is sufficient to keep us safe amidst every storm.