Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Gilligan and the Great Commission

gilliganI HAVE DECIDED this about adventures: they are more fun when you are looking forward to them or when you are looking back on the photographs afterward. The actual adventuring part in the middle? Not so much.

That’s because a real adventure has to include the possibility of failure—of things going pear-shaped. Otherwise it’s just a sanitized, Disney-like experience. There’s a difference between Splash Mountain and whitewater rafting. With the first you’ll probably get wet; with the second you just might drown.

Sadly, many churches seem to be selling Splash Mountain belief rather than whitewater faith these days—enough of a ride to give us a few thrills without getting too out of control. It’s a long way from the experience of the first disciples.

Remember that these seasoned boatmen thought they were going to drown on one of their sea crossings, as Jesus dozed in the stern (Mark 4:35-41). This was no carefully measured simulation; this was an all-out storm.

Given that, had I been among their number, I might have hesitated a couple of chapters later when they set out across the Sea of Galilee again. This time they were without Jesus, who had stayed behind to pray (Mark 6:45-52). Um, are we sure about this, fellas? Remember last time?

Whether they were faithful, fearless, or a bit foolish, they set out once more and—lo and behold, another storm blew up. They were “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them” (6:48).

I know a bit how they feel. Several years ago, Marcia and I made a major life decision that ripped us out of our comfort zone. I was anticipating an experience, a quick rush that we could then look back on from safety of the other side. Instead, we got an ongoing adventure.

Right now it feels like we’re in the middle of the sea at midnight, pulling against the waves, like the disciples. Or maybe the boat is named S.S. Minnow, and we’re beached on Gilligan’s Island, left up to our ankles in mud in the middle of a dark forest with no sign of our guide.

But I take some comfort from the disciples’ second sailing adventure. John’s account (6:17) notes that “by now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.” I can identify; maybe you can, too? It all seems dark and Jesus is nowhere to be seen?

The good news for us is that Jesus did come to the disciples, speaking to their fear and calming the storm—again (Mark 6:51-52).  Perhaps they remembered this when Jesus later sent them out into the world to share His love. It is notable that in His Great Commission, Jesus did not tell them everything would be peachy, but rather that “I am with you always, even to the end…” (Matthew 28:20)—an end that, for all but John, was violent.

Maybe someone could write a church chorus that includes some of the lyrics from the Gilligan’s Island theme song, They’re here for a long long time. They’ll have to make the best of things, it’s an uphill climb. It would help pass the time as we wait in the dark for Him to come.

2 Responses to “Gilligan and the Great Commission”

  1. Christine M.

    We were singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ from ‘Carousel’ at choir last night in preparation for our concert on Saturday, and I found myself mentally singing from a Christian stance: “When you walk through the storm hold your head up high … you’ll never walk alone”. I could equally well have been singing the ditty I adapted when my children were afraid of the dark but in its original form says: “With Jesus in the boat you can smile at the storm … as we go sailing home.”


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