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  • Writer's pictureMatt Woodcock

#31 Voyagers.

One of my favourite orators, Reverend John Lee, spoke at our Upper Room gathering this week.

Always challenging, honest and soulful, he once described himself as a 'bald, middle class, slightly overweight, Christian revolutionary'.

John’s speaking topic was: 'What has Disney's Moana got to teach us about the journey of faith?'

It was a belter.

This is most of what he said:

The story of Moana contains a great and neglected truth about what it means to live well.

Right from the start of her life she knows that there is something more for her. She is a happy child, a privileged child, the daughter of the chief with a loving family and a peaceful island to live on - but she feels the call of the sea; the call to adventure and to danger; the call to go beyond the calm water of the lagoon, over reef into the great ocean.

I’ve been a vicar for just over 30 years now and I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people who know that life beyond the reef can be hard and frightening. Sometimes they are people who have found an unforgiving sea.

Some of those people have found a new sense of security and peace within communities with Jesus at the centre. It’s been good to share that discovery with them. And it’s what you would expect from the person who said ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ That security for a disciple of Jesus is certain. The very last earthbound words that he said to his followers were ‘I am with you always to the end of this age’.

There is no time or place when you can’t trust Jesus to be there for you.

But here is the tricky thing. Jesus says those words to a bunch of people who are about to set off on a very dangerous adventure. ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ is their mission from Jesus.

Leave everything that you know and take a radical and disruptive message to people you have never met in places you have only heard of. Grab a share in the restoration project that God has going on in his bust up world.

But why should we take risks? Why put ourselves on the ocean? Why share in the work that God is doing?

Well, Moana’s great discovery is that her people were voyagers. Everything else in the story flows from that one fact. Everything that has gone wrong has gone wrong because her people forgot that truth and everything that comes right comes right because Moana rediscovers that truth for herself. She becomes a voyager.

Sometimes churches look like places where the voyage has been forgotten – where the boats are pulled up onto the shore. They look like places designed to keep things the same, to remind us of the past – perhaps to keep us stuck in it. They are made of stone and stone doesn’t float.

But I think that’s because we look in the wrong place. We’re looking at the building but that’s not where the church really is.

Lockdown and online church has been a harsh but essential lesson for a lot of people that it’s not about the building. What do you think Jesus pictures when he thinks about the church? He doesn’t think about the church building - he thinks about the people.

And people have adventures, they take risks and try new things, they begin new conversations, have new ideas and experiment, they surprise and delight each other; they get older and wiser, sometimes they rediscover their childlikeness, they travel and think and talk and care. People are on a voyage. All the times their lives are changing.

People who are Christians do this in the company of Jesus – who says to them I am with you to the very end of time. They do it with the aim of helping to form a world that delights God. Jesus says to the people who follow him ‘Go and proclaim the Kingdom of God’ – tell people that there is a way to live that is in perfect harmony with the God who made everything.

We are voyagers. Sometimes that means we travel to far and remote places. But mostly it means that we see our lives in a new way – as a voyage in the company of God and his people. We see that we are people who have a bold plan which is to work to make the world the way that its maker wants it to be – full of love and hope and peace and joy and generosity.

And it means that we have an eternal destination that is worth the journey.

So let me make a suggestion: You are a voyager. The question is, do you know it? God is calling you to the voyage. It’s an adventure, it’s not safe but it is what you were made for.

So listen and be ready to get on board.

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