On Shipwrecks

Periodically, St. B’s has the honor and opportunity to have a guest break the Word for us. When I arrived and saw that today was one of those days, I was intrigued. When I found out that he’s a professor; I swooned. Like, I actually had to hold on to the back of a pew. You all know of my weakness for people in academia, right? So imagine how excited I was to hear Dr. Sumner’s homily.

Disclaimer: I love almost all styles of preaching. There has never been a Sunday at St. B’s that I have not enjoyed/learned something/been challenged by what was said to me.

But today? Today we got a sermon that referenced Albert Schweitzer. I died and went to nerd heaven. Somewhere, though, in the midst of all my fangirling, Dr. Sumner said something that I cannot shake. Christianity, he said, centers around the “shipwrecked death of a Palestinian rabbi.”

That one phrase knocked me sideways. How often do we forget that Jesus was a rabbi? He was a teacher like so many before him. Being a Palestinian rabbi was about as earth-shattering as being a Canadian priest. To outsiders, he was nothing remarkable or rare. He was a man who chose to dedicate his life to the service of God and the teaching of the Law. That’s it.

So how do we know he was so much more? The death part of the equation.

The thing about shipwrecks is that they are unplanned, unexpected, and unstoppable. Once your boat hits an iceberg, it’s over. There’s not a lot of fixing that. A shipwrecked death? Messy. Impossible to avoid. Leaving disaster in its wake. Making people afraid of sailing again.

Two thousand years ago, a man who seemed like any other man lived a life that was simultaneously extraordinary and mundane and died a death that was destructive, unavoidable, and completely disastrous.

Contrary to what I like to believe, logic will not save the world. There is no secret waiting to be unlocked. There is only a creation crying out for healing. There is only a man who came a lived an extraordinarily ordinary life that culminated in an otherworldly death. Salvation comes in the shipwreck: in the broken, shocking unexpected. The world changes in pieces and pain.