Monday, October 09, 2006

Talk Sailing or Don't Talk!

Jack Lundgren taught me a whole lot of theology. No, you won't find him on the faculty listing of any seminary roster. he wrote no books and was not even a pastor.He was a retired tood and die maker in Muskegon Michigan. Over the course of his career, he knicked off the tips of several fingers, had polio as a child shrinking one leg, knocked out an eye in a skiing accident, had a heart condition...and was on his sailboat EVERY day. Even in the winter in Michigan, under the tarp, he would be there, teaking and adjusting his boat to squeeze out a little more speed. You see, Jack was a racer, and he invited me onto his boat as "crew" which was really kind of Jack, considering how ignorant I was and am about sailing. Every Wednesday night we would gather on his boat and go out on Muskegon lake, sometimes Lake Michigan, and once a year across lake Michigan to either Milwaukee or Port Washington for the "Queen's Cup" race with about 350 other boats.
What I learned from Jack was the difference between racing and cruising. When you go cruising on a boat, the goal is for everyone to have a good time, to see the sights, have a nice visit, and get home safely. When you cruise, the crew does the work and you are usually a guest, invited to sit down somewhere and enjoy the scenery. Indeed, that is a pleasant activity. i've had some nice cruises and pleasant conversations.
But racing is something else. Racing gets your blood boiling and is addictive like a drug. When you race a sailboat, you push it to its limit. You work all the math of wind and sail dimensions to coax every bit of speed you can out of the boat. The crew is constantly working, on gear or on the rail, distributing their weight to maximize speed. On some races, when my job was to work the Spinnaker sheet (the rope that controls its tension) I never saw the water while the Spinnaker was up, just the edge of the big sail that I was to keep full of wind.
On one particularly slow race, another racer and I, both pastors, got involved in talking about our church situations and some of the problems we were facing. Before long, Jack's voice boomed out: "Talk sailing or DON'T TALK!" That was theological. We forgot the task at hand was to race and maximize the boat and got distracted on our own personal issues.
Is the church you're a part of more like a cruising boat or a racing boart? Clearly I believe we are missionally called to be racing boats. But too many crew have forgotten the task at hand and would rather have a nice visit with each other about something else. It's time to get back to talking sailing!


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