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Communion Meditations (2012)

Down with the Ship

Originally scheduled for February 12

Recent newscasts brought us the image of an Italian cruise ship lying on its side after a collision with some large rocks. It's rather embarrassing for a cruise line to have pictures of your ship broadcast all over the world when it's lying 90° to the vertical. It's even more embarrassing when the press reveals that the captain of the ship, contrary to all tradition, abandon the ship quite quickly. A number of people died which of course makes this a most serious incident. But have you ever asked where this tradition of the captain going down with the ship got started?

Veterans of the United States Navy have a simple explanation for this. The captain signs for the ship, financially. If the ship goes down he has to stay in the Navy until he earns enough money to repay the Congress for the ship. At Navy salaries this is going to take a long time. It's cheaper to go down with the ship.

The real reason for this tradition is, however, rooted in the task the captain has: leadership. It is a fact in warfare that some men may be required to die so that others might live. A ship in combat might require its engineering group to stay in the engine rooms to the very last second so that others might fight the fires above them. It is drilled into the sailor that the ship comes first. Very often good leaders will tell you, "I won't ask my people to do anything that I wouldn't be willing to do myself." If you're the captain, that includes going down with the ship. Such leadership is not confined to the time of a sinking; good leaders know that they must take care of those who are following them.

Look at this concept as it applies to our leader, Jesus Christ. All of us are required to die, for all of us are sinners. It would be easy for Jesus to claim the exemption from this because he is the only sinless man. He did not do this. Look at his example:

·         Even though he did not deserve death, he was obedient to the Father's will, and accepted death.

·         Remarkably, he did this without complaining. Indeed, often he spoke not at all.

·         Most remarkable of all is this: he forgave those who executed him.

This is the example we have; this is the example we follow. In communion we remember the sacrifice Jesus made. Let us also remember how he made it: in obedience, humility and love. He did this for you and for me. He asks that we take this communion meal so that we might remember the example our leader has set.

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