Repair or Replace
Originally scheduled for May 24
In the middle of the 19th century, the United
States Navy had a little problem—money. Feeling that the
demands placed on them by their various duties exceeded the means at
hand, the Navy asked Congress for money to build new ships to deal
with the situation. Congress was isolationist, however—and
fully remembered that they had voted some such thing for the War of
1812. Congress viewed the problem as one of repairing what you
have or buying new. Reminding the Navy that frugality is a
virtue, they authorized funds to repair some number of ships.
One such ship was the USS Constellation.
She was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Years of neglect
had put her into a condition in which repair would have been
foolish. Her design was obsolete. So the Navy took what
seemed the obvious course. They announced their request for
bids to repair her—with the unwritten proviso that they would scrap
her and build a new, "repaired" ship.
As it happened, Constellation saw a very long
service career and was then selected to become a museum ship.
All the official records stated she was the Revolutionary War
frigate—so the museum officials "restored" her to what she had never
been. After about fifty years, the official historian for the
ship discovered the truth. Then they had to correct the
In a sense, we face the same choice today. The
human soul resembles that old ship, rotted by sin. We have the
choice of repairing or replacing. Repairing is our business; it
means that we can correct ourselves to the point of being acceptable
to God. Replacement is something God must do; you will recall David
in Psalm 51 asking, “create in me a new heart, O God.” It’s tempting
to do the repair ourselves; the only real problem with it is that it
doesn’t work. We’re trying to repair the rotten with the rotten.
So how does replacement work? The first step is
in Christian baptism, and the gift of the Spirit. That work must be
continued, however; one way we do this is in constant communion.
“This is my body; this is my blood” — these are
the building materials of the new man. Some Christians take this
statement quite literally; others symbolically. But all would agree
with St. Paul when he warned us about taking communion in an
unworthy manner. In 1st Corinthians 11:29-30, he tells us
For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if
he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you
are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
(1 Corinthians 11:29-30 NASB)
But by the constant taking of communion in a
worthy manner we cling to the core of the Gospel, and in so doing
claim his grace. Grace, his unmerited favor, implies that he is free
to rebuild us in his image. We are to grow more and more like Christ
as the time goes by. Communion is essential to this.
So, let Him rebuild the ship — there are stormy
seas ahead, and you will need His strength.