at six ment

The last email should have finished with the Eastenders ‘duff duffs’ (the dramatic drums that play at the cliffhanger ending of each episode of the soap opera). That’s because there has been a longer than intended gap between that one and this one and some of you may have been on tenterhooks anticipating what happens next. Is there going to be a next instalment? What will it be?

(Yes, I know I am over-dramatising it rather a lot, but do patronise me by playing along).

So, here goes: another story based on an image from the Bible to explain the atonement – what Jesus’ death means for us.

It was a dark and stormy Eighteenth Century night. The ship had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was nearing the English coast. Dark clouds covered the sky so that the moon was hidden and no stars were visible so the ship’s navigator could not use any of his instruments to establish exactly where they were. The rain was lashing down so hard that nobody could see more than a few yards ahead of the ship. They were almost literally sailing blind.

The captain knew, from the length of the voyage, that they ought to be near the coast. He knew, from the compass, that they were heading in the right direction. But he also knew that there were dangerous rocks and shoals in the approach to the destination. He had planned to drop anchor and ride out the storm in the open sea rather than attempt a night-time docking but the wind and waves were relentlessly driving them towards where the land ought to be and the anchor was dragging.

Then, through the howling gale and raging sea, the sailors heard a new, terrifying sound. It was the sound of waves breaking on the shore. They could not be far away from land now, and unless they could work out which way to go they would be driven onto the rocks and the ship would be dashed to pieces – with the probable loss of all hands. All eyes strained and scanned the horizon for even a glimpse of a landmark.

“Land ho!” came a shout from the rigging. One of the sharp-eyed sailors had spotted something!

The captain shouted for more information.

“There’s a light, captain, off the starboard bow!”

The captain looked in that direction and, as the ship pitched and rolled, he saw a glimpse of a light. He hoped that it was on the land and not another ship floundering, but he gave orders for the anchor to be raised, the sails to be set and the ship to steer in the direction of the light. The ship heeled as the wind caught the sails and slowly but surely the light moved from the starboard bow to directly in front of them.

They sailed in hope, hardly daring to breathe. As they got nearer the light got brighter and then they realised that it was a ship. It was the harbour pilot. Illuminated by a flash of lightning out at sea he had seen the ship through the storm and had set out to guide them safely back to the harbour. The pilot’s rig came clearly into view and he signalled to the ship to follow him.

“Follow that ship!” ordered the captain and the sailors gladly did so into the safety of the harbour.

stormThey were saved. On the harbourside the captain rushed to find the pilot and embraced him. He knew that unless the pilot had risked his life to find them they would have perished on the rocks.

Jesus is like that pilot – he has come to show us the way to God. His death is the light in the darkness that we follow to safety.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

(This series is a bit like the Harry Potter books: seven instalments of the same story. Next time, the final instalment – escapology (probably not until next week, sorry)). Duff, duff, duff, duff

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