We have been thinking about time for sometime, and I have been thinking about time travel, and the changes that have taken place in travel time. No, I am not speculating about the possibility of traveling back in time, but simply. A number of years ago my wife and I vacationed in Portugal, where we visited the huge monument to Prince Henry the Navigator, and the site and ruins of the famous navigational school on the southern coast, where the most famous explorers studied under Prince Henry. While in the city of Lisbon, we visited an ancient cathedral to see the tomb of Vasco da Gama, the most famous of the the Portuguese sailors and explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries. He was the first to sail down the west coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, on his voyage to discover a sea route to India. We also drove to Seville, Spain, to visit the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, which contains the crypt of Christopher Columbus.
Norma and I were living in Hawaii at the time, and I had often considered how long those first missionaries to the “Sandwich Islands” had to travel by sea (the islands of Hawaii were then known by that name, so designated for the Earl of Sandwich). Furthermore, I was interested in reading how Polynesian sailors traveled by large outrigger canoes to those islands, bringing with them their cultures, their traditions, their music, their religious practices – a large migration from the Society Islands, who first arrived there between 750 and 1000 A.D. I also remembered how the only way to visit Hawaii for so many years was by sailing vessels, and later by steamship. The very first missionaries to those remote islands in the Pacific had to travel thousands of miles by sea from New England, a journey of one-hundred and sixty-three days. They were Congregational and Presbyterian missionaries, who traveled those great distances in order to introduce Christianity to the islanders of Hawaii. Then, going back even further in the ancient past to the time of the Early Church and first-century Christianity, I remembered the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul and the other apostles, in the first century, also traveled by sea when they were not traveling by and on foot, in order to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ beyond the boundaries of Israel to the Gentile world. Then, in the centuries that followed, how other missionaries traveled by sea to evangelize distant lands, including Europe, North America, the South Pacific and Asia. I also thought of the tremendous debt we owe them, for we would not be Christians if it were not for their missionary zeal and passion for world evangelization.
We were privileged to live in Hawaii for sixteen years, and I had a desire to known the true story of those first sailors who first discovered those beautiful islands. the many tales I heard about the notorious Captain Cook who arrived there in 1778, and the diseases his crew brought with them. For many years, Hawaii served as a supply center for whaling ships on the Pacific basin. The Yankee Clipper ships stopped there on their way to China, fueled by their interest in the tea and silk trade. I often heard about the earliest tourists who first arrived in Hawaii on ships from the west coast of the United States, and continued for years to travel there by sea until the era of aviation arrived. I thought about how much I would have enjoyed being on one of those ships
and earlier voyages to Hawaii, rather than arriving by air, because it sounded much more glamorous and entertaining. I have never been a sailor, but we have a son-in-law who was in the Navy and Coast Guard, and he has told us how even in our lifetime sailors still depend on the stars when they are at sea, in addition to modern navigational instruments. Celestial navigation is possible only because God’s creation is so dependable, the sun and the moon, the stars in their orbits, but there are times when you cannot get a “fix” because the heavens are clouded over. In such times sailors can chart their course by the last celestial “fix,” from that time in the past when he saw that particular star, and he is able to chart, to direct, the voyage ahead.
The Christian life is a lot like that. The Gospel is our guide, our standard for living. It is dependable. All of us are on a voyage through life. We mediate on the Word of God to chart our way. We can look back and recall where we have come from, and we can see how God has guided us, and we can consider where we now are on our voyage, the direction in which we are going, how far we still have to go, and where we hope to be when we finally arrive at our destination. We will need to make certain corrections as we travel, just as we did in the past. The need for correction is forever present, so there will always be the need to check our direction, to be sure we are on the right course. Think about it. Where are you right now? Are you where you had hoped to be? Do you need to make some changes, correcting your course?
The great Apostle Paul was agonizingly aware of the fact that he had not yet arrived at the point where he wanted to be on his journey with Christ. In his Letter to the Philippians he said, “Not that I have already arrived…but I press on toward the goal, to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I move forward toward the goal, hoping to obtain the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of yo who are mature (i.e. “likeminded”) do the same, and let us hold true to what we have already attained” (Phil. 3:12-16).