I grew up in a fishing port called Lowestoft and my father was a fisherman and a sea captain, until he stopped going to sea and took a small corner shop. I went to the Sunday School at the church just down the road until the age of ten. We often sang the hymn ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’ which is inspired by Psalm 107. Some of the words, ‘O hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea’, made a deep impression on me.
I knew my father had nearly died at sea when I was only six years old. He had experienced a fire on board his tugboat and fired the distress rocket and got into a lifebelt in the water. It seemed nobody was coming to rescue him and, thinking he would die, he prayed God would look after me and my mother. It was after he had prayed that a sea captain, who had seen the rocket and was searching for him in vain, decided to turn around and have one last look before giving up the search.
After I got married and went to live overseas, I was not to see Lowestoft again for another thirty years. When I saw it again, all the fishermen’s cottages had been demolished and the corner shop with them. It was now an industrial estate. But the church was still standing there. It was closed, but the notice board explained the history of the church being built for the fishing community, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the fact that it was still a thriving, active church.
No matter whether people knock down houses and buildings, the true Church of Jesus Christ still stands. On a photographic Facebook group of Lowestoft, I asked someone to take me a picture of the interior of the church. Very kindly they did this for me, and as I looked at the photos, I remembered looking, as a child, at the mosaic picture showing Jesus rescuing Peter from the sea, with the words, ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ I also remembered the pointed archway at the front of the church with the words, ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.’
Many lives have been lost at sea and there is often great danger. I would remember this whenever we sang ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’. And in Psalm 107 we have a vivid description of a ship at sea in a storm and the helplessness of the people on board, until they cried out to the Lord.
‘Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders’ (Psalm 107:23-32).
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You are the same yesterday, today and forever, and I can cry out to You whenever I am afraid of the storm that I find myself in. Thank You that You will either command the waves to be still, or You rescue me from the overwhelming waves. You are my Deliverer. I will always thank You and praise You in the midst of the congregation. Amen.
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