Summer is the time for vacations. Growing up in Massachusetts, one of my family’s favorite vacation spots was York Beach, Maine. How many wonderful memories I have of that quaint seaside town. Summer vacation always included a little bit of reading, and one summer I remember reading the story of a small island just 6 miles off the coast of Maine — Boon Island.
It’s really just a big rock out there in the Atlantic measuring only 300 by 700 feet. On a clear day, you can see the island from the beach. You can especially make out the lighthouse, the tallest in Maine, rising from the barren rock. But the story I read that summer took place before there was a lighthouse.
In December of 1710, a British merchant ship carrying 14 crewmen crashed into the island. Of those, 10 ended up surviving the harsh winter weather with no food and no fire until their rescue 24 days later. The book tells the story of those harrowing 24 days.
Just as you can see the island from the beach, you can also see the beach from the island. Shipwrecked on this island with no means of communication, the stranded crewmen could see activity on the mainland. Just 6 miles away there were people sitting by their warm fires enjoying home cooked meals. Six miles doesn’t seem like that much, but for those stranded men it might as well have been 6 million miles.
Winters in Maine can be pretty harsh, so on most days, the activity would be pretty limited. New Englanders spend a lot of time indoors during the winter, especially back in 1710. But the men on Boone Island noticed that there was more activity on Sundays. Sunday mornings to be specific. Men, women, and children, despite the cold weather, would be making their way to church. Christians were filling churches and perhaps even hearing sermons and singing songs about rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying. All the while, the faithful had no idea that only six miles away 10 men were praying for a miracle.
Christians filling churches while others faced certain death. Oblivious to their need. Unaware of their hardship. Sad and ironic, to say the least.
I’m all for going to church, but if going to church doesn’t heighten our awareness of stranded and lost people just six miles or six feet or six thousand miles away from us, then maybe we’re missing the point. Maybe we’re missing the message of the Son of God leaving heaven to become a servant. Maybe we’ve forgotten his mission to “seek and to save the lost.” Perhaps we’ve become deaf to the call for all of us to “go and make disciples.”
How tragic it would be for stranded people to see all the activity on Sunday mornings only to see Christians retreat into their comfortable lives the rest of week. Sitting by our warm fires. Enjoying our home-cooked meals. Oblivious to needs. Unaware of hardship. Sad and ironic, to say the least.
Todd Catteau is the preaching minister for the Park Avenue Church of Christ in Denison. He is married with four children. More of his writing can be found at http://toddcatteau.blogspot.com.