One of my favorite movies is Castaway which stars Tom Hanks as a marooned Fedex employee who must survive against all odds for almost 5 years on a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific (I would like to suggest that the makers of Lost received their inspiration from this film). The entire film is an interesting survey of the human will to survive no matter what the circumstances and also our created need to live in community. Desolation takes it’s toll quickly and has the character Hanks plays striking up a friendship with a volleyball (Wilson). The film is a rich resource from which you could draw any number of sermons.
However, of particular interest to me for this Sunday’s scripture is the scene in which Hanks’ character finally decides he must leave the island or die trying. He constructs a raft with provisions for the estimated time he plans to be at sea. His years on the island have also taught him that at certain points during the year the winds shift from blowing onto the island to blowing off the island. His attempt at escape must be made when the winds are blowing off the island so as to break the barrier reef that surrounds the island. As he makes his final preparations to leave, there is a beautiful few seconds when he notices the crude windsock he has created stop blowing and then begin blowing the other direction. The time has come to leave the island.
This scene illustrates where we are in the church year. Since before Christmas we have been wondering and waiting for this prophesied Messiah. First, we anticipated his arrival (Advent). Then, his presence was announced (Epiphany). Then, we followed him to the cross (Lent). Recently, we found the empty tomb (Easter). Now that we are in post-resurrection Eastertide, the atmosphere and tone of the entire reading of scripture changes. The “wind” shifts from one of preparation to one of going forth. We no longer stand back watching and wondering about this Jesus figure. God’s entire metanarrative of human salvation comes to a head in Jesus Christ. That good news that is embodied in this early Christian community and we see those early actions and how it changed the world.
How is it embodied? Luke gives 4 things which characterized the early church’s existence: teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together, and prayer (worship). I will go into a little more depth on each of these on Sunday morning but suffice it to say that these are the 4 aspects that define a church. If a church ceases to hold these things at its core, it ceases to be a church!
We all know how Castaway ends(spoiler alert!). The forlorn fedex worker is rescued from his long suffering desertion on the island. The changing wind pushed him into the open ocean into a commonly travelled sea lane where he is picked up by a passing cargo ship.
So what does this “changing wind” mean for us. What does it mean for us, the modern version of that early apostolic church, to recognize the empty-tomb-cloths-still-lying-in-their-folds-truth of Easter and be moved to do something about it? How can we continue to be led by God’s Holy Spirit to embody the Gospel which we hold so dear to us. The short answer is to do what the early church did; focusing our efforts on teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together, and prayer. In this season of changing wind where we have come to understand the reality altering truth of resurrection we must continue to look for the implications of that scandalous gospel of Jesus and how we can apply it to the world around us. If we embrace this attitude of the early church, we too will be astounded by the signs and wonders that are done.
blessings for the journey,