Monday, July 12, 2010

two sermons

My cousin Allen ministers to a congregation in West Brooksville, Maine, and this past Sunday he preached on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It's a challenge to create a new way to treat this oh-so-very-familiar story, one he met head on and overcame. Weaving together four first-person narratives, he told of an accident on the back roads of rural Maine — (1) a family overturned in a van, injured and unable to help themselves; (2) a woman late for work; (3) a preacher late for service; and (4) a berry picker, lost and fearful that he and his mates would lose their jobs. The stories are spare but precise and have a personal intensity that gives them an unusually strong emotional impact. Overall, it's a simple moral tale, like the parable, and one which makes it hard for readers to be smug about themselves: you can't easily deny its message with a facile "no fear, I wouldn't be the one to pass by." This link takes you to his words on the church blog: What Must We Do?.

This is where he does his pastoring.

Not long ago he treated much the same subject from a different angle. He told his hearers that he'd been preparing for a difficult physical challenge: he was training for an attempt to row his sixteen-foot Norwegian workboat the whole thirty-three miles around Deer Isle in a single day. In that sermon he used this training experience — the discipline, endurance of pain, sense of accomplishment as training progresses, and hope of ultimate success — to illustrate the points he wished to make about some lines from Paul's Letter to the Romans: "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us."

Without belittling his own immense efforts or theirs, he says what he and other athletes face is actually somewhat trivial compared to the challenges and hardships that most all of us are forced to cope with, sooner or later. He lists these traumas — personal crises, loss of loves ones, "the end of a cherished relationship, separation from one’s children or grandchildren or friends by distance or alienation" — and says that as we confront our own pain and loss we enlarge our capacity for sympathy. We can overcome the deadening sense of isolation that we feel and find meaning where there seems to be none. The key lies in our ability to acknowledge with compassion our "commonality in suffering" with sufferers among us. It's this message of compassion which links this sermon to his later one on the Good Samaritan. Here's a link to it: The grace in which we stand.


Allen's training paid off and, with support from wife and friends, completed his solo circumnavigation. Here are photos of that achievement and links to published accounts of it.

This link takes you to a brief account from a local newspaper — Brooklin Man Rows Traditional Boat Around Deer Isle.

This map shows the route. He rowed counterclockwise the 33 miles around both Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle.

These photos are all by Bob Harris who takes lots of photos for the Facebook page of the Deer Isle-Sunset Church, UCC.

{It's 2:45 AM, the sun won't be up until 5:00, and Allen's guiding himself by compass and the lights of the Deer Isle Bridge.}

{Hours later, Allen has rounded the western end of Little Deer Isle and is turning into the sunrise.}

{I think this shows him rounding the eastern end of the island and turning north.}

{Mid-morning, headed north, moving through the Lazyguts Islands off Stonington.}

{Allen has turned round the eastern end of Deer Isle and now has rising sun in his face.}

{Resting for a moment.}

{Another rest, this one along the eastern shore of the Sunshine section of Deer Isle just before he heads into Eggemoggin Reach for the last leg of his voyage.}

{Returning to his starting point after ten hours of rowing.}

{Caption: One very happy man!}

On this detail from a 1904 topographic map, the green box shows where the van carrying Leigh Anne and her family overturned.

This detail from the same topo map shows West Brooksville and the location of the church. I've stitched this image together from two adjoining sections of map.

Here is a link to the topo map section of which the right half of the above map is a detail: Bluehill 1904: Bluehill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Deer Isle, Penobscot, Sedgwick.

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jim said...
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