We’re All in the Same Boat Now”
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Presiding Elder Rosalyn G. Coleman
We’re all in the same boat now.
I am sure that you have heard these words before; you may have even used them. Although this idiom is often used to describe any unpleasant situation, “In the same boat” was first used by the ancient Greeks when speaking about the risks that all passengers in a small boat at sea had to face together. Everyone in the small boat had a responsibility based on need and their skill and everyone had to contribute to the safety and well-being of the other passengers. In times of peril, no one passenger could survive without help from another. Of course, today, with so many different types of boats, the purpose and type of boat may define or determine the kinds of risks the passengers may face together. For example; for relaxation, fun and enjoyment, one may get on a cruise ship. But, even on a luxurious cruise ship, passengers may be exposed to many dangers and hazards from cases of serious contagious illnesses, problems with food poisoning, as well as other safety hazards. Another danger occurs when experienced crew members and inattentive passengers fall overboard and are lost at sea.
For vacation, entertainment and enjoyment, one may get on board a yacht. However, in addition to the fun while sailing on yachts, some passengers have experienced fatalities at a higher rate than one might expect. Falling overboard, high winds, operator error and/or inattention and alcohol have all contributed to the high rate of accidents and deaths.
As a way of making a living, workers get on fishing boats; but, while making a living, there are often injuries due to cutting or piercing objects or falls. Fishing hooks and rods can be dangerous if not handled with care. There are also the risks of lead poisoning, drowning, falling on wet decks, and other serious accidents. Capsizing, fires and sinking during severe weather or collisions also present serious problems as well as accidents involving machinery.
While competing in sports, the risks of kayaking or canoeing, in addition to drowning; may be from dehydration and sun exposure to hypothermia from falling into cold water without a wet suit and causing a fatal drop in body temperature. Speedboats often crash into each other and offer a different and dangerous type of risk.
Each boat, regardless of size or type, has its purpose. Each boat needs its passengers to perform in specific ways in times of danger. Everyone has to work for the good of the other in order to save the boat and each other.
Just thinking about the dangers associated with today’s supposedly “safe” boats and ships forces one to think historically about some of the risks and dangers associated with being on the slave ships during the middle passage. Today’s passengers sail for fun, travel, enjoyment, sport, entertainment, and work. During the middle passage, slaves, in addition to being stolen away from their homes and families, endured a different and brutal kind of danger
and risk; a different experience of being “in the same boat.” Although they were all in the same boat, the passengers—both slaves and slave traders—had different types and levels of risk. Although the traders had limited access to safety in times of danger during the middle passage, the chained slaves had no access.
On those ships, the captured Africans suffered from lack of food and water, inadequate care, brutal treatment, disease, suffocation, violence, suicide and death. The slave traders encountered risks and danger, but not under the same conditions or circumstances as the slaves. In times of danger, they had opportunities to protect themselves. They could try to get to a safe place. Their human African cargo did not.
Social justice EXCLUSION was the order of the day!
This exclusion led to years of discrimination, hopelessness and fear where one did not help or support the other.
Social justice INCLUSION demonstrates what it means to be in the same boat with all of its risks, dangers, benefits and diversities as well as commonalities.
All people, all members, all passengers on the boat, though many, are one body. “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (vs13a). We’re all in the same boat. –“Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (vs 13b). We are in an all-inclusive boat! And on this boat, there is a place and a time to cruise, a place and a time to fish and to work, a place and a time to search and rescue, a place and a time for recreation, a place and a time for racing … and all of these things work together to fulfill and enrich our lives.
Our lives can be richer and fuller when we understand that we’re all in the same boat. We cannot afford to throw anyone overboard nor would it be wise to jump ship because whatever happens on the boat impacts not only the one to whom it happens, but it impacts everyone on board.
If the boat reaches its destination, we all reach our destination! If the boat goes down, we all go down because we are all in the same boat!
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Whatever dangers are encountered, whatever challenges are being faced, whatever darkness come upon the seas, there is a clearing call, ALL HANDS ON DECK!
When that call comes, you will discover that all of the passengers will play a vital part in helping to keep the boat afloat! I am clear that there will be no one sitting back in luxury telling any member of the crew or any other passenger…I don’t need you to survive! That would be a tragedy!
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you”. Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you.” (vs 21-22) WE ALL MATTER.
The problem is that there are many who do not want to contribute to making the boat safe or good for everyone, regardless of purpose; regardless of the needs of others. They want to fashion their own boats; in their own safe places, with their own kind, for their own purposes and benefits, and far too often, at the expense of others. They want total control.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “There is no such thing as separate but equal. Separation and segregation inevitably make for inequality”. He also reminded us, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” (MLK)
Paul notes that the so-called weak must not feel that they are not a genuine part of the body. He also rebukes the “so-called” strong, the privileged members, who seem to think that only those of similar social status and similar gifts are a real part of the body.
True love for God compels us to promote hope, and healing. An authentic understanding of what God is calling us to, should compel us to hope and work for a day of reconciliation, justice, equality, peace, acceptance and dignity.
In order to do so, we must believe and affirm that every person, every gift is valuable. “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member, but many.” (vs14). God has given to us a variety of gifts, services and activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in us. Every person, every gift is valuable and needed in order for the body to function as God intended. We all possess various gifts and we bring our value and worth to the table of life! God
created us in God’s image and nothing or no one created in the image of God is worthless and useless! We humans devalue and place value on one another! Our limited understanding, our own self-righteousness, and our desire to be more and have more distracts us, derails us and sends us down the wrong path. We often treat one another with disregard and disrespect. The Bible tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought and off course we do! We see it every day as we watch the treatment of others at the hands of those who consider themselves to be entitled.
To function the way God intended, we must embrace love and affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. All of us are valuable and valued!
You are important
You are loved
You are needed
You are precious
You are useful (etc…)
You are valuable and valued!
Secondly, we must affirm that we need each other. “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor can the head say to the feet, I have no need of you.” “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
No one individual or group can do it all or know it all. But to each, God has given a part, and all parts work together to accomplish God’s will. We are in this together and we need each other.
The gospel artist Hezekiah Walker wrote this popular song:
I need you, you need me.
We’re all a part of God’s body.
Stand with me, agree with me.
We’re all a part of God’s body.
It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
Apart, we are merely severed pieces but, in Christ, we are made whole.
And finally, in this boat, we must recognize and acknowledge our need for God. We all need God. The bible tells us in Mark 4 that the disciples were in the boat together out to sea, when the storm arose. It was a fierce storm, and it tossed that boat up and down and side to side as it was taking on board the dangerous waters. Jesus was in the stern, asleep. In the midst of this storm, the disciples had reached their panic peak when someone remembered that Jesus was on the boat.
And so they went to Jesus saying, “Teacher, don’t you care that we will perish?” So Jesus got up and spoke to the wind and the sea, saying, “Peace be still”. Then the wind ceased and the storm calmed down.
Then Jesus spoke to them and said, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Often, people who do not embrace the tenets of social justice are afraid. They are afraid that to value someone else is to make themselves less valuable. They are afraid to admit their need for someone else because they believe it may project them as being weak. They are afraid to believe in a God that they think they have not seen and trust that God is true to God’s promises.
We, all of us are a part of God’s Family. We’re all in the same boat. And if we are to survive the storms, if we are to make it across dangerous waters, if we will make it through the hurling winds and the rushing waves, we must acknowledge our need for God.
A God who is able…
• to do all things
• to change hearts
• to change our way of thinking
• to protect and correct us
• to comfort and keep us
• guide and direct us
• to fill our cup to overflow
Stay in the boat! In God’s “Love Boat.” And God’s divine love will lead us all the way.
If we believe, if we have hope and have faith in God, God will give us a more excellent way! He will lead and guide us.
We’re ALL in the SAME boat now. JUSTICE FOR ALL.
Reverend Rosalyn G. Coleman, Presiding Elder
Columbia District African Methodist Episcopal Church