"Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters…
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits' end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and God brought them out from their distress…
and God brought them to their desired haven." - Psalm 107:23, 26-30
They that go down to the sea in ships do so for all manner of business, and it's strange how much of it is romanticized, at least among landlubbers. There are fishers. There are merchant mariners. There are marine biologists. There are cruisers and pleasure-boaters. There are pirates, and there are warriors. Each of these has its own kind of mystique, its own romance in the popular imagination.
But there are some occupations at sea nobody paints heroic pictures of. Slave trader comes to mind. People-smuggler. And perhaps most of all: refugee.
The open sea loses every ounce of its romance when what's sailing over the bounding main is an ancient boat full of people fleeing terror in their homelands and refused permission to land anywhere. Have you ever heard of a kid playing refugee dress-up?
The psalmist claims that God pays special attention to those tossed about on the sea. The rest of the Bible makes clear God's particular concern for migrants and refugees. As I write, southeast Asia is wondering what to do about Rohingya migrants trapped in boats off its shores, and Europe is wondering what to do about boats full of migrants trapped off its shores. Today is World Refugee Day; learn how you can help here.
Some go down to the sea in ships for business. Some do it to save their lives. Let's join God in steering them to safe haven.
Oh, Lord. As if persecution, war, and starvation weren't enough. For those contending with the dangers of the sea, too, we pray. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.