In the 2003 movie Master and Commander (greatest movie of all time, btw), an uneducated sailor in the British Royal Navy named Joe Plaice receives a violent blow to his head during a storm at sea. The injury results in a depressed skull fracture that pushes against his brain. In 1805, the setting of the movie, this is a sure death sentence. However, in a passing but dramatic scene, the uncommonly skilled ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin, uses a circular hand saw to cut out the damaged section of Ol' Joe's skull and then seals the hole back up using a coin that has been customized for the job by the ship's blacksmith. Joe makes a complete recovery and returns to his rum-swilling, Bible quoting ways.
I mention this story for two reasons. The first is Joe's tattoo. On the outside of each finger of both hands, just below the knuckles, is etched a letter. When Joe puts his two hands together, they read H-O-L-D F-A-S-T. I cannot come up with a more concise directive for how to live the Christian life. Summed up in this phrase is Jesus' greatest commandment: "Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37 NIV). Hold fast.
The second reason I mention this story is that Joe's surgery is a good analogy for God's work of sanctification in us. I am baptized and clothed in Jesus' righteousness. Amen. But I am living and working and engaging with this broken world. And in the words of Long John Silver (another disreputable sailor), "You can't touch pitch and not be mucked."
I continue to fail, fall, flounder and then refute my Father. And He continues to pick me up, hold me, calm me, correct me, and reassure me.
This is God's surgery. It's often painful but He is not so much interested in my being happy as he is in my being holy. And he will perform any radical surgery necessary in order to make that happen. Hold fast.
But holding fast to Christ is not easy. Remember, He will never leave us or forsake us, but we have the 'freedom' to ignore His call and go our own way. This is idolatry. The word has an Old Testament ring to it but I'm confident that it's more common today than it was when the Israelites were wandering the Sinai Peninsula.
It does not require a golden calf, or a wooden statue, or incense. It requires only that we place something or someone before Christ in our hearts and in our affections. Whatever or whoever that is becomes an idol.
In the book of Revelation, John was given a harrowing (and confusing!) vision of Christ's ultimate authority over and final judgment of the world. John's tour guide through this vision was an angel. This angel, "...had great authority and the earth was illuminated by his splendor" (18:1 NIV). At one point, John is overcome with emotion, or awe, or simply overcome, and he falls down at the feet of the angel to worship him! But the angel quickly condemns this behavior, saying, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" (19:10 NIV). So in the midst of the most intense vision of Christ's plan for humanity, John succumbs to idolatry. If it happened to him it'll happen to us. Hold fast.
In all of our relationships, including our relationship with Jesus, we choose, at various times, to turn towards, turn away, or turn against the other person.
In the day of trouble, I encourage you to choose to turn toward Christ. When you're tempted to fall back to your addiction or seek distraction in action, turn to Christ instead, though it may seem impossible to do (believe me I know). Hold fast to Him and you will discover that you are already held.
Submitted by Fursey McCormack, Queens Parish Member.