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Holding back the Sea by John McHugh

Holding back the Sea by John McHugh

Group Pastoral Letter for
January 2018

On Thursday 30th November I had the privilege of speaking at the St Andrews Days service, at St Andrews Art Centre. I would like to share with you what I believe God led me to share as I reflected on Psalm 23 – the Mariner’s Version by Captain J. Rogers (a copy is at the end of the letter)


Have you ever felt at Sea – either in the literal sense of being at sea, when the wind gets up and a storm looms; the unsteady rocking of a boat as the waves batter the sides.
Or the metaphorical sense, when life seems to chew you up and spit you out, leaving you feeling puzzled, perplexed, bewildered, overwhelmed or confused. It’s not a phrase I hear very much, these days, but it is a phase that came to mind when I read Psalm 23, the feeling of being at sea – uncertain of a situation, not feeling like your feet are on firm ground.


I cannot help but to reflect on how God is my Pilot.

The one who is for the most part a solo sailor, keeping close to the harbour, guiding ships in and out, to keep them safe from sandbank, rocks, and other hidden dangers that lurk below the surface of the sea.
Life in all its technicolour glory can be as dangerous to navigate as the harbour, with the changing tides and shifting sea beds, what was once a firm footing can sometimes disappear.
No matter how experiences we are, how confident we can feel about the direction we are going, where we think our future is going, nothing can ever be certain. Life has a funny way of sneaking up on us – with sudden redundancy, or ill health, or the joys of celebrations, with the birth of babies, or promotion or even retirement. Things can change, and sometimes these changes take us by surprise; and we find ourselves at sea; uncertain of how our future is going to look.
It is into these moments of life that the words of Psalm 23 come, and the image of God the Pilot comes.

It is into the moments of uncertainty, that we can be comforted by God the Pilot who does not take over, for we are still the captain of our lives, but comes and journeys with us, guides us, gives us the strength to stay the course.

Unlike the nautical pilot, God doesn’t disembark when we leave the safety of the harbour, but remains with us, in the background, for God is the pilot of life, and the whole of life is known to God.
That doesn’t mean to say that life will be easy, or plain sailing. The storms will continue to come, the tides will continue to change; but we will not be alone.

For the Lord is our pilot, and he will not let us drift, for he leads us across the dark waters, he guides us by the stars. Even though we sail though thunder and storms, we shall not fear, for the Lord is with us, his love and grace are our shelter.

In these words, we find hope, in these words we hear the reassurance of God’s eternal love. No matter how stormy the seas of life gets, God our Pilot will lead us through.


May the grace and love of God be your guide this New Year,


Psalm 23 - the Mariner’s Version by Captain J. Rogers.

The Lord is my Pilot;
I shall not drift.
He leadeth me across the dark waters
and steereth me in the deep channels.
He keepeth my Log
and guideth me by the star of holiness
for His Name's sake.
Yea, though I sail amid
the thunders and tempests of life,
I shall dread no danger,
For Thou art with me;
Thy love and Thy care, they shelter me.
Thou preparest a harbor before me
in the homeland of eternity;
Thou anointest the waves with oil,
and my ship rideth calmly,
Surely sunlight and starlight
shall favor me all the days of my voyaging,
and I will rest in the port of my Lord forever.

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Updated: 01-Jan-2018  
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