Originally scheduled for June 14
To those who are weekend sailors, the flag
usually is interpreted as “Lima.” It’s usually flown in a series of
flags to indicate the letter “L.” If, however, you look in the
manual you will find this flag has a different meaning when flown
all by itself:
When flown by itself it means that the ship in
question is under quarantine. The word “quarantine” comes from an
Italian expression meaning “40 days.” Flying such a flag meant that
no one on board could come ashore until the port authorities
permitted. The idea of quarantine itself dates back at least to the
time of the Levitical law. In the Old Testament, however, quarantine
usually lasted seven days, not 40.
There is a problem with the concept of
quarantine; an ethical problem. In theory at least, quarantine saves
the lives of those who are not exposed to the disease. That’s the
good news. But it also increases the risk of death for those who are
on board the ship. A ship involves close quarters and the chance of
being exposed is greatly increased. So it appears that we are
sacrificing the lives of those on board ship to save those who are
not. But I would point out to you a specific moral dilemma: what
about the doctor? If you’re a medical professional, do you go aboard
a plague ship? Or do you just wait out the 40 days and see who’s
left? With modern equipment the answer usually is the doctor will go
aboard, but the moral dilemma hasn’t really left us.
In a much greater sense there is a divine
dilemma which is quite similar. If you are God Almighty, what do you
do with a planet full of sinners? You might argue that we’ve already
been quarantined; outer space is big and we are small. But there is
the dilemma: you have a planet full of sinners. Do you just wait
until the disease works itself out — say, in an all-out nuclear war?
Or do you go down to the planet and try to fix things?
You know the answer. God came to earth in the
person of Jesus, his Son.
The solution to his moral dilemma was that mercy triumphs
over judgment (James 2:13). By his sacrifice on the cross Christ
resolved the divine dilemma. But at what price? Remember what it
cost for you to be rescued from quarantine: the body and blood of
Jesus Christ. As you partake this morning, remember. He died so that
you might live, abundantly and eternally. Consider these things
well, and then partake.