The Great Ships of Heaven on Earth
There Go the Ships!  Psalms 104:26

Jackson Snyder  June 12, 2005

Dedicated to Cornelius Henderson (1934 – 2000)

Though he became a bishop, he remained a kind man.


Britain Honors 1805 Trafalgar Triumph


Cornelius Henderson Ships of the ChurchJackson Snyder Bible    Search and Study     All Sermons  

Go directly to the Message   Quotes from The Cost of Discipleship by D. Bonhoeffer
Sailors’ Prayer   Holy Spirit Prayer   Story: It Is the Captain’s Lookout


I’m gonna take a trip
In the good old gospel ship,
My dear Savior has paid my fare;
I’ll hear the trumpet sound
Then I’ll leave this sinful ground,
And go sailing through the air.



Literal translation: Yochanan (John) 6:16 And when it became late[1], his students went down on the sea, 17 and going into a boat, went across the sea to Kaphar Nachum[2], and it had already become dark and Yahshua had not yet come to them.  18 And the sea was raised up by the blowing of a great wind.

   19 So, having rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia[3], they observed Yahshua walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they feared. 20 But he says to them, I AM![4]  Fear not!  21 Hence they wished to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was about the land to which they were going.



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Psalms 104:24. How countless are your works, Yahweh, all of them made so wisely! The earth is full of your creatures. 25. Then there is the sea, with its vast expanses teeming with countless creatures, creatures both great and small; 26. there go the ships (RSV), and Leviathan whom you made to sport with.  27. They all depend upon you, to feed them when they need it. 28. You provide the food they gather, your open hand gives them their fill. 29. Turn away your face and they panic; take back their breath and they die and revert to dust.  30. Send out your breath and life begins; you renew the face of the earth.

   31. Glory to Yahweh forever!  May Yahweh find joy in his creatures!  32. At his glance the earth trembles, at his touch the mountains pour forth smoke.  33. I shall sing to Yahweh all my life, make music for my Elohim as long as I live.  34. May my musings be pleasing to him, for Yahweh gives me joy.  35. May sinners vanish from the earth, and the wicked exist no more!  Bless Yahweh, my soul.


Acts 2:42-47 excerpts: And the believers continued steadfastly in teaching and fellowship and breaking bread, and prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed had all things common; sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, as each had need. And they continued with one accord in the temple and in breaking bread from house to house praising Yahweh and gaining favor. And Yahweh added to the assembly daily those being rescued.


James 3:4. Or think of ships: no matter how big they are, even if a gale is driving them, they are directed by a tiny rudder wherever the whim of the helmsman decides. 5. So the tongue is only a tiny part of the body, but its boasts are great. Think how small a flame can set fire to a huge forest; 6. The tongue is a flame too. Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world: it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation. 7. Wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish of every kind can all be tamed, and have been tamed, by humans; 8. but nobody can tame the tongue


I have stood on the deck of a ship while she was toiling upstream, with wind and water against her, and I have gone up to the man at the wheel, and said: “Jack, why don’t you ease her off a point or two? You see how it would relieve her.” But the answer was: “No, I can’t luff; that is the point of the compass the captain gave me, and I must keep her to it.” “But man,” I remonstrated, “if you keep her as she is, soon the bulwarks will be stove in, and there is every chance that under this fearful strain she may spring a leak.” “That is none of my business; it is the captain’s lookout. All I have to do is to obey his orders,” was the man’s answer. The captain, however, understood his business, and we arrived safe in harbor.

   Sometimes if we do exactly as our Shipmaster commands, it appears as if our business would be ruined, our reputation lost—as if, indeed, we should be totally wrecked. That, however, is the captain’s lookout.  All we have to do is to implicitly obey. —Sir Wm. Scott.


Ships Away!

   The Napoleonic Wars of 200 years ago may be one reason we’re gathered today.  Thousands of Europeans fled in ships to escape the horrors of constant war on their continent.  Your ancestors may’ve been among these pilgrims; mine were.  My ancestor, Jacob Schneider, was mustered into the Hessian army as a teen.  80% of Hessian soldiers died; Jacob was a survivor.  (I understand Hesse came to terms with Napoleon early since the people of this area are descended from the Franks of the tribe of Reuben.)  Having lost his youth to warfare, Jacob was determined his children wouldn’t be drafted.  His family, along with thousands of others, packed a few things and made long trip to Bremen, then off in mighty ships bound for Ellis Island.


The Jesus Boat

   Ships were the only means of mass travel over the vast reaches of sea and ocean – where only Yahweh and Leviathan dare to play.  Boats, smaller than ships, were personal means of travel on lakes and rivers.  Our Savior’s headquarters was a seashore town – Capernaum.  Many accounts of how he boated from one side of the Kinneret Sea to the other have survived; how he walked on the water to a boat, fished with Peter from a boat, calmed the storm from a boat, met the demoniac in disembarking. 

   The image of Yahshua as Shipmaster is made clearer by the discovery of an ancient boat near Capernaum in 1986.  The Sea of Galilee was at low ebb.  The wooden boat was found buried in the berm.  Debris was cleared from the fragile structure; it was enclosed in foam and floated out.  Carbon dating placed the boat to 40 AD.  It was built to last from the wood of older boats.  It’s ribbed, mortared and nailed together.  At 26½ feet long, 7½ feet wide and 4½ feet high, it’s large enough to accommodate 13 men.  ¿Could this be the boat that carried the Master and disciples on their journeys?  Appropriately, it’s now displayed as “The Jesus Boat.”

   Just as our Master made his way across the sea, we still make our way in ships – the “ships of the church.”  Without these impressive behemoths of the Master’s Navy, we couldn’t negotiate the treacherous foam to the promised land – we could win no battles nor take any prizes.  We would be lost.



   We first set out in the passenger cruiser, “The FELLOW-SHIP.”  Today, “fellowship” reminds many of the motion picture The Fellowship of the Ring.  J. R. R. Tolkien, the poet who wrote the novels, was a devoted Catholic and wrote Lord of the Rings to illustrate the struggle between good and evil, and how good may triumph if fellowship is strong.  Passages from The Lord of the Rings are now used in homes and churches all over as the basis for devotions, prayers and meditation.  Do you know the story?

   The fellowship of hobbits, elves, men and trolls discovers the continent to be threatened by ultimate evil and destruction.  More than fate has summoned them: they must save their world together.  The members of the Fellowship, though very different, must learn interdependence and how to sacrifice for the good of the group and the mission.  There’s comradeship, “fun” and joyful times in the Fellowship.  But there’s also grave risk, danger and … well … some don’t finish alive.

   We read about The Fellow-Ship of the Cross in Acts 2:42-47: that we must “take up the Master’s cross” and follow.  Thus we’re yoked to Him in fellowship.  On this fellowship cruise, we enjoy meals, Communions, and daily life together as we carry on the mission of our biblical forerunners.  Our fellowship consists not only of those we see, but of those we don’t – comrades of all eons are here, even angels, joined in common cause, mission and destination. 

   We don’t share all things in common anymore, but nobody in the fellowship goes without as long as someone has.  We pray for each other daily – we practice agape-charity.  We love one another – we’ve become family.  Like that of the Fellowship of the Ring, we must save the world, although many in the lower levels of the ship have, as yet, only learned to save themselves.



   Having arrived in the Fellowship, we board the WOR-SHIP, so named after the old English sloop WORTH-SHIP.  Worthship means we let Yahweh know what he’s worth to us.  For us to get through to Him, the course has to be set in accordance with the Master’s compass.  His compass reads, “Pray the Father in my name.”  It doesn’t read, “Just say ‘in Jesus’ name’ at the end of you prayer.”  His compass reads, “love me and obey my orders, then pray the Father.”  Obedience to the compass is the only way to guide the WOR-SHIP.  One can’t worship unless she has first understood what a great sacrifice was required to get her aboard; the privilege must be highly valued; her greatest loyalty is expected. 

   Assuming she’s grateful and obedient, she may pray: “Hallowed by thy name.”  75% who pray this prayer don’t the Name; how can they hallow it?  But we know the head of our company –Yahweh, the Mighty One of Israel.  Somebody on the Worship has to tell them! 

   The Master assured us we could worship in the hope that He’ll reign and His will shall be done – here on the ship exactly as in His Heaven.  We worship for we believe, like those of the Fellowship of the Ring, that His reign will destroy all evil; but now he needs our fellowship’s help to usher in His reign. 

   Some matey later added words to the Master’s instructions: “Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever.”  True worship means what is to come is already here. I say, “the time is up, the Reign of Yahweh is already upon us.”  The very ones who think that’s a crazy idea pray every week, “Thine is the Kingdom Forever.”  Worship never consists in words one neither understands nor believes.  But we understand and believe.  We worship the present Commander, not a figment of the imagination from the future.



   Going out from the WOR-SHIP every day are many small boats carrying worshipers here and there.  These boats are called WORK-SHIPS.  Now workships are essential to the economy of the Worship in that they take worshipers to work.  Workships have two lieutenants – Lt. Faith and Lt. Work.  Lts. Faith and Work are dependent on each other.  If one wanes, the other fails.  If one prospers, the other grows stronger.  Faith is trusting the Master from afar.  Work is being obedient in his absence.  When a pilgrim does as Lt. Work tells him, then Lt. Faith, who’s usually hidden in the steering room, pops out and is seen by all.  When someone takes a Work-ship, he reveals the image of the Fleet Commander to all. 

   But the good done must be that which is approved.  One famous Captain said, “A great ship is steered by a tiny rudder.”  In other words, hold your tongue and listen for orders.  You’ll want to do good thinking you’re doing your Master a favor.  But even good done without Lt. Faith’s direction is bad.  And Faith without Works is dead. 



   Having landed again, we connect with the STEWARD-SHIP.  A steward is a person who manages another’s property, finances and affairs.  When you take the Stewardship, you’re the captain, but the ship isn’t yours.  Everything aboard belongs to the owner.  You take charge, and your wages depend on where you sail and what you do with the property, money and affairs aboard.

   Woe to anyone who says, “I’m the captain now, I’ll do as I please, I’ll get all the credit.  I shall pull myself up by the bootstraps.”  Captain, sir – remember your orders:

   One young sailor was given charge of ten pounds of measly beef.  He set up a hamburger stand on board and made a couple hundred dollars, which was due back to the Master.  The Master said, “You’ve been a good steward over a little.  Now run this city because I want to extend my influence.”  Another sailor got five pounds of salt pork.  He sold it to the B. K. for their new Angus Burgers, and made twenty-five dollars, which was due back to the Master.  The Master said, “Not bad –you could’ve gotten twenty-seven dollars at Wendy’s, but I’m give you a village.  We’ll see how you do.” 

   The third sailor got a pound of flesh.  He put it in a napkin and hid it on the poop deck.  When the Master called accounts, he said,

I knows ya was a mean Mastah and I ain’t never had nothin’ before and jis wanna gie it all back.  So I done hid it unda da picka barrah on de poop deck.  When I heared you was comin’, I went to get it, but Ol’ Farfel done scratched it out and it gone!  Bad doggie!” 

The Master said, “You lame fool; Go to blazes!

   Stewardship isn’t just about money.  The promise is for TIME, TALENTS, GIFTS, SERVICE.  Yahweh gave you these before you started out.  And unless you’re a slave to the devil, He’s your Master, whether you like his service or not.  He expects a return. 

   Some sailors are gonna fly away to a “Mansion Over the Hilltop.”  But after the Master’s scrutiny, they’ll be thrilled to empty slop jars on a slave ship rather than going to blazes.  Invest profitably in the now so later you’ll win that commendation.



   We’ve taken four ships from lands of sin and war – going from port to port.  But now we ascend the gangplank of the biggest ship of all.  You could put the other four ships into this one, and you must.  For this is the DISCIPLE-SHIP; there are a thousand pilgrims here.  You’d expect more, but most decided not to come because the seas are rough, the waves high – careers, society and entertainments might be lost on the Discipleship. 

   Our Captain is Right Doctrine – not religious notions, but the Word of Yahweh.  The Lieutenants are Discipline and Accountability.   Lt. Discipline gives pilgrims a well-defined routine to follow – the same as the clouds of prior witnesses.  Lt. Accountability sees that pilgrims keep to the routine and to the Word.  He employs a multitude of busy little chaplains to keep the pilgrims in unity and the cost of discipleship down. 

   Many foolish souls fall off the reeling Disciple-ship into the freezing seas where they’re lost forever.  Others die untimely, trying to save them.  Some, after completing the journey, can’t leave the ship because they’re still needed aboard as mates.  Others make it safely to land and are proud in the Master; but they only stay aground a short time.  They won’t rest until they see Gloryland


Friendship Sonship

   For the ship that takes a pilgrim to glory there is two ships in one.  It’s called the FRIEND-SHIP / SON-SHIP.  Though a double ship, it’s still quite small, and only holds a few.  But the Friendship-Sonship steers directly to Gloryland.  There’s no Captain here; all aboard are captains, and there’s but one tenet, laid down by the Master when the ship was constructed with old Roman wood and nails.  That tenet:

John 15:12-15.  I command you to love one another as I’ve loved you.  Greater love has none than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.  You’re my friends if you do as I say.  No longer do I call are you sailors, for a sailor doesn’t know what his captain is doing; but I’ve called you friends, for all that I’ve heard from the Commander I’ve made known to you. 

   When we board the Friendship-Sonship, we are one in the bond of love.  Every victory and sacrifice is reason to rejoice, for this ship will never sink: having been conditioned for treacherous voyages by Sacrificial Love.



   Let me end this essay with two warnings and an example.  As you sail forth in the Ships of the Church, beware of P. T. Boats.  P. T. stands for Part Time.  These boats conceal part-time religious hobbyists who’ll try to destroy anything you’ve acquired by making shipwreck of your faith.  Beware also the Old Battleships – especially those with the motto painted across their bows, “We Old Battleships have always done it this way.”  Old Battleships have destroyed whole fleets of the Master’s ships; for, “loose lips sink ships.”


Holy Spirit Wind

   Now back to the Napoleonic Wars:  Napoleon was poised to attack England with his considerable armada from Spain.  His Admiral, Villeneuve, commanded a large part of the fleet in port at Cadiz.  Napoleon commanded him to meet up with other ships at Cartegena to form and invincible force.  However, when the Admiral tried to depart, there was no wind.  Only a few ships sailed away from shore.  It was days before the big ones could depart.  This delay led to the decisive sea Battle of Trafalgar (1805), in which Admiral Villeneuve was captured and 14,000 of his men lost.  Only eleven French ships made it to Cadiz.  No wind, no victory, high casualties

   Likewise our ships, all of them, run on wind power – the power is the Holy Wind fills our sails.  If the Spirit isn’t with us, or we’re not in the Wind, our ships quickly flag and fall to the enemy.  The Spirit blows where it will – it’s our duty as sailors to seek out the wind and get our ships into it before the Old Battleships find us helpless and take us with fiery darts.


Ships of the Church

   Fellowship, Worship, Workship, Stewardship, Discipleship, Friendship and Sonship – these are the Ships of the Church.  Here come the ships!  ALL ABOARD!


I shall sing to Yahweh all my life, make music for my Elohim as long as I live.  May my musings be pleasing to him, for Yahweh gives me joy.  May sinners vanish from the earth, and the wicked exist no more!  Bless Yahweh, O my soul.




Let me live, O Mighty Master Through this war. Yet if I’m slain

Tasting triumph and disaster Joy, and not too much of pain

Let me roam the raging waters For a while to love and laugh,

And when I’m beneath the ocean, Let this be my Epitaph -


There sleeps one who took his chances In that war-crazed tragic hell

Battled luck and circumstances, Loved and laughed, but fought and fell

Victor, then he did no crowing Wounded, then he did not wail;

Cursed and swore, but kept going, Never let his courage fail.


He was fallible and human, Therefore loved and understood

By his fellow men and women Whether good, or not so good.

Kept his spirit undiminished Had a laugh for every friend,

Fought for freedom till it finished, Lived, loved, laughed, until the end.

   -- Petty Officer H B Shipstone of HMAS SYDNEY – 1941


O Holy Spirit, by whose breath life rises vibrant out of death:
Come to create, renew, inspire; Come kindle in our hearts your fire.
You are the seeker’s sure resource, of burning love and living source,
Protector in the midst of strife, Thou giver and the Lord of Life.
In you God’s energy is shown, to us your varied gifts made known.
Yours is the tongue and yours the ear. Teach us to speak, teach us to hear.
Flood our dull senses with your light; in mutual love our hearts unite.
Your power the whole creation fills; confirm our weak, uncertain wills.

Rockets Used on Ships

Now your children can learn Hebrew

[1] lateopsialate in the day, evening maybe.

[2] Kaphar Nachum – Capernaum.

[3] Three or four miles.

[4] I AM - ego eimi – Exodus 3:14,15 Septuagint, egw eimi 'w 'wn, kai eipen, 'outwV ereiV toiV 'uioiV israhl, 'w 'wn apestalke me pros 'umaV

I     AM  the ONE, and he said, so     say    to the sons of Israel, the ONE has sent  me   to  you all.