The Voyage of the Damned

This is the title of a 1976 movie and 1974 book based on a true WWII era event. A ship with over 900 Jews sailed from Germany to Cuba in 1939 because of the rising tide of anti-Semitism.  Cuba wouldn’t receive them neither would the United States. Eventually some European countries accepted some but the book suggests that some 600 ended up dying in concentration camps.  I pair this book with another written by Rev. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery titled Damned Through the Church.

The January 30 – February 14, 2014 voyage of the Holland America ship Statendam was not the voyage of the damned. How do I know? I have the Protestant Worship service for the cruise. It contains a real confession of real sins and real forgiveness in Jesus’ name of those sins. Admittedly, I don’t have the Meditation from this service, and you can undo the Gospel quite easily in even a 5 minute meditation. However, I know this. “Jack’s Travel,” the agency sponsoring the cruise, proclaimed the Gospel in their order of service.

The same time frame as this cruise was going on the good ship Redeemer Lutheran Church set sail on their round of Thursday and Sunday services: liturgical, blended, and praise. Presumably in the first two praise isn’t going on. But I digress. I don’t have the order of service but I do have the sermon outline.  You know those things people in pew are supposed to fill out while the pastor preaches that are about as challenging as “Where’s Waldo?” Talk about the dumbing down of America.

Here is the pastor’s outline from a sermon series on “Family Values.” This one was on “Generosity.” The only thing I’m leaving out is the Bible passages from Ephesians which are all admonitions of the Law. Part 1. Be Generous With. Part 2. Be Generous With. There is a subset here “4 Things Parents Should Teach Regarding Money.” They are “How to” things which you dutifully fill in as the pastor “chants” them. Part 3. Be Generous With. And Part 4. Be Generous With.  Just to be sure you know where this cruise was heading let me quote the discussion questions at the end. “Which area of generosity is your strength? Your growth area? What step can you take this week will help you grow in this area?”

Tell me: Which group was really on the voyage of the damned this week?  Had those sailing on the LCMS Redeemer went on the secular cruise they would have gotten more Gospel in their worship service than in this sermon.

Supposedly, in the actual voyage of the damned 200 Jews said they were prepared to join hands and jump overboard if no nation would receive them.  How do sincere laypeople – if they have been catechized at all in the distinction between Law and Gospel – not jump off such a ship leading them to either the destination of Despair or Self-Righteousness?

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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