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Dave Hack leaves behind the city lights of Perth for a week on the rough ocean, where he finds hope and peace in unexpected places.

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Dave Hack is the Young Adults Pastor at Riverview Church in Perth, and a member of the Common Grace board.

Today's reading is Isaiah 9:2-7

Have you ever been so far away from the lights of the city that the night sky is no longer black?

One of my favourite experiences was a week spent on a tall ship off the coast of Western Australia. It was a week literally 'learning the ropes', beginning with discovering the names of over 100 ropes. It was a week facing my fear of heights, as I climbed masts over 30 metres tall. And it was a week breathing in the awe-inspiring beauty of the open ocean, while humbly discovering the overwhelming power of the wind and waves.

Late one night we were sailing 30 nautical miles out to sea, and with the lights of Perth city a faint glow on the horizon behind us I experienced a phenomenon like no other. I was sitting on the bow of the boat as it pitched up and down violently in a four-metre swell, when I realised the night sky had become a colour I'd never seen. With no moon and no city lights to wash it out, the sky was filled with stars. Rather than a black night-sky, above me was a now bright incandescent ceiling, while below was a turbulent black sea. It was a little disorienting yet completely captivating; it was an inversion of what felt ‘normal’.

But with no moon, there was no light to illuminate the roaring ocean. No way to see the oncoming relentless swells that were throwing around the hull of this 100-foot long ship. Up and down we went, as easily as I pick up and play with my young nephews. The turmoil and chaos of the ocean swell was unsettling for many of my crew mates, but to me there was an unexpected beauty in it. Just like my nephews asking for ‘more’, I couldn’t get enough of the thrilling, lurching movement. And it was lucky that I enjoyed it; on this night, it was my only option!

Movement on the ocean is only thrilling when you can see either the horizon or the heavens above. This was why I was on the bow that night. Without a reference point for your eyes to place you, your brain cannot make sense of the inner ear's sensation of motion, and that is why many become violently ill. Ask any salty sea dog and he’ll tell you to “keep your eyes on the horizon!”

Today’s passage speaks to our need for hope in a troubled world, where the undercurrent of oppression and injustice is an unpredictable, black and stormy sea that rightly disturbs us. If we don’t look to our horizon of hope found in our ‘Prince of Peace’, who has inverted the ‘normal’ order of the world, the sea will make us sick, immobilising us, and holding us back from playing our part in fairness and justice of his rule. It’s our only option.

Daily Reading Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

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