Legend whispers to us of a fierce and fearsome pirate known as Jose´ Gaspar, the last of the buccaneers who once controlled the waters off the coast of Florida. In the twelve years of his dreaded reign, he is said to be responsible for the plunder and destruction of no less than 36 ships, leaving behind a sunken remnant with their crews killed and their women ravaged. Today, the tales of his exploits come to us in hushed tones saturated in myth, and little evidence remains of his once terrifying tyranny.
So what do you do with a mythical villain of bloody legend?
You make him the patron rogue of Tampa, Florida, and host an annual event to celebrate his invasion of the seaport city. What else?
As the crowds gather this January to don pirate regalia and speak in strange, broken dialects, the odd Gasparilla celebration prompts questions of our own human nature. Something about pirates resonates with us. We find ourselves drawn to the promise of danger, adventure, and the legacy of long-forgotten treasure.
For Christians, it presents a marked contrast between the perilous escapades of the seafarer and the protected shores of the “good kids.”
Yet, this isn’t the story I read when I thumb through the history of the early church. Gleaming chapels that shelter us from worldly danger were never penned into the book of Acts. I read a different story, a story of intrigue and wonder, of risky faith and heroic living. I read of those who stepped beyond the protected pew and into a saga that would shake up the entire world.
It is a saga we would do well to recover.
So, with this in mind, here are three tips to reclaim your inner pirate.
Pirate Tip #1: Walk The Plank
In Matthew 14 we come across the tale of sailors trapped at sea in the midst of a raging storm. Here, aboard their tiny vessel, they face the fierce onslaught of whipping wind, pummeling waves, and the inky black of the midnight sky. Then, in the midst of their perfect storm, they see the mysterious shape of their savior walking upon the crashing waves.
It was Peter who was willing to walk the plank. Yelling against the screaming wind, he asked that water-walking figure to invite him to step out upon the churning sea. Permission received, he leapt from the boat to discover that the liquid beneath his toes happened to support his weight. Even as his faith wavered and he began to sink, it was Jesus that would pluck him from the murky brine, and together they stood as the wind and the waves swirled about them.
To walk the plank means to step out in risky faith.
Pirate Tip #2: Draw The Guards
It was in the city of Damascus that the newly converted Saul/Paul unleashed the pirate within. Filled with passionate boldness, his proclamation quickly drew the wrath of the city’s religious defenders. Placing their sentries, they sought to capture and kill the apostolic troublemaker. As Acts 9:20-25 tells it, Paul made his escape in overwhelmingly pirate fashion: through a basket lowered outside the city gates in the dead of night.
I can almost hear him calling back as he fled the city: “Gentlemen, I trust you will always remember this day as the day that you almost caught Apostle Paul of Tarsus.”
To draw the guards is to be willing to operate in passionate boldness.
Pirate Tip #3: Commandeer A Crew
The water-walking pirate Peter did not abandon his piratehood that day upon the Sea of Galilee. We see him again in the second chapter of Acts, once more encountering a swirling wind. This wind, however, bore upon its lofty gales miraculous tongues of fire. As the flame settled into Peter’s chest, he stepped out onto the balcony and spoke.
That day, three thousand came to be followers of Peter’s Captain. In that fateful moment, the church was born and we came to realize that we were never intended to sail life’s waters alone. Christianity is embedded within community. Our spiritual voyage is only fully realized when we raise the sails alongside other followers of our great and glorious Pirate Lord.
To commandeer a crew is to become part of a vibrant faith community.
So there you have it, scallywags. Raise the sails and draw anchor.
The sea awaits.