Sermon: Easter 7 RCL A – “Burn the Ships”

It is a bold move, but to go “all in” in poker is to put all your chips in the pot, betting everything on one hand of cards. Well, Boudreaux, Thibodeaux, Gustav, and a few others were playing their weekly game when Gustav gets a great hand dealt to him. The only thing that could beat him was a royal flush. Seeing it, he shoves all his chips into the center of the table and says, “I’m all in, and that includes every cent I have, my house, my boat, and my truck.”

Well, Thibodeaux had never been dealt one in his life, but he had that royal flush, and when he laid it out, ol’ Gustav stood up, grabbed his chest, and keeled over dead.

Thibodeaux looks at the other players and says, “Now, who is going to tell the wife?”

They draw straws. Boudreaux, who is always a loser, picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, and don’t make a bad situation any worse than it is.

“Gentlemen,” Bou says, “Discreet is my middle name. Leave it to me.”

Boudreaux finds Gustav’s wife and tells her. “Gustav done lost all yo money, house, boat, and pick’em up truck in the poker game, and now he’s afraid to come home.”


Boudreaux says, “I’ll tell him,” and walks away.

When I play poker—which isn’t all that often—I should go all in the first hand because I will end up losing it all anyhow.

The phrase “all in” has made it into popular culture and expresses the idea of putting in your best effort. Although, I think that softens it up a bit because you’re still likely holding onto something. I recently read a story on a friend’s blog that truly expresses what it means to go all in, but they use a different phrase to express it: burn the ships.

I don’t listen to much contemporary Christian music. Actually, I’ve gotten to where I don’t listen to much music unless I’m cooking or cleaning—I don’t know why. There is a band from Australia formed by two brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone. The band: For King and Country.

Luke spoke about the troubles his wife, Courtney, experienced during her pregnancy with their second child. Specifically, she suffered from some debilitating morning sickness. After enduring it for many weeks, she went to the doctor and was prescribed some medication.

I don’t know what went wrong, but Luke said that while on tour, he received a phone call from Courtney. She said, “I need you to come home. I can’t stop taking these pills.” In the end, she was hospitalized in a mental hospital. 

After much treatment, she began to do better, but a day came when she told her husband, “Luke, I’ve got to symbolize something. I’ve got to flush these pills down the toilet. I’m done. I’m done with the guilt and the shame. I’ve got to move into a new way. A new life.” Watching his wife flush those pills and make that new start reminded Luke of an event that has since taken on a certain mythology about the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés. 

The actual events are a bit different, but the story that Luke was thinking tells how Cortés and 600 men landed on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Cortés wanted to pursue and conquer Montezuma, but his men were not up for the battle, so Cortés gave the order: “Burn the ships.” Cut off every option except moving forward. Burn the ships.

Speaking of Courtney, Luke says, “When she was flushing those pills, the analogy of burning the ships came to me: the story of the sailors not wanting to explore the new world, wanting the comforts of their boats. Their leader calls them out and says, ‘We’ve got to burn the ships. This is a new world.’” From that, Luke wrote the song, Burn the Ships:

Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye

Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships
And don’t you look back

From our Gospel reading today: “Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” And a little further on, He said, “I glorified you [Father] on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” By finishing the work. 

To finish His work, Jesus would go to Jerusalem, be put on trial, suffer inhumane treatment, and finally be crucified. He knew it was coming and even told the disciples about it. (cf. Matthew 16:21) Jesus knew all that was to come, yet Jesus burned the ships. The only One He could rely on was His Father. “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” And then He gave up that spirit, but the Father did not abandon Him. 

In our lives, we may never be put in such a place as Jesus, but for each of us, there are likely ships we need to burn. For Courtney, Luke’s wife, it was the pills that, although she took as prescribed, she became addicted to. It may be some other addiction for others that needs to be “flushed” like she flushed those pills. 

The ships can come in all forms, including certain people in our lives. No… I am not suggesting that you burn people, but the links to those who tend to lead us astray should be severed. Perhaps that one is called burning bridges. The poet, Rudy Francisco, wrote, “Some say, don’t burn your bridges. I say, if necessary, let the kerosene kiss it on the lips and watch it turn to ash. There’s always more than one way to cross the water.”

The hope is that we will find the courage to take this life of ours that has been given to us by God and live it entirely for Him. So that, like Jesus, we can say, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” The trouble is that it can be a terrifying step. In our minds, it goes too far. If I give my life and my spirit to God, then what is left for me?

Imagine: a young boy’s mother sends him to town to buy bread and fish, giving him her last coin. He does as asked, but on the way home, as he walks in the wilderness, he encounters a large crowd on a hillside. They’ve been listening to a preacher, but now it is time to eat, and no one has any food. The preacher comes to the boy and asks that he give him all he has so that he can feed this crowd of thousands. “But I only have a couple of fish and five small loaves of bread,” the boy says. “It will be enough,” the man answers. So, not because he believed there was enough to go around, but because he believed the man’s words, the boy burned the ships and gave the man the fish and the bread, all that he had. In the end, everyone had more than enough to eat, and when it was over, the preacher returned to the boy and said, “You gave me all you had, and I now return it to you.” But instead of handing the boy back his two fish and five loaves of bread, the preacher gives him twelve baskets filled and overflowing with fish and bread. 

The same is true in our life with God. We give Him everything, and in doing so, we will find our cup running over. Understand, I’m not talking about financial gain or temporal rewards—although that is a possibility—but I am talking about rewards that are lasting and eternal: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22) Go all in with God.  Burn the bridges that need to be burned, burn the ships to the past and those things that you shouldn’t be holding onto, and then watch the cup overflow in God’s eternal blessings to you.

Let us pray:
Father in Heaven,
ever-living source of all that is good,
keep us faithful in serving You.
Help us to drink of Christ’s Truth,
and fill our hearts with His Love
so that we may serve You in faith
and love and reach eternal life.
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist
You give us the joy of sharing Your Life.
Keep us in Your presence.
Let us never be separated from You
and help us to do Your Will.

4 Replies to “Sermon: Easter 7 RCL A – “Burn the Ships””

  1. LOVE this sermon! My new “John Toles favorite “
    You are such a talented writer and speaker… God does fine work through you. thank you 😊❤️‍🩹

  2. I was waiting for the rest of the story, where the mom gives the boy the last coin to buy food, and he comes back with a bag of “magic beans!” (ie; Jack & the Beanstalk.) But I like the real version you used and the real miracle from the Bible feeding over 5000 instead!

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