Thursday, May 13, 2010

In OZ (5) Captain Cook

The last two days have completed my duties here as I taught an intensive (well-named) to a class of 13 preachers completing post-graduate studies. It's been very stimulating with excellent interaction. In so many ways their experience is much closer to my UK background than my US context. Not just in terms of dealing with secularism but the way their churches are governed etc. But then Australia still has the Queen!

Flying over I read a large biography of Captain James Cook. It's been sitting on my shelf for a long time and it seemed appropriate to retrace his story. Captain Cook had such impact - both positive and negative. He failed to recognize the value of Sydney Harbour and he stated there were very few Aboriginal peoples so that land could be claimed as though almost uninhabited. But his feat in arriving here for the first time is extraordinary.

His instructions from the Lords of the Admiralty (July 30 1768) included these words: Whereas there is reason to imagine that there is a Continent or Land of great extent, may be found to the southward....You are to proceed to the southward in order to make discovery of the Continent above mentioned.

The biographer Richard Hough writes:

Today...when man has walked on the moon and contrived numberless devices and
inventions which have transformed life on earth, we can still stand back in
wonder at the dimensions of these orders, at the sheer effrontery of asking
nearly one hundred men to embark in a wooden vessel, scarcely more than 100 feet
in length, and dependent for its mobility upon the whim of winds and currents
and tides, to sail to the other side of a world only dimly charted, there to
carry out an exacting observation, and then to discover a completely uncharted
content, survey its coastline and take note of its characteristics.
Perhaps an even greater wonder was that men of experience and wisdom were
prepared to take on this undertaking and with pleasure and excitement.

You do have to marvel. It stirs in me other pictures too...of just eleven men at the end of Matthew's gospel being told to go and make disciples of all nations. What effrontery - all dependent on the grace of God. You know that line from the hymn: "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days?"

1 comment:

dss said...

Today God asks us to know him and be his witnesses as we face a world crumbling from our own "devices". I think we need to know that hymn by heart now, don't you? "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days?"