Most of you will be familiar with the story of the Mayflower setting sail from Plymouth to a new world on 6 September 1620.  However, you may not be as familiar with Sir John Franklin’s expedition which set sail from Kent on 19 May 1845 with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, manned by 138 of England’s finest sailors. Their task was to chart the Northwest Passage around the Canadian Arctic to the Pacific Ocean.

Franklin hoped this effort would be the turning point in Arctic exploration. And so it was, not because of its success, but because of its failure. The ships never returned and every member of both crews perished. And the lesson that each ensuing Arctic expedition would benefit from was simply this: “Be prepared for the journey.” Franklin wasn’t.

Though the voyage was expected to last for two or three years, he carried only a twelve-day supply of coal for the auxiliary steam engines. But what he lacked in fuel he made up for in entertainment. Each ship carried a 1,200 volume library, a hand organ, china place settings for officers and men, cut glass goblets and sterling silverware. The sailors carried no special clothing to protect them from the cold, only the thin blue uniforms of Her Majesty’s fleet.

Of course, the inevitable occurred. The seas froze and the ships became trapped. The ill prepared sailors set out for help, carrying their belongings and dragging a wooden boat across the ice. Remains of the expedition were found all over the frozen sea for the next 170 years. The silver cutlery, so ornately designed, would later be found near a clump of frozen cannibalized bodies. Franklin died on the boat. Search parties would later find a piece of the backgammon board Lady Franklin had given her husband as a farewell present.

It is strange, isn’t it, how men could embark so ill-prepared on such a hazardous journey – more equipped for afternoon tea than life on the open sea?

Stranger still is the fact that some people act in the same way as they travel on their journey through life,  never learning from past mistakes nor resolving to do anything different in the future.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, was passionately concerned that they should be as prepared as they could be for a fruitful and enjoyable journey through life. He offered five principles:

1) A commitment to Prayer
2) Growing in the knowledge of God
3) The assurance of God’s calling on our lives
4) Experiencing the blessing of God
5) Knowing the reality of God’s presence day-by-day

Some of you may be doing some of these already, some of you might not know where to start, whilst some of you may have stopped a long time ago. But if you want a better year than last year, why not try putting God first at the beginning of this new year and see what happens?  Why not consider attending one of the many good churches in town who can help you on your journey of faith in 2018? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed.

The Apostle Paul wrote an amazing prayer for the Ephesian church and I offer it as a prayer to you at the beginning of this new year:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Jesus may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

This is a copy of my article for the January 2018 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’