Throughout the ages there have been specific terms used for portions of the church’s architecture. The name for the place where most of us sit, stand, and take part in worship is the nave. The word nave is a direct spinoff form the Latin word navis, which means ship. From the same root come words like navy, naval, navigation, and the like.
There are comparisons of the ship itself to the nave and the church, one of them being the cross formed by the mast and its crossbars. But the strongest image is that the ship is the only thing that will carry you on the water – and nobody will deny that it is better to be on the water than in it (as Rev. Dean Myers once put it – much of what follows is prompted by his sermon “Stay with the Ship”, as well).
What an example the stalwart St. Paul is to all of us. Do you remember when he and the other prisoners were being taken on the long and hazardous voyage to Rome and the ship was endangered (Act 27:27-44)? It is a terrific sea story. What he said to the frightened and panicked Centurion and prisoners was, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Stick with the ship was his advice.
It is here, in the ship, that we are baptized and called children of God. We worship here, singing Hosanna and shouting Hallelujah. Some of our deepest and most poignant prayers are said in the nave. We confess our sins there and are forgiven. And when we die it is in the nave that we are committed to life everlasting as assured by Jesus Christ.
Life has its heartbreaks, griefs, and sorrows but relief is ever in the nave, which also can be carried in the heart. Life has its joys, ecstasies, and triumphs and they can be celebrated in the nave as well as in the heart.
The church is a holy place, this ship. God himself is here as everywhere; His Son Jesus Christ is here with His promises of redemption and deliverance and the Holy Spirit is surely overall.
Perhaps on some Saturdays and Sundays our greeters could say, as you pass through the doors from the narthex, “Welcome aboard!”