Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No one said it would be easy . . .

So it was with great interest that I read today's lectionary passage from Acts 27.  It is the story of Paul and his companions and his captors/guards/escorts being shipwrecked on the way to bring Paul before the emperor.  The daily lectionary can be found here:
I don't have a lot to say today(ha!). But I want to think about what this part of Paul's story can help us understand about God and our relationship with God.  I said I don't have a lot to say because while I have some thoughts I think that mostly this is stuff for us to think about and wrestle with together.  
So in the passage we have Paul's boat basically getting destroyed in a terrible storm (a northeaster, who knew they had those too?).  Paul first reminds all of them that they are in the predicament because they didn't listen to him.  Putting that aside, he goes on to say  that he was told in a vision that the ship would be lost, but that all of them would survive, which is what ends up happening.
So what are we to take from this story, other than the fact that Paul might have been a wee little bit stuck up?  I think we can take a couple of things from this story:

  • All kidding about Paul aside, God uses us as we are - in spite of (and sometimes through) our faults, personality quirks and 'issues'.
  • Life following God's call isn't always smooth sailing - literally!  God promises to care for us, but never does God make the promise of an 'easy' life or journey.  An angel of the Lord came to Paul and promised that he would indeed stand before the emperor, but that the ship would be lost.  
  • Following God comes with a cost in this world.  At several points on this journey if Paul would have just been willing to shut up about Jesus he would not have had to go through all of this trouble.  But he would have been living a lie - and that is harder and heavier burden to carry than any amount of earthly trouble.  
  • In the moments of deepest trouble or darkest night - when you are literally unable to see where to go next - God will always come to you.  In the passage, right before Paul's angel visit, the passage says that they saw 'neither sun nor stars' for days and that 'all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned'.  All of the people with Paul were literally lost in the dark, being tossed and turned by the whims of a raging sea, and it was in that moment and in that situation that an angel of the Lord came to Paul bringing the assurance of rescue and safety.
  • Finally, and this is maybe the best news, when you are fully trusting in God you are able to have peace regardless of your circumstances.  Think about the story, the strangest, most unbelievable part of the whole story isn't what happens in Paul's dream (a visit from an angel) but that on a sinking ship in the middle of a raging storm Paul was able to sleep.  Paul's faith in God and trust in God's care of him gave him a peace that allowed him to rest even when surrounded by fear, storms and danger. 
The peace that is offered to us if we would trust in God, really trust in God with all of our lives is the most sure sign of God's care and concern for us.  Paul's peace in front of his accusers, in the middle of the storm, under threat of death is a reminder to all of us that if we trust in the Lord, there is no reason to fear and no worry that is justified.  Amen.

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