When the pandemic hit, it was followed by one tragedy after another. First it was Covid, then isolation, then racism, then conspiracies, then insurrection, then assassination plots, then more Covid, and so on. And through it all the church shrunk, either because pastors addressed the world’s problems and people didn’t like it or because they ignored the world’s problems and people didn’t like it. It was storm after storm.
Paul’s sailing journey to Rome was also one storm after another, before a literal storm came upon them when a famous vicious wind called the “northeaster” hit them. They tried to fight it, but eventually had to give way and follow where it pushed them. In time they found a place off an island where they worked to reinforce the ship for the intense journey, but as they set sail again, the storm took over, causing them to have to toss their cargo and equipment overboard. It was so cloudy that they didn’t even have the stars to use as a compass. All hope was gone.
But then Paul came to the crew undeterred, for he had just encountered an angel with a positive message: God had prophesied that Paul would make it to Rome and that was still the case even now. Furthermore, the angel told Paul that since he had to make it there, the rest of the crew’s lives would be secured as well—though they would first need to be shipwrecked on an island somewhere.
Paul’s optimism must have sounded crazy to the crew, much like my church optimism probably sounds to my congregants these days. We’ve hit a lot of storms the last few years and have experienced some significant hopelessness. Yet in the midst of difficulty, I’ve recently had some concrete experiences where God has spoken a way forward for us, and so I’ve been sharing this hope with my crew as we’ve continually reinforced the boat to move on with what little we have left. In our service this Sunday, our board will be unveiling the next season that we feel God calling us into and I’m excited to see where it all leads.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 27:9-26 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.