The crew and passengers of the ship carrying Paul toward Rome are hoping against hope that they can sail to Phoenix during a calm moment, despite the risk of terrible early winter seas:
“Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned” (Ac 27:13-20).
From hope to desperation in the passing of just a few days. Sound familiar? Peace and calm, a sudden storm of virus, and in a matter of days, lives dramatically changed with no end in sight. We are there right now, aboard the ship with Paul, who is frustrated that his warning went unheeded:
“Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.” So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island’” (Ac 27:21-26).
Every day, conditions seem to get worse, with new things happening that were not imaginable just days ago. All our routines, and even our jobs, have been thrown overboard. And it seems we will run aground economically and catastrophically.
But, although I am not Paul and no angel has stood visibly before me, I can still say with Paul, “Do not be afraid … God has granted you all those who sail with you.”
How can I say that?
Because one who is even closer to God than Paul speaks to me and to you, in perfect unity, every second of every day:
“’Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30).
This too shall pass. America will rise again. But more importantly, the kingdom of God has not lost a thing!
I know this because a week ago, just before the total shutdown, sixty-three people came to our church to worship – accepting social distancing – to just be together as the family of Jesus.
And there was an energy in that room that cannot be described – nor defeated by temporary circumstances.
May the love of Christ permeate where you are right now, and may our love for each other in perfect unity do so as well!