Does 2020 make you feel like yelling? Losing your temper?
Our local school district had a board meeting last evening, and people expressed their frustration with the plans, or lack thereof…depending on their opinion, for having kids return to school safely in the middle of a pandemic. It is a very emotional time we’re living through. Sometimes, in the middle of intensity, we don’t handle it well. Paul was also facing a desperate situation. How will he handle it?
In the previous post on Acts 27, we left Paul, now a prisoner, headed to Rome to make his appeal to Caesar. He’s on board a large freight ship, carrying not only a load of grain, but also 276 passengers, and bad weather has them docked in the port of Fair Havens on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Winter is upon them, and because travel will be difficult for months, they need a safe harbor until the weather changes. Ironically, Fair Havens doesn’t live up to its name. The Roman centurion guarding Paul, along withe captain and owner of the ship want a better port for winter. Paul, reading the weather, remarks that they should stay in Fair Havens. The others disagree. All they have to do is make a short hop of 50 miles down the coastline of Crete, from Fair Havens to Phoenix. No big deal, especially considering how far they’ve already traveled. They won’t head out to the open waters of the ocean, they’ll hug the coast. It sounds like a reasonable plan, despite Paul’s warning. What happens? Read Acts 27:13-20.
When they start, a gentle wind blows, and it seems like the majority was right and Paul was wrong. But a nor’easters hits, and the ship was powerless against it. Instead of heading northwest up the coastline of Crete, they are blown south west into the Mediterranean Sea, at the mercy of the storm. This wasn’t just any old storm. It was a terrible storm that lasted many days, and the travelers grew more and more desperate. The sailors take numerous measures to keep the ship from being blown too far off course, throwing stuff overboard hoping to avoid sinking. But the storm just keeps pounding and pounding and pounding. For days!
Do you know the feeling? Does 2020 feel that way? This year is special, and not in the good sense. 2020 feels like the relentless storm that just keeps pounding and pounding and pounding. It started with contentious presidential politics during the impeachment proceedings. Then Covid hit, and while we could roll our eyes at politics as discouraging business as usual, Covid was anything but business as usual. The world shut down. As death tolls rose, so did the feeling the fear inside us. Then George Floyd was murdered, sadly, one in a long strand of similar murders. That led to protests and more conflict. I write this in mid-August, and thus far, none of these three have stopped pounding. Furthermore, those of you who have children in schools and those of you work in the schools are trying to navigate what that looks like and what this upcoming year of education might be like. To top it off, it is hard to know what to believe about these issues. Whether from the news media, from government leaders, and pretty much from everyone else, there are loads of conflicting opinions that we must sort through. Do you feel battered?
What do you do when it feels like life is pounding, pounding, pounding?
Maybe Paul will help us answer that question. I want us to both hear what he says and observe what he does.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like on a boat, in the middle of the sea, in a raging storm. Remember this is not a passenger ship. The 276 people on board are likely spending most of their time on deck, exposed to the weather. The waves are kicking like crazy. Could the people sleep? Was there water everywhere? Was it freezing cold? How do you keep going through that?
What does a disciple of Jesus do and say when the storms of life are pounding?
Well, what does Paul do? Read verse 21.
Woah! Not the way I expected him to lead off. He basically says, “Told ya so.” We’ve heard a lot from Paul over the last few weeks, and I have to admit there are times when he can make bold comments that are counterproductive. This is one of them. Sometimes we make selfish, stubborn, hurtful comments too, especially in the middle of the storm. We can let our frustration, our emotion, our confusion, our anger flow out unchecked. Have you done that? During the pandemic, given the many difficulties of 2020, I’ve seen a lot of unkindness and meanness online or in personal conversations.
We need to see that behavior as unbecoming of a disciple of Jesus. Thus we need to humble ourselves and repent, publicly. If you’ve been unkind online or in person, I urge you to repent and ask forgiveness as publicly and boldly as you were when you made the unkind comments.
Thankfully, that “told ya so” is not the only comment Paul makes. In fact, he takes on a whole new tone with what he says next, and we’ll look at that in the next post.