Act 27:18-26 We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship's tackle overboard. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by 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 the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.
Paul is a prisoner of the Emperor, having appealed his court case to Caesar. The sea trip to Rome begins peacefully with favourable weather. The crew changed ships after a port-stop, but then a storm came up and grew worse and worse over a period of days. The sailors tried to reinforce the vessel by tying cables under it, and by throwing everything overboard in order to lighten the load. Finally, the ship faced destruction on the rocks. Paul says to them: "I urge you now to keep up your courage".
While this is a story of a physical storm, and life-threatening danger, it is a story that can be retold in a way that transcends its historical setting. Everyone of us faces storm in our lives: sometimes, like Paul, we face real physical danger from storms; other times we face our inner emotional and spiritual storms – that can be as dangerous as the swirling wind and flashing thunder. In such moments we hear Paul’s words to “keep us your courage”. This is not an exercise in wishful thinking, but is instead a hard-nosed decision to ‘keep the faith’. There are moments in life where we need to dig deep, and choose to be courageous even when we do not feel like it. In such moments we can ask God for strength to keep going in the face of the storm.
Prayer: O Lord of the storm: calm my inner fear and give me courage to keep going. And grant me opportunity to assist where I see others caught up in their own storms. For Jesus sake. Amen.
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany“The Authority of God’s Word”
(Scripture reference page 71 A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants)