By Michael Smith
A Reading from Acts 27:9-26
9 Since much time had been lost and sailing was now dangerous, because even the Fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Men, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11 But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. 12 Since the harbor was not suitable for spending the winter, the majority was in favor of putting to sea from there on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, where they could spend the winter. It was a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest.
13 When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. 15 Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. 16 By running under the lee of a small island called Cauda we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. 17 After hoisting it up they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they would run on the Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and so were driven. 18 We were being pounded by the storm so violently that on the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard, 19 and on the third day with their own hands they threw the ship’s tackle overboard. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and no small tempest raged, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
21 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. 22 I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 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.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we will have to run aground on some island.”
Paul had warned them: “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” However, those in charge ignored Paul’s warning and set sail anyway. Sure enough, Paul was proven correct, and the ship had to be abandoned: “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss.” It is difficult not to hear an “I told you so” in Paul’s statement, but he does not have time to gloat. God has given him the mission to appear before the emperor.
We all enjoy being right, especially when a group has ignored our advice. But being able to say “I told you so” is not the point. Rather, like Paul, we should be more interested in hearing what God has to say to us and sharing that. Once we’ve done that, the responsibility for outcomes is between God and the people with whom we’ve shared the message. In the end, God vindicated Paul and the message he carried. Here’s some wisdom for today: Speak the truth as you understand it. Leave the rest, especially the results, to God.
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for 15 years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Missionary Diocese of Nampula – The Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Saint James School, Hagerstown, Maryland